Summer sipping white wines

Now that summer has started to show its sunny face, it’s a great time to pick up a few white wines to have on hand.

Although they pair well with a wide variety of lighter dishes, these whites are all excellent for sipping solo. There’s something in this selection for every white wine sipper.

Soft and approachable, Calona Vineyards’ Artist Series wines have been making friends for more than 20 years. First crafted by master winemaker Howard Soon, the current release is as seductive as any B.C. white wine can hope to be.

Leading with aromas of Macintosh apple and Bosch pear, Calona Vineyards’ Artist Series Pinot Gris (505222) $10.99 slides seamlessly into flavours that echo the aromas and include cantaloupe, guava, mango and peach notes. Tough to find a more elegant local white at this price.

Best known for whites made from Chenin Blanc and red wines made from Pinotage, South Africa also offers us the more ‘international’ traditional varieties. The quality of affordable South African made Shiraz routinely obscures the surprisingly traditional Chardonnays the country can produce.

One of the oldest wine farms in South Africa, Laborie has been producing fine wines since 1698. Recently arrived in British Columbia, Laborie Chardonnay (410621) $11.29 has an ‘Old World’ chalky, chewy, nutty minerality underpinning subtle classic lemon, lime, apple and pear flavours. Maturing 40 per cent of the wine in French oak for four months added spicy complexities.

Here in B.C. we have a wide range of regional variation in soil and climate across the Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys as well as the Lower Mainland and the Islands. Cool evenings moderate how fast the grapes grow and help preserve that fresh, bright, juicy acid structure in our white wines.

Made slightly off-dry in a let’s-please-everybody style, Evolve Cellars Riesling (660415) $15.99 is a traditional sun-drenched Okanagan Valley styled version of this classic white wine. Aromas and flavours of green apple, peach and apricot lead with an underlying twist of honeyed spice.

Every now and then a wine comes along with an intriguing story behind the name. Miss Molly is the name of the vineyard dog in the Moreson Family Winery in South Africa’s Franschhoek region. She is renowned for sneaking food off the kitchen counter and sharing it with her friends.

Moreson’s Miss Molly ‘Kitchen Thief’ Sauvignon Blanc (522045) $17.95 has more in common with a French white from the Loire Valley than it does with any zippy and zingy Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. More dry than fruity, it opens with green apple over traces of tropical fruits – lime and pineapple. This is a surprisingly full bodied white wine.

Situated north of Kelowna, specialists in Pinot Noir and high-toned aromatic white wines, 50th Parallel Estate Winery makes wines of exceptional balance and elegance. Other than Muscat and Torrontes – neither of which are made by 50th Parallel – few white are as aromatic as Gewurztraminer.

Crushed rose petals and the scents of fresh-peeled sweet lychee fruit are the classic aromas of Gewurztraminer. Passion fruit, mango, guava and tropical melon flavours all wash over the tongue on the first sip of 50th Parallel Gewurztraminer (477810) $17.99. Made in a delicately off-dry style, this is almost as perfectly suited to sipping solo as it is paired with Oriental dishes.

Thinking of Australian wine, Shiraz comes first to the minds of most wine lovers. Cabernet Sauvignon would be next in that line-up. Forced to consider Australian whites, Chardonnay would be the natural choice, maybe even Riesling, certainly not peculiarly French varieties like Marsanne or Viognier.

The unconventional folks at d’Arenberg in South Australia’s McLaren Vale claim to have named their blend of Viognier and Marsanne ‘The Hermit Crab’ in honour of the crustaceans that died eons ago and formed the limestone soils of McLaren Vale. d’Arenberg’s The Hermit Crab Viognier Marsanne (892729) $18.99 is a rich mouth-filling white with intriguing notes of ginger and honeysuckle over fruity flavours of ripe pear, peach and pineapple.

Does your white wine get too warm in the glass? Keep your wines cool this summer – even out on the deck or the patio – by pouring half glasses at a time and refreshing the wine in your glass by topping it up from a chilled bottle.

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