Are you a Chardonnay Drinker? The “Anything But Chardonnay” movement came several years ago when many brand-level chardonnay producers all wanted to mimic the success of Kendall Jackson with that okay, buttery creamy flavor and texture. We are fortunate to have in 2014 many faces and facets of Chardonnay whether the style is unoaked crisp apple and pear or the new oak, barrel-aged buttery, creaming mouth-feel variety.Why not widen your horizons and palate with these white wine varietals that are gaining more attention?These alternative selections have 90+ Point ratings (see Professional Wine Rating explanation sidebar) and are each under $20. The wines profiled hail from wine regions like Australia, Willamette Valley, Oregon, Rias Baixas, Spain, Tuscany, Italy, California, and northern Portugal.
Idea: Throw a sampling party of these 9 stand-outs (Watch PRiME next week: How to Throw a Wine Tasting Party) Add these delicious and affordable wines to your wine Rolodex©.
Viognier, Vermentino, and Vino Verde
Viognier (VEE-ohn-yay), is a relatively new varietal to many consumers, but it has been around for centuries with roots in the Rhone Valley, France. In the USA California has embraced this grape, and it has become the premier white wine of the Virginia wine country. Viognier’s aromas and flavor components make it an exciting wine to sample. Orange blossoms, apricots, honeysuckle fairly jump out of the glass. Perfect food pairing: Viognier with seafood, chicken, winter squash soup, or your Easter ham. Try this Zaca Mesa Wine from Central Coast California. With a WE 91 Points rating this wine, Viognier may become your go-to white. $14.99.
Vermentino is one of the premier wines of Italy, and particular made well in Sardinia and Tuscany. South Australia and the USA have embraced this varietal, too. I like to think of Vermentino as a merger of Pinot Gris and Grüner Veltliner, having vibrant aromas of lemon, white peaches, acacia flowers and ripe melon, yet crisp and zesty. Perfect pairing: seafood antipasto, veal scaloppini, ceviche, and vegetable quiches. Featured here is the 2012 Solosole Vermentino from Tuscany, and rated by V at 92 Points. $19.99.
Vinho Verde (VEE-nyoh VEHR-deh) can be one of your Best wine Buys, and a premiere wine from Northern Portugal. Vinho Verde means “young wine” and is meant to be consumed within a year. Vinho Verde features bright scents of line, white rose, and pink grapefruit. It’s an easy drink in June and July. Featured here is 2012 Aveleda (a winery founded in 1671) Vinho Verde, rated by W&S at 92 Points. Consider this for your “house wine”. Perfect Pairing: Mango and Shrimp wraps, steamed clams, salads. $8.99.
Grüner’s or “GV’s” are particularly food friendly wines. They are lightly fruity and have a distinct white pepper, peach, honey aroma. Some Grüner’s can have a weight to them, much like a chardonnay. Although the most famous GV’s come from Austria, we have found an impressive 2012 Zocker California Grüner rated WE 90 points $18.99.
Gewürztraminer (guh-VURTS-trah-mee-ner) has roots in Alsace and Germany and now produced in many world wine regions. It is one of the best examples of an aromatic, floral-scented wine. This wine has notes of lychee, roses, and passion fruit. These wines come in a dry or “off-dry” style. Our featured wine, the Washington state Pacific Rim 2010 rated WE91 points has 1.7% slight residual sugar. Perfect food pairing: Asian dishes, chicken wings, and other spicy, smoked or fruity foods. This is an easy drinking wine with an unusual, artistic label. $11.99.
Pinot Gris’ best expression flourishes in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Although Pinot Grigio from Italy is made from the same grape (Gris is for the greyish/pinkish skin), the Oregon style of this wine exhibits floral notes, white peach, lemon-lime and a hint of spice. The “King” of the Oregon Pinot Gris is King Estate, featured here, with a WE 90 Point rating. $16.99
Albarino is one of the top wines of Spain, and is the finest grape in Northwest Spain’s Rias Baixas (HRee-as BI-schez) Galicia region. This is a fresh and elegant unoaked wine with aromas of ripe peach, sea, apple, white flowers and flavors of mineral lemon and apple. The Marqués de Cáceres Albarino from Spain is rated WE 91. Perfect pairing: Seafood, tapas, salads, rice dishes. $15.99.
Moscato Madness is alive in the US. Moscato is the fastest growing varietal, up 73% since 2010. Traditionally from Asti, Italy, the wine is now made all over the wine world. Moscato is now the #3 white wine in the US. The “frizzante” or lightly sparkling wine has caught fire here. It’s light, low-alcohol, sweet style has captured some of the former “White Zin” drinkers. But, the food friendly wine has also attracted its own new audience. Featured here is one of the premier Italian producers, Saracco, Moscato D’Asti 2012, with an RP rating of 90. Perfect food pairing: Dim Sum, white chocolate, dessert with raspberries, cheesecake. $12.54
It may seem unusual to single out Argentina’s “own” white wine variety, but this wine deserves more attention. It is dry and a bit of a cross between Sauvignon Blanc and Gewürztraminer. This floral, aromatic wine is a great value, with pricing of a good Torrentes as low as $10.99.. Perfect Pairing: Grilled red meat, Spanish omelet, pizza, grilled tomatoes and goat cheese. Featured is a superior Torrontes, the Domingo Molina Hermanos Torrentes 2012, rated by Robert Parker 92 points. $15.99.
We love chardonnay is all of its styles and expressions. White wine alternatives represent a whole new range of scents, flavors, body, and terroir (a wine sense of place). Anything But Chardonnay? Experience the new classics, and let us know about your new wine revelations.