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Crisp Wines

Crisp white wines are fruity, fresh, zesty, mouth-watering and refreshing.  What marks them out is their upfront acidity: the most dominant characteristic of this style.  They come from cool climate regions and consequently have long growing seasons that favor the development and retention of the grapes’ natural acidity.  While these wines can be very aromatic and fruity, it is their crisp freshness that stands out the most.  

They are bone dry, not aged in oak and can exhibit wonderful flavors and aromas of apple, asparagus, cut-grass, kiwi, lemon, gooseberry, grapefruit, peach, pear and pineapple.  Sauvignon Blanc is the most typical of this style, which explains its enormous popularity worldwide.

Taste: Aromas of acacia, hawthorn, lemon and brioche are followed by flavors of apple, pear, citrus fruits and herbs, together with mineral notes and a nutty finish.  Note: many poor examples are sharp and lacking in flavor.

Body: Light to medium

Dry / Sweet: Dry

Acidity: High

Age: Generally drink within two years of release, but the best wines can improve for a decade or more.

Aka: Also known as AligotBlanc de TroyesChaudenet GrisGiboudet BlancGriset BlancPlant Gris and Vert Blanc.

Other: Traditionally mixed with cassis (blackcurrant liqueur) to make a vin blanc cassis, which is more commonly known as Kir.

Description
Aligoté (AH-lee-go-TAY) is the almost forgotten second white grape variety of Burgundy. Chardonnay gets all the attention – the best sites, the publicity and the praise. But it wasn’t always so. Aligoté is the victim of history and circumstance, which has reduced it to a minor presence in Burgundy today. It was first recorded in Burgundy in the 18thcentury and is almost certainly native to the region. DNA profiling has revealed it to be related to the Pinot family, as it is a cross between an early Pinot clone and an obscure vine called Gouais Blanc. As it happens, this is the same parentage as Chardonnay and a number of other French varieties, so there is nothing wrong with Aligoté’s pedigree.

Up to the advent of the devastating Phylloxera louse in the late 19thcentury (see entry in Glossary for details) Aligoté was planted alongside Chardonnay and the grapes were harvested and vinified together to produce ‘field blends’. However, after Phylloxera destroyed all the vineyards, it was decided to replant mainly with Chardonnay because it was easier to grow. In these circumstances Aligoté was relegated to the poorer sites with the best being kept for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. As Aligoté can tolerate cooler conditions than Chardonnay, it was also often planted on the more exposed hilltop locations and the more fertile soils (not good for vines) of the valley floors.

As you would expect, when you plant vines on poor sites the wines they make will inevitably be poor and so the reputation that Aligoté has acquired of producing low quality wines perpetuates itself. Unfortunately, much of the Aligoté produced today reflects these conditions resulting in thin, tart wines with little flavor or merit. This is compounded by the fact that it is also a high yielding grape. For Aligoté to reveal its true potential it should be planted on good sites and the yields restricted. The vines should also be at least 15 years old and preferably older. When these conditions are met, and the grapes fully ripen, it is capable of producing excellent quality wines with great elegance and finesse.

Aromas of acacia, hawthorn, lemon and brioche are followed by flavors of apple, pear, citrus fruits and herbs, together with mineral notes and a nutty finish. Its capacity to reflect its terroir can be quite profound and something of a revelation. Generally oak contact should be minimal or avoided altogether, as Aligoté does not take well to it. High natural acidity also gives Aligoté wonderfully refreshing qualities and enables the best wines to age for a decade and more. This acidity is its main contribution when used in a blend. With average temperatures increasing due to climate change, Aligoté’s acidity may yet prove to be its salvation.

There are a number of winemakers dedicated to realizing the potential of this forgotten and much-maligned grape. It is well worth taking the time to seek them out.

Taste: Aromas of white flowers with citrus and stone fruit flavors of lemon, lime and peach, accompanied by mineral notes. A light oak touch can add some complexity.

Body: Light to medium

Dry / Sweet: Dry

Acidity: High

Age: Generally should be drunk young, within two years of release, but the best wines can age well in bottle for several more years.

Aka: Also known as Pedernã.

Description
Arinto (ah-RINN-toh) is indigenous to Portugal and is one of its most promising white grape varieties. Its principal characteristic is high acidity, which it can retain even in the hottest conditions. This acidity is balanced by good fruit content and is one of the reasons why Arinto is very popular with winemakers.

It is grown throughout the country and is the principal white grape of the Bucelas DOC (boo-SAY-elesse) in the Estremadura region of western Portugal, close to Lisbon, where it makes its best wine. Here, Arinto must constitute at least 75% of the blend, the rest generally being made up of the Sercial grape, which is known locally as Esgana Câo. Outside of Bucelas Arinto takes on a more minor role as a blending partner for numerous indigenous varieties across Portugal’s many wine regions.

Arinto wines are bone dry, rich textured and crisply refreshing with high acidity. Aromas of white flowers lead to citrus and stone fruit flavors of lemons, limes and peaches on the palate. They can also display distinct mineral notes and if light oak contact is used it can add some complexity. While the better wines age well in bottle, generally it is best to drink Arinto when it’s young and fresh.

Taste: Crisp and refreshing with aromas of lime, lemon, clementine, marzipan, honey and a peppery spiciness, followed by succulent citrus fruit flavors and marked minerality.

Body: Medium to full

Dry / Sweet: Dry

Acidity: High

Age: Can be drunk young, but also ages very well.

Description
Assyrtiko (a-SEER-tee-ko) is a very high quality grape indigenous to the island of Santorini in Greece where it is well suited to the ash-rich volcanic soil. It makes perhaps the finest white wine in Greece and has a growing international reputation.

One of its most valued characteristics is that it retains its acidity even when the grapes have fully ripened – this is unusual because most grapes lose acidity as their sugar content increases through the ripening process. Yields are low and the vines, coiled in basket-like fashion close to the ground, are difficult to tend.

The wines are crisp and refreshing with aromas of lime, lemon, clementine, marzipan, honey and a peppery spiciness, followed by succulent citrus fruit flavors and a marked minerality. There is a tendency for some producers to use oak, but contact should be light as Assyrtiko does not take well to new oak, and is generally at its best unoaked. It ages well both in cask and bottle, thanks to its natural high acidity.

Assyrtiko’s ability to reflect its terroir has led many to compare its expression of mineral characteristics to that of Riesling. The best wines have great originality, complexity and character and are well worth seeking out.

Taste: Pure and crisp with subtle aromas and flavors ranging from green and citrus fruits in cooler regions (apple, pear and lime), to stone fruits in moderate regions (apricot and peach) and tropical fruits in warmer regions (banana and pineapple), along with well defined mineral notes.

Body: Light to medium

Dry / Sweet: Dry

Acidity: Medium to high

Age: Most are best drunk young, but better quality wines need a few years and the finest quality require several years to fully develop.

Description
Chardonnay (shar-doe-NAY) is a “Noble Grape” of great distinction and is undoubtedly the world’s most famous white-wine grape. It produces a vast spectrum of wines that range in quality from dull and uninteresting to some of the most sublime white wines that have ever been created.

