Profile: The seemingly ubiquitous Chardonnay seems to be planted everywher
e. There are multiple reasons for this, but they include the grapes ability to cope with varied climes, its fame as the grape behind great wines such as Chablis and other white
Burgundy, and also the wines produced have a great aptitude for taking on flavours from oak. The variety itself is thin-skinned and gives good yields, another feature that appeals to the winemaker. Other than
Champagne, the grape has found fame on the labels of wine from
South Africa, South America, Eastern Europe, Southern France and even
Italy. It would have been quicker to list where the grape isn't extensively cultivated! The characteristics of the wines produced vary considerably, and many aromas an flavours to be found are often down to oak ageing rather than the grape variety. These include, butter, vanilla, spice, toast and mealiness. The grape itself can give rise to a buttery feel, but also flavours of apples, lemons, melon, pineapple and other tropical fruits, particularly from warm,
New World climes. Other characteristics include wet wool (especially
Burgundy) as well as minerals and flint (especially Chablis).
Grown elsewhere: Has found fame in
Keywords: Green fruits, tropical fruits.
Profile: This grape is responsible for some of the fine wines of the
Valley, with such well-known names as Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé. To the modern wine drinker, however, it is probably better known as the grape behind the richly flavoured wines that have put
New Zealand on the wine map. It also, however, has an important role to play in
Bordeaux where, together with Semillon, it is used to produce Sauternes, the fine botrytis-influenced dessert wine of the region. This is a thin-skinned variety, and is therefore susceptible to botrytis infection (although less so than Semillon). Characteristics of the grape when used to produce a dry wine include cut grass, minerals (especially Sancerre), gunflint and cordite (especially Pouilly), gooseberries, tropical fruits (especially
new Zealand), foliage and even cats urine!
Grown elsewhere: Widely planted in
Keywords: Limes, minerals.
Profile: This grape, which will grow in a wide range of conditions, is most famous for producing some of the finest white wines in the world when it is grown on the steep, slate vineyards that lie on the banks of the Mosel in
Germany. This is still the case today, although thanks to the marketing of sickly sweet, non-Riesling derived, fruitless sugar-water concoctions under such fine German names as Piesporter and Niersteiner, German wine has hit a low in terms of public regard. Seek out wines from top producers to find fine Rieslings from
Germany often at a bargain pric
e. This grape is also grown in
Alsace, where although produced in a very different style it is also responsible for some very fine wines. Plantings in the New World are increasing, with some success in particular from
New Zealand and
Australia. Characteristics include floral aromas, fruit blossom, apples, limes, other citrus fruits, tropical fruits (especially New World), as well as slate, minerals and petrol (especially
Grown elsewhere: Success in
Keywords: Honey and buttered toast.
Profile: One of two grapes, together with Sauvignon Blanc, that is responsible for Sauternes. Like Sauvignon, Semillon is thin-skinned and thus susceptible to Noble Rot (botrytis) infection. Unfortunately it is also susceptible to Grey Rot, which does not have the beneficial effects of the more noble infection. Other than in
Bordeaux, Semillon is little grown. Nevertheless it has found a niche in the
Australia, where unoaked versions are capable of long ageing, developing fabulously rich flavours as they do so. Characteristics from dry wines include a waxy texture, butter, honey, toast, lanolin, limes and citrus fruits, lemon curd or meringu
e. Typical Sauternes often tastes of pineapple, quince and other rich fruits, alongside the botrytis.
Origin: Condrieu (
Grown elsewhere: Plantings are increasing.
Keywords: Peaches and pine kernels.
Profile: In recent years Viognier was at risk of extinction, with just a few hectares maintained in the fine
Northern Rhône appellation of Condrieu. These wines were not widely appreciated despite, in some cases, being extremely fin
e. In recent years though, many wine makers in Languedoc-Roussillon and the
New World have latched on to this grape and plantings are increasing dramatically. These
New World examples, if well made, will make a welcome alternative to the excellent although usually expensive Condrieu bottlings. Many have hailed the grape as the 'new Chardonnay' and I would not be surprised if it becomes as well known, even if it is more difficult to pronounce! Characteristic flavours and aromas include peaches, apricots, musk, pine nuts and kernels. Problems with some
New World wines include lack of balance due to excessive alcohol.
