WINEWISE: Slipping into Summer white wines…

By Doug Sloan

Even the surliest red wine lover can enjoy a glass of white wine when Summer arrives and the temperatures start to rise. And there are oodles of flavours and styles to choose from… many of them blends!

A perennial favourite from South Africa in its easy to recognize squat and stubby bottle Blouberg $8.29 is an off-dry blend of 60 per cent Sauvignon Blanc, 20 per cent Semillon and 20 per cent Cape Riesling (aka: Crouchen Blanc). The initial kiwi fruit flavours of ripe Stellenbosch Sauvignon Blanc are filled out with chalky lemon and just-sliced peach notes.

Designed for casual sipping, with little or no time in expensive oak (… and so few needing aging before release or after purchase) most white wines are more affordable than red wines. Australia, South Africa, Argentina and Chile continue to give us great value whites from the southern hemisphere.

Silvestre Ochagavia was first to plant Bordeaux varieties in Santiago, Chile in 1851 and Viña Ochagavia still creates distinctive blends as well as award winning single variety wines. Ochagavia Espuela White $11.99 offers aromas of ripe peaches and apple, grapefruit and candied lemon flavours. There’s a floral wisp of ‘grapey’ Torrontes in the finish of this fully fruited white.

Originally a specialty of France’s Loire Valley – specifically Anjou, Saumur and Vouvray – Chenin Blanc faded out of fashion as prices drifted up to $30. As well as creating inventive blends incorporating traditional Bordeaux grapes, South Africa has become the go-to place for affordable Chenin Blanc, today.

Aromas and flavours of crisp green apple, ripe pear and peaches lead into cantaloupe and honeydew melon in ‘The Grape Grinder’s Wild Olive Old Vine Chenin Blanc $12.29. Hints of almonds underpin the fruit and enhance the lemon and kiwi fruit notes on the tongue of this sassy, un-oaked South African white from the Swartland, north of Cape Town.

No short list of summer whites for sipping here in BC would be complete without a Chardonnay from California. Premium examples start around $25 and can easily exceed $100 but there are also some very tasty affordable junior wines under $15.

There’s huge bang-for-the-buck value in Alta Maria Santa Barbara Chardonnay $12.97. Specializing in Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, Alta Maria’s entry level white overflows with apple and pear notes. Subtler flavours of mango and pineapple ease into buttery vanilla in this smooth, medium bodied, well-priced Chardonnay.

Taking a break from fruit-forward white wines is as easy as moving to the ‘Old World’ shelves. France, Spain, Italy and Portugal have a long history of ‘dry’ wines that are more subtly vegetal than sweetly fruited. Traditional, low-tech natural winemaking tends to move the fruit character from the front of the wine to the finish.

A mouthful for English-speakers, Casa Ferreirinha Planalto Douro Branco Seco Reserva $15.99 is a Portugese white blend led by local Viosinho, with Malvasia Fina, Gouveio, Arinto, and Códega as well as a splash of Rabigato, and Moscatel. Dry and vaguely citric, this is – like many complex white blends – a ‘chewy’ white with a weighty texture and a lengthy, savoury, almost salty finish.

Not all ‘Old World’ blends tell us what grapes are actually included. In some cases they are simply the traditional local varieties that have grown in their vineyards for hundreds of years. So, where the wine comes from is a large part of what it tastes like. And we should know that…

Denominazione di Origine Controllata regulations approve Verdicchio, Garganega, Trebbiano, Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay in Italy’s Veneto. Which of these wine grapes are in The Venetian Bianco $18.99 is a mystery. Its delicate apricot, apple and peach aromas smell almost sweet but the flavour is surprisingly dry, sturdy and vegetal with almost ‘woodsy’ aparagus undertones.

There’s no shortage of fabulous whites right here in British Columbia. JoieFarm Winery has been creating focused, award-winning wines on the Okanagan Valley’s Naramata Bench since 2004.

Whistle clean and rapier sharp, Joie Farm ‘En Famille’ Reserve Muscat $24.26 comes from 2 acres of Naramata estate grown Moscato Giallo – the Italian version of this chameleon of a grape – aka Yellow Muscat. High-toned apple blossom and peach aromatics make this white smell much sweeter than it tastes. Thrilling juicy citric acidity gets the mouth watering wildly on every sip – lemon, lime and grapefruit notes just keep on coming.

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