To begin to understand this grape, you must first realize that the table wines it makes fall into two main styles, namely: unoaked Chardonnay in the Crisp style and oaked Chardonnay in the Rich style. This understanding will enable you to navigate the fascinating world of Chardonnay with ease and make many great wine discoveries.

Chardonnay originated in the Burgundy wine region of eastern France. It was believed for a long time to be related to Pinot Noir, based on its similar leaf shape, but this was never proven. Now modern DNA analysis has indicated that it is a cross between Pinot Noir and an obscure, but genetically very important, grape called Gouais Blanc. In fact, this obscure grape has now been discovered to be the ancestor of no fewer than 16 modern grape varieties, including Aligoté, Gamay and Lemberger (Blaufränkisch).

One of the great attributes of Chardonnay is its adaptability. Vine-growers love it because it can be grown almost anywhere and produces relatively high yields. Consequently, it is planted in almost every wine region across the world. Winemakers also love it because it is high in extract (sugars, minerals, phenolics, pigments, etc.) and can be made into wine using a much wider range of winemaking techniques than most other white grape varieties.

However, it is important to bear in mind that Chardonnay’s aromas and fruit flavors differ depending on where it is grown. In cool regions, green and citrus fruits like apple, pear and lime predominate. Stone fruits such as apricot and peach are more evident in moderate climates, with tropical fruits such as banana and pineapple coming to the fore in hotter climates.

Unoaked Chardonnay is light to medium in body and bone dry with refreshing acidity. It can display delicate, clear, fruit flavors with a fine mineral character reflecting the soil in which the vines are grown. Because the wines are unoaked the emphasis is therefore on these fruit and mineral characteristics, as well as the refreshing qualities of the wine.

There is an increasing trend to produce this fresher style of Chardonnay, which has great style and finesse when made well. It is also a great food wine, especially with lighter dishes, thanks to it acidity and delicate flavors. Most unoaked Chardonnays are best to drink while they are young and fresh, but top quality wines age extremely well.

To complete the picture on this excellent grape, see the entry on Chardonnay (Oaked) included in the Rich style on the app.

Taste: Aroma of flowers, straw, honey and pepper with flavors of apple, lemon, apricot and grapes, accompanied by mineral, nutty and smoky notes.

Body: Medium to full

Dry / Sweet: Dry

Acidity: High

Age: Generally require a few years of bottle age, while the best need a decade to fully mature.

Other: Makes an interesting alternative to Sauvignon Blanc (Unoaked).

Description
Chenin Blanc (SHEN-in BLAHN) is a much-underrated grape variety of excellent quality. To a large extent this is due to its versatility, a facet it shares with Riesling, as it is capable of making excellent wines ranging from dry and medium-dry table wines, to sweet desert wines and sparkling wines.

While this laudable attribute should not be a problem, it has resulted in confusion as to what to expect from a bottle of Chenin Blanc. Unfortunately, this confusion has been compounded in the recent past by extremely poor label descriptions in its homeland in the Loire Valley in France, but this is improving.

In the Crisp style Chenin Blanc makes medium to full bodied wines with aromas of flowers, straw, honey and pepper. On the palate fruit flavors of apple, lemon, apricot and grapes, are accompanied by mineral, nutty and sometimes smoky notes.

Acidity is high even when the grapes achieve full ripeness, a valued characteristic of Chenin Blanc, giving these wines great aging potential and they can develop wonderful flavor complexity as they mature in bottle. This is another important attribute Chenin Blanc shares with Riesling, as it needs time in bottle to develop in order to reveal its full potential.

However, there is a downside to natural high acidity as it can be tooth-achingly sharp if yields are too high or the grapes fail to ripen – an obvious risk in cool climate regions. Good viticulture and winemaking practice are therefore all the more important in order to achieve balance in the finished wine.

Most wines need a few years bottle age to soften their acidity and develop their full flavor profile and the best wines will require at least a decade to reach their peak.

Taste: Vivid and refreshing with delicate aromas of citrus fruits and roasted almond, followed by flavors of lemon, grapefruit, green apple, melon, pear and white peach, with a mineral edge and occasionally a creamy and nutty texture.

Body: Light to medium, but can also be full

Dry / Sweet: Dry

Acidity: High

Age: Generally drink while young and fresh, however better quality wines need two or three years to reach their best.

Description
Cortese (kor-TEH-zeh) is a grape native to Piedmont in northwest Italy and has been grown in this region since at least the middle of the 17th century. It is best known as the sole variety used in the production of Gavi, regarded as one of the finest white wines of Piedmont.

It is an early ripening grape and its main characteristic is the retention of high levels of acidity, even in the hottest of years. This gives the wines great refreshing, as well as food pairing, qualities and is the reason it became so popular in restaurants along the Ligurian coast, just south of Piedmont.

However, in cool years it can be intensely sharp with low sugar levels and may require barrel fermentation, malolactic fermentation, or even the addition of a small amount of sweet grape must to keep the wine in balance (grape must is the juice of freshly crushed grapes, which includes fragments of pulp, seeds, pips and stalks). Cortese can also be quite prolific, so restricted yields are necessary to concentrate the fruit and body of the wine, which also helps keep the acidity in check.

Generally, the wines are light to medium bodied with high acidity, but the better wines tend to be more full bodied with a richer texture, whilst still remaining vivid and refreshing. Occasionally, a producer will undertake fermentation on the lees, giving the wine extra texture, so much so that it can almost become Rich in style.

As demand for Gavi has increased, many wineries have taken advantage by producing large quantities of thin, sharp wine, which is refreshing at best. Nonetheless, the better producers make deliciously refreshing wines with great character and flavor.

You can expect delicate aromas of citrus fruits and roasted almond, followed by flavors of lemon, grapefruit, green apple, melon, pear and white peach, with a mineral edge and occasionally a creamy and nutty texture. Most should be drunk while young and fresh, but better quality wines need two or three years to reach their best.

Because of its reputation and location within Piedmont, many Gavi wines command high prices, but only rarely are they complex wines of exceptional quality.

Taste: Refreshing with aromas of wild flowers, acacia blossom, honeysuckle, citrus and tropical fruits, followed by flavors of apple, pear, lemon, lime, pineapple, banana, kiwi and candied peel, along with mineral notes and subtle spicy overtones.

Body: Generally medium, but can be full.

Dry / Sweet: Dry

Acidity: Medium to high

Age: Best to drink within the first year or two of release. The highest quality wines have the potential to improve over several years.

Aka: Also known as BiancuzitaFalanghina GrecoFalerno Veronese and Uve Falerna.

Description
Falanghina (fah-lahn-GEE-nah) is a very ancient grape variety indigenous to the Campania region in southwest Italy, of which Naples is the capital. It is believed to have been introduced by the Greeks who had a colony here as far back as the 8th century BC.

The name Falanghina is thought to originate from the Greek word “phalanga”, which became “falangae” in Latin, and means the wooden stakes used to support and train vines as they grow. It is possible that Falanghina may have been a component of the most famous wine of Roman times, called Falernian (or Falernum), which came from the north cost of Campania – an honor shared with another Crisp style local grape named Greco (di Tufo).

The climate, and especially the soils, of Campania create ideal growing conditions for Falanghina. It thrives in volcanic soils that are light, porous and have a high mineral content. Such soil types are common in Campania given its geological history and particularly around Mount Vesuvius.

