Summer is the best time to enjoy chilled white wines. But sometimes the old favorites such as Gewürztraminer, Pinot Grigio, and Sauvignon Blanc can become tired. And as much as those are fantastic wines, there’s nothing wrong with having an alternative once and a while.
There are some very good, if a bit under publicized, alternatives. You may have heard of one or two of these whites, but you probably haven’t heard of them all. So get ready for some fun with five great white wines you’ve probably never heard of.
- At one time Viognier (Vee-ohn-yay) was a finicky and uncommon variety from the Northern Rhone. Eventually cultivated with success in California, Viognier was marketed as alternative to Chardonnay in the United States, then other parts of the New World and finally back in France were its journey begun. At its best, Viognier displays aromas of peach and apricot, distinct floral notes and a fresh and aromatic quality. Usually produced without Oak, Viognier is made to drink young, in the first year or two after release.
- Grüner Veltliner (Grew-ner Velt-liner) is one of Austria’s most important white grape varieties. Capable of producing wines ranging from light-bodied, fruity and easy drinking wines, to full-bodied, complex, and age-worthy wines. Grüner Veltliner is even used to make sparkling Austrian Sekt. Grüner Veltliner is cultivated all over Austria, but is at its best in Lower Austria along the banks of the Danube, where the soils are poor and rocky. Grüner Veltliner shows aromas of stone fruit, citrus, salad greens, lentils, fresh green beans, spice and white pepper. With age notes of honey become more prevalent.
- Torrontés (Tore-on-tess) is one of Argentina’s most distinctive white varieties. Highly aromatic, with vibrant floral notes and exotic fruit on the nose, Torrontés tastes of lychee, citrus and stone fruit. While not the most accurate depiction, it has always reminded me of a blend of Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc. Torrontés is usually made without oak, bottled early and intended for consumption within a year or two. The good news is that there is abundant good Torrontés coming out of Argentina. There’s no need to pay more than ten dollars or so for a Torrontés. Price and taste have made it the fastest-growing of Argentina’s wine exports to the U.S.
- From Galicia, in the coastal regions of northwestern Spain, Albariño (Alba-reen-yo) produces a crisp, aromatic and zesty wine. Depending on where it is produced in Galicia, the wine can show melon, peach and or earthy characteristics. With a slight effervescence on opening which quickly dissipates, the wine has good body and flavors of apricot and almonds. Alba Riño means ‘the white from the Rhine’ and is thought to be a Riesling clone originally from the Alsace region of France.
- White Bordeaux (Bore-doe) has been with us for centuries, but isn’t widely known in the new world. A blend of white varietals, it’s difficult to say for sure what a specific white Bordeaux tastes like. The Sauvignon Blanc provides concentrated bouquet and crispness, the Sémillon full body, and the Muscadelle roundness and aroma. They’re generally crisp and lively, with all sorts of tropical fruit and citrus flavors. Easy to drink and enjoy, they have a simple elegance about them.
- Cellar Notes Here are three examples of these wines, a white Bordeaux, Torrontes and Gruner Veltliner. You will find all of these to be refreshing summer whites when well chilled. But be careful, these great tasting wines may make you neglect Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio.