Date: Fri 23-Apr-1999
WINE WISDOM: Relatives Of The So-Called Big Three
Perhaps we should call them The Big Three: Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio and
Sauvignon Blanc are by far the most popular white wines that I sell. Believe
it or not, there are a large number of other white grapes being grown that
also make delicious wines. Some you probably cannot pronounce, some you have
never heard of and some qualify on both accounts. I will now try to fill you
in on what you are missing.
Gewurztraminer is a white grape that is grown in the Alsace region of France,
Germany, Australia, Washington state, Oregon and California. Although its
flavor can be described as fruity in its most basic versions, better quality
versions of the wine can yield amazingly complex flavors. Common descriptions
of the finer bottlings generally include lychee nuts and smoke.
Beringer and Chateau Ste Michelle make tasty Gewurztraminers that sell for
under $10 a bottle. The Zind-Humbrecht winery from Alsace makes
Gewurztraminers that rank with the great wines of the world. They bottle wines
from single vineyards that each have very distinctive tastes. Although the
wines sell for over $20 a bottle, I do not hesitate to recommend them as a
true representation of Gewurztraminer.
Voignier was historically grown in the Rhone region of France and used in a
wine called Condrieu, which was made in small quantities and was quite
expensive. Lately, Voignier has been planted in California and southern France
and bottled in wines that sell for $10 to $15 a bottle. Voignier wines tend to
be medium-bodied, dry, with aromatic bouquets and light peach and apricot
flavors. Some of the best moderately priced Voigniers come from Georges
DuBoeuf, Vichon, and the EXP line from R.H. Phillips. As the warm weather
approaches, Viognier is a delightful wine to enjoy with picnic fare.
Rieslings may remind people of some sweet German wines they enjoyed in their
initial discovery of wines. Today many Rieslings are made in a much drier
style. The grape is naturally fruity, but it is vinified in a way that the
crisp acidity is also present. Dry Rieslings can be an excellent accompaniment
to spicy Southwestern and Pacific Rim cuisines. On the local front, McLaughlin
Vineyards makes a tasty dry Riesling that is definitely worth a try.
If you are stuck in a white wine rut, there is really no excuse for it.
Excellent white wines are being made all over the world. Whether it is Sandy
Hook, Conn., or some unpronounceable German vineyard, take a chance. I am
willing to wager that although you may not be able to pronounce it, you will
(Steve Small is the proprietor of Steve's Liquor Store, in Ricky's Shopping
Center at 71 South Main Street in Newtown.)