Like many indigenous Italian grape varieties Falanghina was teetering on the verge of extinction by the 1970s. This situation reflected the general decline in Italian viticulture in the period after the end of the Second World War when industrialization replaced agriculture and people left the land for the cities. Thankfully, a number of visionary winemakers dedicated themselves to the revival of such indigenous grape varieties and ensured Falanghina’s survival.

Since then, wine production in Campania, and across southern Italy, has improved significantly. This has helped to highlight the fine qualities of Falanghina, which takes very well to fermentation in stainless steel and requires good temperature control during the process. Some producers ferment a small proportion of the finished wine in oak, but generally it is best without the use of oak.

As a varietal wine it is vivid and refreshing and has considerable character. Aromas of wild flowers, acacia blossom, honeysuckle, citrus and tropical fruits are followed by flavors of apple, pear, lemon, lime, pineapple, banana, kiwi and candied peel, along with mineral notes and subtle spicy overtones.

While varietal wines are growing in popularity, Falanghina is often blended with other local grape varieties and is also used to produce a sweet passito wine (made from dried grapes – for more information see the passito entry in the glossary).

Generally, it is best to drink Falanghina while it is young and fresh, although the highest quality wines have the potential to improve over several years. There has been a dramatic change in fortune for this ancient grape in recent decades, which has seen it emerge from obscurity and impending extinction to become very fashionable today.

Taste: Fresh with aromas of white flowers, apple and honeydew melon, followed by flavors of lemon, greengage, pear and a characteristic almond finish.

Body: Light but can be medium

Dry / Sweet: Dry

Acidity: Medium to high

Age: Drink while young and fresh.

Other: Main component of Soave wine from Veneto.

Description
Garganega (gar-GAHN-ne-ga) is primarily associated with Veneto in northeast Italy, where it is the main component in the region’s famous Soave (so-ah-vay), as well as its less famous Gambellara wines. While it has been established in Veneto for several centuries, DNA analysis has revealed that it is identical to the Grecanico Dorato grape, which is primarily grown in Sicily.

Despite being one of Italy’s most planted grape varieties, Garganega’s name is not widely known. This is due to the fact that it rarely appears on labels, as the wines it produces are primarily sold under the names of the Soave and Gambellara DOC’s.

Garganega is an extremely vigorous vine capable of producing very high yields if grown on fertile soils and left unchecked. Unfortunately, this is too often the case. It is quite resistant to disease and although it ripens late, it can retain good levels of acidity. As well as making dry table wines Garganega is also used to make sweet Recioto dessert wines using the passito method (see the glossary for an explanation).

In the production of Soave, Garganega can represent anything from 70% to 100% of the finished wine. Generally some Trebbiano is added for acidity and / or Chardonnay for body, but they cannot exceed more than 30% of the blend. Winemakers who are more quality orientated tend not to blend Garganega with other varieties.

As high yields are allowed under DOC regulations many Garganega based wines, principally Soave, are mass-produced and consequently rather bland and boring. However, to dismiss this grape variety would be a mistake because in the hands of a good winemaker, with low yields from fine sites, Garganega is capable of making excellent wines with great finesse and flavour.

These wines are generally light bodied and delicate with good acidity. Aromas of white flowers, apple and honeydew melon are followed by flavors of lemon, greengage, pear and a characteristic almond finish. Some of the better quality wines are treated with oak and are therefore fuller in body. While the latter can age for a few years, Garganega based wines are best consumed while young and fresh.

For the best quality Soave wines look for those labeled Soave Classico as they are grown on better quality soils, with more restricted yields and have a more concentrated flavor profile.

Taste: Aromas of acacia, citrus and tropical fruits are followed by subtle flavors of pear, apple, lemon, apricot and peach together with notes of toasted almonds and a refreshing mineral finish. Lees aging can add a rich, creamy texture and substantial mouth feel to the wine. The best examples are complex with additional herbal notes and a more pronounced mineral quality.

Body: Generally full

Dry / Sweet: Dry

Acidity: High

Age: Best enjoyed young, within three years of release.

Aka: Also known as AsprinioGreco delle TorreGreco del Vesuvio and Ragusano Bianco.

Description
Greco (GREK-KO), or to give it its full name Greco Bianco, is an Italian grape with a long history. It is believed to have been introduced to the Campania region of southwest Italy by the ancient Greeks prior to the foundation of Rome. Despite this supposed origin no grape variety in Greece has been found that resembles Greco.

DNA sampling has shown that it is genetically identical to a grape named Asprinio, which is also found in Campania. The most highly prized wines in ancient Rome came from the north coast of Campania and first amongst them was Falernian (or Falernum), which is generally believed to have contained a substantial proportion of Greco.

Today, Greco’s presence is relatively small and almost exclusively limited to Campania and the neighboring region of Calabria. It almost went extinct, along with other southern Italian varieties, after the Second World War when vineyards were devastated and many winemakers moved into emerging post-war industries or emigrated. Fortunately Greco did survive thanks to the efforts of dedicated winemakers who understood and appreciated the unique wines this grape is capable of producing.

While Greco Bianco is generally referred to simply as Greco, there is also a red variant of the grape called Greco Nero, which is actually more widely planted in southern Italy than the white and is primarily used in blends.

The area most closely associated with Greco, and where it is at its best and most expressive, is around the village of Tufo. The wines from Tufo, and several surrounding communities, were given DOCG status in 2003 and are labeled Greco di Tufo. They are amongst the best white wines of southern Italy and have their own unique appeal.

Generally, they are made without the use of oak and if it is used its influence is minimal. It is also common to age the wines on their lees (solids, including dead yeast cells and grape pulp that fall to the bottom of the tank during fermentation), which adds textural richness and complexity. Above all it is their refreshing acidity that stands out most and they can be very full bodied.

Aromas of acacia, citrus and tropical fruits are followed by subtle flavors of pear, apple, lemon, apricot and peach together with notes of toasted almonds and a refreshing mineral finish. Lees aging can add a rich, creamy texture and substantial mouth feel to the wine. The best examples are complex with additional herbal notes and a more pronounced mineral quality. Most wines are best enjoyed when they are young, so drink them within three years of the vintage.

Greco is also used for blending in other areas of southern Italy, like the island of Capri, where it is blended with Falanghina and sometimes other native grape varieties. In Calabria (at the “toe of the Italian boot”), around the town of Bianco, it is used to produce the DOC wine Greco di Bianco, which is a very good quality passito (made from partially dried grapes) sweet dessert wine.

Taste: Mouthwateringly fresh and vibrant, displaying aromas of flowers (honeysuckle and acacia), citrus, orchard and tropical fruits, which are followed by flavors of lemon, apple, pear, apricot, pineapple, candied fruits and honey, leading to a zesty mineral finish. Note: a small number of wines are made in the Rich Style and are weightier with more complexity and depth, while also retaining good acidity.

Body: Light to medium, but can be full.

Dry / Sweet: Dry

Acidity: High (can be razor sharp)

Age: Drink while young and fresh – within three years of release. Rich style wines can age for up to eight years.