Grown elsewhere: Also planted in
Profile: As with Viognier, many wine experts might raise an eyebrow at the inclusion of Chenin in my list of classic grapes. Nevertheless, if we define classic grapes as those capable of producing a fine, age worthy wine without being blended, then Chenin is most definitely in. This grape is responsible for some of the finest dessert wines in the world, from numerous appellations in the
Valley, including Bonnezeaux, Quarts de Chaume, Vouvray and Coteaux du Layon. It also produces some dry wines in the Loire, and is also widely planted in South Africa, where it is known as Steen, although these wines are of much less significanc
e. Like some other grapes above, this thin-skinned variety is also prone to botrytis. Typical characteristics of the sweet wines of the
Loire include quince, honey, herbal tea and minerals.
Other White Grapes
There are tens of thousands of grapes suitable for viticulture, although only a few are capable of making great win
e. Here are a few of the other important white grapes.
Gewurztraminer: A superb grape which produces fine wines in
Alsace. Some love it, some hate it. There has been limited success in the New World, particularly
New Zealand. Characteristics: spice, bacon, banana, floral elements, sometimes troubled by low acidity.
Pinot Gris: Another of the top grapes of
Alsace (where it is often called Tokay Pinot Gris), this also produces fine, spicy wines, with better acidity than Gewurztraminer.
French Pinot Gris is Fleshy and more unctuous with faint honey notes from botrytis.
Also found in
Italy, and Eastern Europe, where its known as Pinot Grigio; and is generally totally dry with brilliant acidity often a bitter almond note) and
Eastern Europe. Characteristics: spice, bacon, tropical fruits.
American Pinot Grigio Often with more exaggerated fruit flavors and with less acidity than European counterparts.
Pinot Gris Food Pairing, think fresh flavours because its feisty, packed with citrus acidity means it pairs really well with fresh vegetables, raw fish and lighter meals. Fish and shellfish are classic pairing partners with Pinot Gris.
Need some ideas? Try ceviche, sushi, moule-frites, or even light flaky tilapia with cream sauce. Pinot Gris from the US and Australia can stand up to richer dishes that include cream because of their body and often heightened alcohol level .
Don`t think too spicy with your seasoning's unless you have a bottle of Alsace Pinot Gris close by.
Meats to enjoy with Pinot Gris ...
Fish including Scallops, Sea Bass, Perch, Sole, Haddock, Trout, Cod, Halibut, Snapper, Mussels, Clams, Oysters. White meats including Chicken and Turkey. Cured/spiced meats made from pork and duck.
Spices and Herbs, Parsley, Mint, Tarragon, Thyme, Fennel, Chives, and Spices including White Pepper, Coriander, Fennel, Turmeric, Saffron, Ginger, Cinnamon, Clove, Allspice
Cheese Pairings; Look for semi-soft to firm cow’s and sheep’s milk cheeses. Gruyere, Muenster, Grana Padano
Vegetarian Food,Fresh vegetables and salads as well as braised and well-spiced greens. Use shallot, garlic and ginger as a flavor base. Cucumber, yellow squash, celery, onion, parsnip, jicama, kale, green apple, green melon, white beans, cauliflower, broccoli
Key Facts; Pinot Grigio Wine Regions
About 71,000 acres of Pinot Grigio planted worldwide.
Italy: 25,000 acres
Trentino, Alto Adige, Veneto
US; 16,000 acres
Germany 12,500 acres
Rheinhessen, Pfalz, Baden
France: 6,000 acres
Found mostly in Alsace
Australia: 7,000 acres
Yarra Valley, Adelaide Hills, Orange, Mornington Peninsula
New Zealand: 3,700 acres
Austria: 550 acres
Hungary (called: Szürkebarat, Grauer Mönch), Romania (called: Rulandac Sivi)
Muscat:The final variety in this trio of Alsatian grapes. Also found in the Southern Rhône where it is used for dessert wines, as well as
Australia, where some exceptionally fine liqueur wines are mad
e. Characteristics: musk, sometimes grapey, orange and citrus peel, floral and aromatic