For many, white wines are reserved for the seasonal warmer weather of spring and summer with some consumers disparagingly saying that a “white is something to drink while waiting for the reds to appear.” But that’s not the way it’s always been. And with a new generation of adventurous wine enthusiasts, it’s not the nature of things to come.
Stylistically, white wines offer a far more diverse landscape of food-friendly examples for the table, spur-of-the-moment occasions and light enjoyable “thirst quenchers” as an aperitif. Your choices may change with the seasons, but the range of whites available will enhance your vinous enjoyment all through the year. The famed rieslings of Germany display an expansive range of style on their own from the very dry Trocken wines through several classified levels of sweetness to the unctuous Trockenbeerenauslese and Eiswein (actually vinified from raisined grapes frozen on the vine).
Whites are enjoyed internationally throughout the year to complement local cuisine such as the plentiful fish of the Mediterranean and exotic range of veal and pork sausage from Germany and Austria. Some of the lesser-known favorites we see in the market today are albariño from Spain, torrontés from Argentina, grüner veltliner from Austria, verdelho from Portugual and arneis from Italy among countless others.
And the good news is many of these traditional Old World varietals have found a home in the U.S., where growing conditions may be a bit different but the wines produced range from very good to spectacular.
Italy’s pinot grigio broke down barriers to the import of moderately priced white wines in the U.S. market more than three decades ago and was then joined by its French counterpart pinot gris (same grape, different lineage). Today, both coexist in the market, displaying different styles whether produced from their native vineyards, here in the U.S. or elsewhere abroad.
The study of drinking patterns for both red and white wines has been recently chronicled by the industry, press and a growing number of social media outlets.
VinePair is an online newsletter and blog with more than 100,000 subscribers and contributors across the U.S. The demographic composition is a younger (strongly millennial) and primarily female (65 percent) urban audience that drinks wine often and loves to explore new and diverse growing areas and wine types.
VinePair just published the results of its interesting survey reflecting on how this “next generation” wine drinker views white wine, and some of the results were surprising, but not totally unexpected. About 79 percent of the respondents drink white wine all year long. More than 80 percent choose whites because they are refreshing and easy to drink; almost 60 percent think whites pair well with food and half see them as “not being heavy.”
All are good reasons to appreciate the diversity of white wine throughout the year with a variety of culinary fare and celebrations.
In the survey, sauvignon blanc and pinot grigio lead the pack in terms of varietal choice with riesling, viognier, chardonnay, chenin blanc and albariño rounding out the top seven choices. The U.S., France and Italy were the top three choices of producing countries.
Since I began enjoying wine in the mid-1970s, I’ve always taken great pleasure in savoring a variety of whites throughout the year. I never gave it a second thought until recently when I began to realize that so many consumers were viewing whites as merely a warm-weather beverage.
While I may enjoy different whites in the summer months, such as the more aromatic varietals and those made in a lighter style, as the temperatures begin to fall my tastes gravitate (though not completely transform) to richer and bolder examples. From a brisk sauvignon blanc, delicate grüner veltliner or aromatic torrontés in the summer to a rich North Coast chardonnay, opulent Vouvray or white Burgundy in the cooler months, white wine has a place in the glass for all seasons.
My March 4 column, “The magic of Santa Lucia Highlands,” attracted comments relating to personal experiences with the Santa Lucia Highlands appellation and the artistic pairing of wine and food by expert vintners and chefs.
Edwin — That sounds like an amazing day! It has been a while since Stacia and I were in the SLH area, but this article makes me think we should take a trip to visit again soon.