Description
Gros Manseng (GRO-mon-SON) is indigenous to Southwest France and probably originated in or near the appellation of Jurançon (zhoo-rahn-SAWN) close to the town of Pau. It is part of the family of “Manseng” grapes that includes Petit Manseng and Manseng Noir; the latter is now very rare. It is said by some to be related to the Albariño grape from the Galicia region of northwest Spain, and they certainly share many characteristics.

The word “gros” in French means large and refers to the size of the berries or grapes of Gros Manseng, which are large relative to those of the closely related Petit Manseng variety. By the late 1950s there were only about 100 acres of Gros Manseng left in France, and its future looked bleak. Thankfully, its fortunes changed and today it is widely grown in Southwest France where it is primarily associated with the dry wines of the Jurançon Sec appellation (the word “sec” means dry in French).

The production of these dry wines in Jurançon is a relatively recent phenomenon, which developed in the 1960s and 70s as wine makers responded to consumer demand for dry white wines. Up to that time the Jurançon appellation had long been famous – and still is today – for producing high quality Sweet wines made predominantly from Petit Manseng. When purchasing a Jurançon wine it is important to note the name of the appellation on the bottle, as those labeled Jurançon are always sweet, while those labeled Jurançon Sec are always dry; this often causes confusion.

There are two main reasons why winemakers favor Gros Manseng for dry wine production. The first relates to the vine’s ability to produce large crops, for as well as having large berries it also has large grape clusters, which in turn make it very productive. While this would normally be considered a negative (because higher crop yields generally mean lower juice quality) Gros Manseng has the ability, unlike most grape varieties, to maintain quality even at high yields. The second reason is that it has very high natural acidity, which is the chief characteristic of the grape. These factors, along with strong consumer demand for dry white wines, explain why plantings of Gros Manseng today outnumber those of Petit Manseng, even though the latter is considered to be a more elegant grape. Nonetheless, Gros Manseng is quite unique and has a great deal to recommend it.

The majority of wines made from Gros Manseng are Crisp in style and display great vibrancy and vitality, whilst a smaller number are Rich in style with considerable weight, complexity and depth. The harvesting of grapes used to make the Crisp Style wines usually takes place from late September to early October to ensure sufficient acidity, which is rarely a problem for Gros Manseng.

When it comes to the winemaking process care is needed, as the skin of Gros Manseng, similar to all grapes in the Manseng family, is very thick. Therefore the grapes must be gently pressed and skin contact kept to a minimum to avoid excessive levels of tannin and polyphenols (natural compounds in the skins that can result in bitterness) in the wine. Fermentation and aging usually takes place in stainless steel tanks and malolactic fermentation (to reduce acidity) is generally not used.

Appellation regulations for Jurançon Sec wines permit the use of up to five grape varieties: Gros Manseng, Petit Manseng, Courbu and a maximum of 15% of the finished wine made up of Camaralet and / or Lauzet. The composition of these wines can vary widely from 100% Gros Manseng to 50% Gros Manseng and 50% Petit Manseng or a more complex blend of some, or all, of the five permitted varieties. Whatever the combination, all of these wines will contain a high proportion of Gros Manseng.

Consequently, the key characteristic of these wines is their vibrant and lively acidity (they can be razor sharp), which provides the frame for their flavor profile. Aromas of flowers (honeysuckle and acacia), citrus, orchard and tropical fruits are followed by flavors of lemon, apple, pear, apricot, pineapple, candied fruits and honey, leading to a zesty mineral finish. Depending on the blend, different aspects of the flavor profile will be more prominent – Petit Manseng will bring more tropical fruit and honey flavors, while Courbu adds citrus notes and texture. These Crisp style wines should be consumed within two to three years of release, when they are at their best.

A smaller number of very interesting Jurançon Sec wines are made in the Rich Style. These wines are harvested and vinified in a different manner to the more typical Crisp style wines. The grapes are left longer on the vine to ripen, which increases their sugar levels and potential alcohol. Some are left so long on the vine that they start to dry and shrivel through a process known in France as Passerillage (similar to Passito in Italy, except that the grapes are left to dry on the vine and not after they have been harvested). This process concentrates flavors in the grapes and increases the body of the wine.

In the winery there are also important differences as these grapes are generally treated with oak, either during or after fermentation, and are left to age on their lees (dead yeast cells, and grape pulp, that settle at the bottom of the tank during fermentation). The resulting wines are richly textured and complex with pronounced tropical and dried fruit flavors, whilst also retaining good acidity. They can age well over several years displaying additional flavors of spice, nuts and even truffle. These wines are truly distinctive and a must for lovers of Rich style wines. Many are from the village of Monein – look out for examples made by Charles Hours of Clos Uroulat and Domaine Bru-Bache.

The white wines of Southwest France are not widely known or available, but they are quite distinctive and deserving of attention. Gros Manseng has not travelled far from its native region, although there is considerable interest in the USA (California and Virginia) and Australia for its close relative Petit Manseng, mainly for its ability to make Rich style whites and Sweet wines. However, a recent trend in Southwest France is to blend Gros Manseng with Sauvignon Blanc and the appeal of this combination may attract more attention internationally.

Taste: Bright and juicy with aromas of white flowers, celery and a characteristic white pepper, followed by flavors of apple, grapefruit, peach and spice, together with clean mineral notes.

Body: Light to medium

Dry / Sweet: Dry

Acidity: High

Age: Drink while young and fresh.

Aka: Also known as VeltlinVeltlin ZeleneVeltlínské ZelenéWeissgipfler and Zold Veltlini.

Description
Grüner Veltliner (GROO-ner VELT-lee-ner) is the signature grape of Austria, where it accounts for almost a third of all vines planted. It is an ancient grape and is likely to have originated in Austria, even though its name translates as the “Green Grape of Veltlin”, which is a village in the Tyrol region of northern Italy.

Through DNA analysis it has been revealed that the Traminer grape (aka Savagin) is one of the parents of Grüner Veltliner. The other parent remained a mystery until, in the year 2000, a single surviving vine was discovered in the village of St. Georgen in the Burgenland region of Austria, which produced a genetic match. As this vine had not previously been identified, it was named after the village and called St. Georgener – Rebe.

Grüner Veltliner’s consumption and reputation were largely confined to its home country up to the turn of this century, when it suddenly made a big impact on the international wine scene. This occurred when it sensationally beat many of the world’s finest Chardonnays in a blind tasting by renowned wine experts. The unexpected result of this tasting put a spotlight on the grape and it immediately became highly fashionable in all major wine markets. It is no coincidence that in the decades preceding this event Austrian winemaking improved dramatically and is of an exceptionally high standard today.

Grüner Veltliner is quite a hardy vine and is naturally very productive, which requires good management in the vineyard. If yields are allowed to get too high it loses its flavor profile and the result is a very neutral tasting wine. Fortunately, Austrian wines are generally produced to a high standard. The vast majority of Grüner Veltliner wines are made in the Crisp style for immediate consumption. They are fermented in stainless steel and aged in tanks or old large wooded casks – oak is rarely used – to preserve the freshness and the purity of their flavor.

These wines are bright and juicy with aromas of white flowers, celery and a characteristic white pepper, followed by flavors of apple, grapefruit, peach and spice, together with clean mineral notes. The body is light to medium and acidity it high, making them very refreshing and also giving them the ability to age, although they are usually at their best when young and fresh. Sometimes they are bottled with a slight spritz, which helps to emphasize their crispness. These charming wines are also extremely food friendly.

The highest quality wines are in a different league – see Grüner Veltliner (Aged) in the Rich style – and are made from vines grown on the best sites along the south facing banks of the river Danube. These wines are more full bodied and age beautifully, developing complexity and depth on a par with the top white wines of Burgundy.

While Austria is the homeland of Grüner Veltliner, there are large plantings of the grape across Central Europe, especially in the Czech Republic, and some in northern Italy. In the New World it has a small, but promising presence in New Zealand and the USA.

Taste: Txakoli wines are refreshingly bracing and light bodied, with a gentle sparkling effect. Aromas of citrus and white fruits, together with herbal notes, are followed by flavors of lemon, lime, apple, pear and sometimes pineapple, which combine with a mineral or saline edge leading to a pleasantly zesty finish. Many exhibit a palate cleansing, sherbet-like quality.

Body: Light

Dry / Sweet: Very dry

Acidity: High

Age: Drink while young and fresh – these wines will not keep.

Aka: Also known as Txakoli (cha-ko-lee), Txakolina (cha-ko-lee-nah) and Chacoli (cha-ko-lee).

Other: These wines are relatively low in alcohol (9.5% – 11.5%). They are also moderately expensive.

Description
Hondarrabi Zuri (on-da-rabbi zorry) is the main grape variety used to make the unique Crisp style wine from the Basque region of Spain known as Txakoli (cha-ko-lee), as well as Txakolina (cha-ko-lee-nah) and Chacoli (cha-ko-lee). Wine production in this region of northwest Spain was in decline until a major revival was initiated in the 1980s.

This is one of the coolest wine regions in Spain and the Atlantic Ocean to the north, the Pyrenees to the east and the Basque Mountains that run along the coast govern its climate. Vines grown on slopes overlooking the ocean benefit from sea breezes that help to keep them healthy and disease free. Hondarrabi Zuri is the dominant grape variety here, and it is used exclusively for the production of Txakoli, which has gained increasing attention internationally, especially in the USA.

It was once thought that Hondarrabi Zuri was indigenous to the Basque Country, but analysis now shows that it is in fact the Courbu Blanc variety from southwest France. There is also a red grape variety called Hondarrabi Beltza, but it is unrelated to Hondarrabi Zuri – the word “zuri” means “white” in the Basque language and “beltza” means “black”. Both of these grape varieties are named after the port town of Hondarribia in the province of Gipuzkoa, which is very close to the border with southwestern France.

As many of the grape varieties in the Basque Country are of French origin, such as Folle Blanche and Petit Corbu, it is thought that they may have entered Spain through the town of Hondarribia and were probably planted there for the first time. This may explain why Hondarrabi Zuri and Beltza were named after the town, as it would have appeared to be their place of origin. Indeed, Petit Courbu is known as Hondarrabi Zuri Zerratia in the Basque Country (note: Petit Courbu and Courbu Blanc are different varieties and it has not yet been established if they are related).

Today, almost all Txakoli wines are white, based on Hondarrabi Zuri, but there are some Rosés (usually 50% Hondarrabi Zuri and 50% Hondarrabi Beltza) and a tiny amount of red (made from Hondarrabi Beltza). In the 19th century almost all the wines were red, but when the Basque government revived the industry in the 1980s they encouraged the production of white wine so as not to compete with the world famous red wines of Rioja.

Hondarrabi Zuri is a very vigorous vine and requires a good deal of attention in the vineyard. Canopy management – removing leaves to expose the grape clusters to the sun – is required to help the grapes ripen in this cool climate. Even so, the grapes struggle to achieve full ripeness and consequently acidity is high and potential alcohol (the amount of sugar in the grapes) is low. After harvesting and careful handling, the grapes are fermented at low temperatures and kept covered to retain carbon dioxide released by the process, which gives the wines a slightly effervescent, or spritzy, effect.

All of these elements combine to make Txakoli quite a distinctive wine drinking experience, as the wines are refreshingly bracing and light bodied with a gentle sparkling effect and relatively low alcohol levels (9.5% to 11.5%). These wines are never serious or complex, but they are thoroughly enjoyable summer wines and make excellent partners for fish and seafood; many exhibit a palate cleansing, sherbet-like quality.

Aromas of citrus and white fruits, together with herbal notes, are followed by flavors of lemon, lime, apple, pear and sometimes pineapple, which combine with a mineral or saline edge leading to a pleasantly zesty finish. Many of these wines are left on their lees (dead yeast cells and grape pulp) for a few months to add additional flavor and a small number of producers use oak in the winemaking process.

Hondarrabi Zuri is the predominant grape variety used in the production of Txakoli and many are pure varietals. Depending on the appellation – there are three DO’s in the region – small quantities of Hondarrabi Beltza, Folle Blanche, Petit Courbu, Gros Manseng, Petit Manseng, Riesling or Sauvignon Blanc may be added to Hondarrabi Zuri. All Txakoli wines should be drunk while they are young and fresh, ideally within the year of release.

In the Basque region it is customary when serving these wines to pour them from above head height into a broad glass tumbler, which causes the wine to fizz up dramatically – it’s quite a spectacle!  The majority of these wines are consumed within the Basque region and you are unlikely to find them elsewhere in Spain. However, exports to the USA have been growing and other countries are beginning to show interest.

Finding these wines is not easy, but if you do come across one be sure to give it a try. It should be noted that most Txakoli wines are moderately expensive.

Taste: Generally quite neutral but very refreshing and the best can display green apple, grassy and nutty flavors, together with pronounced minerality. For higher quality wines look for “Sur Lie” on the label.

Body: Light to medium

Dry / Sweet: Very dry

Acidity: High

Age: Drink while young and fresh.

Description
The Melon de Bourgogne (may-lohn duh BOOR-goyn) grape has adopted the name of the only wine it makes and is therefore generally known as Muscadet (MUSS-ka-day).

Its home is the Loire region of France where the wine it makes is bone dry, light to medium in body with high acidity and very little residual sugar. It is rather neutral in aroma and at its best can be very elegant and refreshing, displaying green apple, grassy and nutty flavors, together with pronounced minerality.

The better quality wines are generally bottled from a vessel containing dead yeast cells (lees) which gives them a crisp lemon and yeasty flavor, as well as more body and a creamy texture – a touch of CO2 may leave some bubbles beading the rim of the glass. So look for “Sur Lie” on the label (lie is the French for lees). Poorly made examples can be thin and extremely sharp.

Muscadet should be drunk young and in the Loire it is considered the perfect accompaniment for seafood, especially shellfish.

Taste: Vivid and refreshing with aromas of citrus fruits and flower blossoms, followed by flavors of lemon, lime, green apple and sometimes grapefruit, together with subtle mineral notes.

Body: Generally, light to medium (can be full)

Dry / Sweet: Dry

Acidity: High

Age: Drink as young as possible, as it fades fast.

Aka: Also known as PiquepoulPicapollPicapullaAvello and Languedocien.

Other: Picpoul de Pinet is generally very affordable and represents good value for money.

Description
Picpoul Blanc (peek-pool blahn), to give it its full name, is an old grape variety with a long tradition in southern France. It is considered to be indigenous to the Languedoc region, where records of it date back to the 17th century when it was blended with the Clairette grape to make a sweet wine called Picardan that was transported in large quantities to northern France up to the end of the 19th century.

Then the arrival of the devastating Phylloxera epidemic (a tiny root-feeding louse) saw a serious reversal in Picpoul’s fortune and it was widely replaced by more resilient varieties. In Languedoc it now survives and thrives in the Phylloxera free sandy soils surrounding the coastal salt-water lagoon of the Etang de Thau and the village of Pinet, just south of Montpellier. Today, within the Coteaux du Languedoc, it has been given the named cru status of Picpoul de Pinet, which produces varietal wines from six communes surrounding the lagoon.

The name Picpoul (often spelt Piquepoul) literally translates as “lip stinger” and refers to the grapes high level of acidity. It is a high yielding vine and, therefore, needs hard pruning to ensure the fruit is of good quality. Even though it is a late ripening grape, it still manages to retain its naturally high acidity in the warm Mediterranean climate. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks or neutral barrels to preserve this acidity – the chief characteristic of the grape. Some winemakers age the wine on its lees for a few months to add some extra body and flavor, but these wines are not complex.

In general, Picpoul is prized for making straightforward vivid and refreshing wines that on occasion can be ‘steely’, given the dominance of its acidity. Aromas of citrus fruits and flower blossoms are followed by flavors of lemon, lime, green apple and sometimes grapefruit, together with subtle mineral notes. Drink these wines as young as possible, as they fade quite quickly. They are great partners for seafood, especially the oysters and mussels from the Etang de Thau, which are some of the best in France.

Outside of the Languedoc, there is a small amount of Picpoul grown in the Southern Rhône where it has traditionally been used for blending. It is therefore a bona fide Rhône varietal and is actually one of the 13 grapes permitted in Châteauneuf-du-Pape where it is valued for its acidity, although very little is actually used. As well as Picpoul Blanc, there are also red and pink skinned variants called Picpoul Noir and Picpoul Gris respectively, but they are now very rare.

Outside of France there are old plantings in Cataluña in northeastern Spain, where it goes under the local name of Picapoll (pronounced pick-a-pole). In fact, local producers here maintain that Picapoll is an ancient grape native to Cataluña and is a separate variety often confused with Picpoul. There are certain similarities between the grapes, but research is needed to provide a definitive answer. More recently in the USA the progressive Tablas Creek winery in Paso Robles has begun cultivating Picpoul and claim it has enormous potential in California.

For now, the only Picpoul you are likely to find is Picpoul de Pinet and given its very attractive pricing it is a great ‘value’ buy. These wines are not complicated or deep but they are a perfect match for fish and shellfish, at prices that represent good value for money.

Taste: Mild floral aromas combine with subtle fruit flavors of apple, lemon and pear as well as a touch of spice. Crisp and fresh, but uncomplicated.

Body: Light to medium

Dry / Sweet: Dry

Acidity: Medium to high

Age: Drink while young and fresh.

Description
Pinot Grigio (PEE-noh GREE-zOH) is the Italian name for Pinot Gris (see Pinot Gris in the Aromatic style). It is actually the same grape variety, but in Italy it produces Crisp style wine as the grapes are harvested early in order to retain acidity and control the development of their fruit flavors.

The best Pinot Grigio is made in the northeast of Italy in TrentinoVeneto and especially Friuli where it makes dry, light to medium bodied wines with refreshing acidity. Many of these wines are some of the lightest and crispest you are likely to find anywhere and they can be great with food.

Its mild floral aromas combine with subtle fruit flavors of apple, lemon and pear, as well as a touch of spice. These crisp, delicate flavours are generally uncomplicated and neutral, which explains Pinot Grigio’s broad appeal and popularity – it may not often excite, but it does not offend anyone.

In the hands of a good winemaker, with acceptable yields, it can make a very interesting and extremely enjoyable wine. However, if vineyard yields are too high, as is too often the case, the delicate flavors are replaced by blandness. The winemaker is therefore the key arbiter in determining the quality of the finished wine.

Taste: Crisp and dry with floral and fresh fruity aromas, followed by green fruit flavors of apple, grape and pear, as well as mineral and earthy flavors, which reflect where it is grown. In warmer climates, citrus and stone fruit flavors of lemon, lime, apricot and peach are more prevalent. Age adds complexity.

Body: Light

Dry / Sweet: Dry (see note below if this is not stated on the bottle)

Acidity: High

Age: Needs a few years of bottle age.

Description
Riesling (REEZ-ling) is one of the world’s greatest – if not the greatest – white grape variety. It is slow to ripen and, as well as needing time on the vine, it also needs time in bottle to reveal its wonderful qualities. Like Chardonnay, it produces wines that reflect their terroir (ter-WAHR: the place where the vines are grown, including soil type and micro-climate) and so offers an additional range of mineral and earthy flavors, which express their location.

Riesling does not need or benefit from contact with oak, either during fermentation or maturity, and is therefore oak free. It has fruity and floral aromas, followed by green fruit flavors of apple, grape and pear, which can extend to more citrus and stone fruit flavors of lemon, lime, apricot and peach when grown in warmer climates. Mineral notes can also be quite prevalent, as well as delicate earthy flavors, revealing Riesling’s wonderful ability to reflect its terroir, wherever it is grown. Due to high acidity, Rieslings age extremely well and, as they do so, become more complex, displaying additional honey and toasty notes.

They can also exhibit aromas of petrol or gasoline, which may sound off-putting, but this is not a fault in the wine. It is a result of natural compounds that are most prevalent in ripe grapes from low yielding vines, which are generally used to produce higher quality wines. Consequently, these petrol aromas are often considered an indication of quality and are highly regarded by many Riesling enthusiasts.

Riesling makes wines that range from bone dry to intensely sweet – for medium-dry examples see Riesling (Kabinett & Spätlese) in the Aromatic style. Those made in the Crisp style are dry, firmer in body with higher alcohol than the Aromatic style and their acidity will appear fresher in comparison, as it is not neutralized by residual sugar (i.e. sweetness). When young, dry Riesling can appear plain and harsh, as it needs time to open up and display its wonderful bouquet and range of thrilling flavors. Rieslings produced in this dry Crisp style will still possess an aromatic quality, but they are defined by their refreshing acidity. This makes them excellent food wines, especially with fish and seafood.

At their best Rieslings are exhilarating and fully justify all the accolades they receive. It takes time to get to know and understand the complexities of these wines, but your efforts will be amply rewarded as they will give your a lifetime of pleasure.

Note: it can be difficult to know if a bottle of Riesling is dry or medium-dry as this is not always stated on the label, so be sure to ask your retailer if you are uncertain. A good indicator of whether the wine is dry or medium-dry is the alcohol level of the wine – the lower the level of alcohol the more residual sugar there is likely to be in the wine and therefore the sweeter it will taste.

Taste: Crisp and fresh, displaying wonderful aromas of cut-grass, nettles and vegetal notes of asparagus and green pepper, accompanied by green fruit flavors of gooseberry, green apples and limes, together with a mineral or flinty edge.

Body: Light to medium

Dry / Sweet: Very dry

Acidity: High

Age: Drink while young and fresh.

Description
Sauvignon Blanc (SOH-vin-yohn BLAHN) is a classic grape variety that originated in western France, in Bordeaux and the Loire Valley, and has become extremely successful worldwide. Not only is it one of the most widely planted grape varieties, the wines it makes are also amongst the most popular on the market. Sauvignon Blanc is considered to be a “Noble Grape”, a collective term to represent the six grape varieties thought to produce the best wines in the world (see the “Noble Grapes” entry in the glossary).

It was first recorded as far back as the 18th century, when it began to gain recognition in Bordeaux and a little further north in the Loire Valley. While its pedigree is uncertain, it is thought that it may be descended from the Savagnin grape grown in the Jura region of eastern France. However, what is known for certain is that it is one of the parents of Cabernet Sauvignon (the other being Cabernet Franc). Consequently, a white grape is a parent of one of the most famous, and one of the most highly regarded, red grape varieties in the world.

In the vineyard, Sauvignon Blanc is quite a robust and vigorous vine, which makes it relatively easy to grow. Nonetheless, good canopy management is necessary to control this vigor and ensure the vines produce good quality fruit. It is also an early ripening grape and is therefore best suited to cool climate regions. Ultimately, the level of ripeness of the grapes when harvested will determine the characteristics of the finished wine. If the grapes are harvested too early they will lack aroma, display harsh vegetal or “green” flavors and taste tart and unbalanced due to excessive acidity. Good management in the vineyard, and in the winemaking process, is required to achieve the best results.

The vast majority of varietal Sauvignon Blanc is grown in cool climate regions and made in the Crisp style without the use of oak, in order to preserve the wine’s wonderfully refreshing and exuberant fruit flavors. These Crisp style wines do not benefit from aging and are therefore best consumed soon after release. In warmer climates, this fresh intensity is lacking and so oak is used to create Rich style wines – see Sauvignon Blanc (Oaked) in the Rich style.

Sauvignon Blanc (Unoaked) is the quintessential “Crisp” white wine with its fresh, tangy, green fruit flavors and has become enormously popular worldwide. It is light to medium bodied with high acidity and is usually very dry. Very distinctive aromas of cut-grass and nettles are accompanied by green fruits such as gooseberry, green apple and lime, as well as vegetal notes of asparagus and green pepper. These aromas are reflected in the flavors, which can also have a mineral or flinty edge.

This classic Sauvignon Blanc finds its greatest expression and its most natural terroir in the Loire Valley in France. The best wines from this region are the benchmark against which all unoaked Sauvignon Blanc are judged. The other outstanding region is Marlborough on New Zealand’s South Island, which produces wines of exceptional quality with a world-class reputation. What is quite remarkable about Marlborough is that Sauvignon Blanc was only planted there as recently as 1973.

With the exception of a few top quality wines, Sauvignon Blanc should be drunk young, when it is at its refreshing best.

Taste: Subtle and refreshing, with a light floral bouquet accompanied by notes of citrus fruits and herbs. On the palate delicate flavors of green apple, lemon, pear and honeydew melon are infused with earthy undertones and mineral notes, leading to a crisp finish. Occasionally, they can exhibit a slight spritz, or pétillant, effect. The better examples are very refined and elegant.

Body: Generally, light to medium (can be full)

Dry / Sweet: Dry

Acidity: Medium to high

Age: Drink as soon as possible, ideally within a year or two of release.

Aka: Also known as Sylvaner (in Alsace), Grüner SylvanerSylván ZelenyFranken RieslingJohannisbergerRhinGros RhinOsterreicher and Gentil Vert.

Description
Silvaner (sill-VAN-ner), is an old grape variety whose name is derived from the Latin silva, meaning forest. It has an interesting history and in the past, based on its name, it was thought to have originated in Transylvania in Romania, where it has long been grown. This now seems very likely, as DNA analysis has reveled that it is a cross between Traminer and Osterreichisch Weiss – the latter means “Austrian White” and Transylvania was once under Austrian control.

From its central European homeland, Silvaner made its way to Germany as early as the 17th century and then on to Alsace (where it is spelt Sylvaner), Switzerland and northern Italy. Plantings reached their peak in the 1970s with its use as a “workhorse grape”, when it represented one third of all the vines grown in Germany and one quarter of those in Alsace. Since then Silvaner’s fortunes have reversed dramatically – its association with low quality Liebfraumilch in the 70s and 80s was a key factor – and its presence now is significantly lower than it once was.

Its appeal for winemakers in cooler northern regions is that it ripens early (two weeks earlier than Riesling), is very high yielding and has good natural acidity. These attributes are ideal for making low cost bulk wine, which is the reason Silvaner was once the largest planted vine in Germany in the past. However, to dismiss Silvaner as a jug wine would be a mistake. When grown on good sites, with low yields and made with care, it can possess great charm and make a wonderful food wine. Silvaner is never complex and what marks it out from other grapes is its rather neutral and understated flavor profile, which makes it, along with Riesling, one of the best wines in expressing the terroir in which it is grown.

So what can you expect from a good Silvaner? They are subtle and refreshing with a light floral bouquet, accompanied by notes of citrus fruits and herbs. On the palate delicate flavors of green apple, lemon, pear and honeydew melon are infused with earthy undertones and mineral notes, leading to a crisp finish. Occasionally, they can exhibit a slight spritz, or pétillant, effect. The better examples are very refined and elegant. These wines are best when young and dry (trocken), so drink them as soon as possible after release.

Most Silvaner today is grown at high yields to produce low cost wines for blending. The Franken region of Germany is an exception as they specialize in Silvaner, which actually performs better in this region than Riesling. Some good varietal wines are also made in Alsace, the Valais region of Switzerland and Alto Adige in northern Italy. Silvaner is widely grown in central and eastern Europe, as well as Russia, but it doesn’t feature prominently in any wine regions and is generally used for blending. It has very little presence in the New World, although there are some vines in Australia and California.

Although Silvaner is not a fashionable wine, many people like it as its understated flavor and crispness, combined with its earthy and mineral qualities, make it a great food wine – especially with fish and shellfish. After all, there is a very good reason why almost all of the Silvaner made in Franken, in Germany, is consumed locally.

Taste: Generally produces neutral, if refreshing, wines with faint citrus aromas, followed by clean citrus fruit flavors and some almond notes on the finish.

Body: Light

Dry / Sweet: Dry

Acidity: High

Age: Drink as soon as possible (will not age).

Aka: Also known as Ugni Blanc in France.

Other: In Italy it is the main component of Frascati and Orvieto wines.

Description
Trebbiano (treb-BYAH-no) is a grape variety that is impossible to ignore, not because it produces great wine but because it produces so much of it. Some estimates suggest that it produces more wine than any other grape variety.

It originated in central Italy and it will come as no surprise that it is the most widely planted grape variety in its home country. The characteristics that make Trebbiano so popular amongst winemakers are its ability to thrive in most soil types, disease resistance, high yields and high acidity. On the downside, it is neutral with little flavor and consequently makes a great deal of mediocre table wine.

Nonetheless, these wines are refreshing, if simple, with faint citrus aromas, followed by clean citrus fruit flavors and some almond notes on the finish. In the hands of a good producer, with restricted yields, it is capable of making an interesting wine, but these are in limited supply.

Because of its neutral flavor and high acidity Trebbiano is often blended with other grape varieties, such as in the wines of OrvietoFrascati, and the eccentrically named Est! Est!! Est!!! di Montefiascone.

All of these wines should be consumed as soon as possible after release.

Taste: Crisp, yet soft, with tropical and stone fruit flavors of melon, apricot, peach and pear. Can develop additional nutty and honey flavors with age.

Body: Light to medium (can be full)

Dry / Sweet: Dry

Acidity: High

Age: Drink while young and fresh, but the best wines age well.

Description
Verdejo (ver-DAY-ho) is one of Spain’s finest white grape varieties and is synonymous with, and indigenous to, the Rueda (roo-AE-dah) region in northwest Spain.

The freezing cold winters and scorching hot summers of Rueda are ideal conditions for the Verdejo vine. Here, most of the white wine is based on Verdejo, which makes up at least 50% of the blend. Generally, it is fermented in stainless steel tanks and bottled while young, without wood aging.

This produces crisp, dry wines with tropical and stone fruit flavors of melon, apricot, peach and pear. While high in acidity, they have a soft texture and can display considerable elegance. Some Verdejo is aged in cask (although oak contact needs to be light), which can add complexity as well as honey and nutty flavors to the wine.

Although many varietal wines are made, most Verdejo is blended with Viura or Sauvignon Blanc. Depending on the blend these wines can be light or medium bodied, but pure varietals tend to be fuller bodied as they benefit from Verdejo’s rich texture.

Most wines should be drunk while young, but the better examples have the structure to improve with age.

Taste: Aromas of apples, lemons, stone fruits, herbs and nuts are followed by flavors of apricot, lime, peach, pear and toasted almonds, along with a mineral edge and a pleasant, slightly tart aftertaste. If oak is used in the production of the wine, additional vanilla and even coconut flavors may be present and notes of honey can develop over time.

Body: Light to medium, but can also be full.

Dry / Sweet: Dry

Acidity: High

Age: Most should be drunk while young and fresh. The best wines can improve for up to ten years after release.

Aka: Also known as MarchigianoTurbianaUve MaranaVerdone and Verzello.

Description
Verdicchio (vair-DIK-ee-oh) is mainly grown in the Marche (mar-kay) region of central Italy, which lies along the Adriatic coast and is east of Tuscany and Umbria with the Apennine Mountains forming its western border. It is probably indigenous to this region and historical records reveal that it has been cultivated here since at least the 14th century.

Its name, a derivative of “verde” the Italian word for green, translates as “the little green one” and refers to the greenish hue of the grapes and the wine it makes. Verdicchio is a high yielding vine and it’s also quite hardy and can produce a lot of clonal variation (i.e. clones can display different features). The chief characteristic of the grape is its natural high acidity, which makes it very versatile from a winemaker’s perspective.

Indeed, as far back as the 18th century it was used to produce one of the first Italian sparkling wines and it is still used for this purpose today. This acidity also defines Verdicchio as a table wine and, unlike many whites, gives it the ability to improve with age, which makes it one of Italy’s most interesting white wines.

In the 1960s and 70s Verdicchio was sold as a cheap and cheerful wine for immediate consumption and was packaged in novelty glass bottles, which included fish shapes and attempts to replicate ancient amphora (two-handled urns). However, as wine markets developed and the demand for higher quality wines increased, Verdicchio fell out of fashion.

In the intervening decades winemaking in the Marche region has improved dramatically with the best producers more focused on developing the innate qualities of the grape and its ability to gain great structure, complexity and concentration with age. Some producers also use oak and mature their wines sur lie to enhance flavor and body.

Having said that, you will find that many wines are still uncomplicated, refreshing and made for easy drinking. To experience the most interesting wines you need to seek out those made by the better producers and paying a little more for a Riserva wine (aged for a minimum of 2 years) is well worth it. The best wines are produced in the DOC’s of Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi and the smaller Verdicchio di Matelica. Each DOC displays different aspects of Verdicchio, while also expressing its true varietal character.

When young, these wines are fresh and crisp and as they age their acidity softens, the structure becomes more defined and they gain complexity. Aromas of apples, lemons, stone fruits, herbs and nuts are followed by flavors of apricot, lime, peach, pear and toasted almonds, along with a mineral edge and a pleasant, slightly tart aftertaste. If oak is used in the production of the wine, additional vanilla and even coconut flavors may be present and notes of honey can develop over time.

Verdicchio is sometimes blended, but the majority of the wines from the above-mentioned DOC’s are pure varietals. Most wines are best while they are young and fresh. Those made by the best producers, and Riservas, can continue to improve and gain complexity for up to ten years.

Verdicchio represents excellent value for money as the grape, as well as the Marche region, is still very much overlooked and under appreciated.

Taste: Very refreshing with aromas of citrus fruits, herbs, bay leaf, almonds and floral notes, followed by flavors of lemon, lime, green apple, pear, melon and even tropical fruits, as well as a distinct mineral edge.

Body: Light to medium, but can also be full.

Dry / Sweet: Dry

Acidity: Medium to high

Age: Drink while young and fresh.

Aka: Also known as Rolle in France and Malvoisie in Corsica. Pigato in Liguria and Favorita in Piedmont are often said to be alternate names for Vermentino, but they are actually different grape varieties.

Description
Vermentino (ver-meh-TEE-noh) is a less well-known Mediterranean grape variety, which is attracting increased attention. Opinion differs as to whether it originated in Spain, Corsica, Sardinia or the west coast of Italy. The current view maintains that it is probably indigenous to northwest Italy.

Today it is primarily grown in Corsica, Sardinia and along the French and Italian Mediterranean coastal fringes of Languedoc-Roussillon, Provence, Liguria and Tuscany. In recent decades it has also been planted in the USA and Australia with good results.

Vermentino is a grape suitable to a hot, dry maritime climate and can benefit from marine winds, which help concentrate its flavors. A key characteristic is a firm acidic backbone, which makes it very refreshing and ideal for summer drinking. Depending on where it is grown, when harvested and how the wine is made it can be light, gentle and refreshing, or more complex and full bodied, whilst still retaining its essential crisp appeal.

However, as Vermentino is very easy to grow there is a need to be cautious when purchasing as many growers over produce and the resulting mass-market wine is characterless – very dilute and / or acidic with little fruit flavor. Best to select wine from a recognized producer or well made single vineyard wines that will display the true varietal character of the grape.

Aromas of citrus fruits, herbs, bay leaf, almonds and floral notes are followed by flavors of lemon, lime, green apple, pear, melon and even tropical fruits, as well as a distinct mineral edge which gives an extra dimension to the wine. While flavor profiles can vary considerably, there should always be refreshing acidity at the core of the wine.

Most Vermentinos are fermented in steel although oak can be used, as long as contact is light, but generally unoaked versions are better. While sometimes blended with other grapes, such as Trebbiano (Ugni Blanc), Vermentino is at its best when made as a varietal wine.

Vermentino is a very food friendly wine and should be drunk while it’s young and fresh.

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