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Rich Wines

The most dominant characteristic of Rich style whites is the weight and texture of the wines, which are full bodied and concentrated. They can benefit from oak and there is generally some contact either during fermentation and / or afterwards, through aging in oak casks. This oak contact can be significant, as it gives additional flavor dimensions to the wine, as well as adding complexity. 

Expect these wines to have a creamy mouth feel with luscious flavors of butter and honey combined with melon, pear and tropical fruits such as nectarines and pineapple. Add to this vanilla, toast and nutty flavors contributed by the oak and you have rich, full bodied wines of real character, and often with great complexity.

Taste: Rich and lush texture, with aromas and flavors ranging from citrus and stone fruits, to tropical fruits, depending on the climate of the region. Butter and a creamy / yeasty richness accompany these flavors, as well as toast and vanilla imparted by oak.

Body: Full

Dry / Sweet: Dry

Acidity: Medium

Age: Most are best drunk young (especially those from warmer regions), but better quality wines need up to five years and the finest require up to ten.

Description
In comparison to unoaked Chardonnay (shar-doe-NAY), with its delicate fruit, light texture and minerality (see Chardonnay in the Crisp style), oaked Chardonnay is rich and full bodied with extra flavor dimensions of toast and vanilla imparted by oak, and further complexity develops as it ages. Similar to unoaked Chardonnay, the flavors of oaked Chardonnay range 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).

However, it is important to note that, because of the subtlety and delicacy of its fruit, many of the flavors in Rich style Chardonnay derive from wine production techniques: butter flavors from malolactic fermentation which softens acidity, or creamy texture from stirring dead yeast cells (lees) through the wine, and the considerable impact that oak aging has on the flavor profile of the finished wine. Consequently, Rich style Chardonnays have more structure and weight than those made in the Crisp style, as well as having greater potential to develop complexity as they age and mature.

Obviously, not all wines are made to the same standard and, as Chardonnay is relatively easy to grow and to make, much of it is indifferent and mass-produced to hit a particular retail price point. To find the good wines you will have to move a little up the price scale and look for smaller producers, as well as some information on how their wine is made. The back labels on wine bottles, especially those from progressive winemakers, can provide a great deal of useful information.

The best winemakers strive to make great Chardonnay and in the Rich style their benchmark is Burgundy in France. For Burgundy is the spiritual home of the Chardonnay grape, and produces the finest expressions of oaked Chardonnay, and some of the greatest white wines in the world. At their best, these wines are superb and have prices to match, but there are still bargains to be had and many fine Burgundies are available at moderate prices. Fortunately, there are also plenty of talented winemakers around the world producing excellent quality oaked Chardonnays.

Keep in mind that the best Chardonnay can really only be made in cool climate regions, and there are many of these to discover and explore.

Taste: Full and luscious with aromas of honey, apple, lemon, spicy oak and occasional nutty tones are followed by flavors of honey, baked apple, citrus fruits, pear and apricot, with mineral notes on the finish.

Body: Full

Dry / Sweet: Usually dry (can be off-dry)

Acidity: Medium to high

Age: Drink within a few years, but the best wines have greater aging potential.

Aka: Also known as Šipon (SHEE-pon) in Slovenia. In Austria it is know as Mosler and Zapfner.

Other: Tends to be high in alcohol

Description
Furmint (FOOR-mint) is a very high quality grape variety that may be indigenous to Hungary, although it could possibly have been introduced there in the thirteenth century. Either way, it has a long tradition and is most famous for the leading role it plays – along with Hárslevelü and Muscat Lunel – in creating Hungary’s legendary Tokaji sweet dessert wine, which is one of the world’s greatest.

It is also capable of making excellent dry varietal wine (note: some are off-dry). These wines are rich and full bodied with a luscious texture, whilst also retaining good acidity. Aromas of honey, apple, lemon, spicy oak and occasional nutty tones are followed by flavors of honey, baked apple, citrus fruits, pear and apricot with mineral notes on the finish. They are generally fermented and aged to some extent in Hungarian oak. At their best, these wines display great complexity and can age for several years.

During the forty years of Communist rule, from 1949 to 1989, winemaking in Hungary went into serious decline. Fortunately, there has been a great revival since then with significant internal and external investment in vineyards. Hungary’s great wine tradition is being restored with some very exciting wines in prospect over the coming years.

Taste: Aromas of honeysuckle, wild flowers and citrus fruits are followed by flavors of apple, apricot, lemon, lime, nectarine and white peach, as well as interesting mineral notes. If oaked and aged on lees, expect additional vanilla and buttery flavors.

Body: Medium to full

Dry / Sweet: Dry

Acidity: Medium to high

Age: Generally best to drink while young and fresh, although Godello is capable of making wines that improve with age.

Aka: Also known as Verdello in Galacia in northwest Spain and as Gouveio in Portugal.

Description
Godello (go-DAY-oh) is a high quality grape variety native to Galicia in northwest Spain, and is also grown in Portugal. It almost went extinct in the 1970s and was saved by the intervention of some progressive winemakers in Galicia, who understood the quality and potential of this grape. Since then, plantings have increased and Godello’s reputation has risen to the point where some now consider it Spain’s best white grape variety.

It has much in common with Albariño, another native Galician grape, and shares much of its aromatic quality and flavor profile, but has a fuller and silkier texture, as well as more moderate acidity. Aromas of honeysuckle, wild flowers and citrus fruits are followed by flavors of apple, apricot, lemon, lime, nectarine and white peach, as well as interesting mineral notes.

Most wines are unoaked and vinified in stainless steel tanks, which maximises mineral notes and the pure fruit flavors of the grape. These unoaked wines are generally more popular and can be truly wonderful.

However, if you are more inclined to richer wines, look for oaked examples. When the grapes are harvested late and fermented and aged on their lees in large oak barrels, they are even more full bodied and display additional vanilla and buttery flavors. These oaked versions can be quite remarkable and resemble great white Burgundy or even Viognier from the Northern Rhône.

As well as making varietal wines, Godello is also blended very successfully with other local grapes such as Albariño, Doña Blanco and Treixadura. Occasionally, it can be slightly spritzy, as a result of a small amount of carbon dioxide gas dissolved in the wines, which is released when the bottle is opened.

Generally, it’s best to drink Godello when it’s young and fresh, although it is capable of making wines that improve with age, especially when oaked.

Godello is making some very exciting wines today and many offer great value for money. Expect to hear a lot more of this grape as the wine world discovers its charm and quality.

Taste: Luscious texture with aromas of apple, stone fruits and white flowers, followed by flavors of green apple, honeydew melon, lemon, white peach, apricot and herbs, together with a delicate spiciness and subtle mineral notes. Can be creamy if aged on lees and may display oak flavors.

Body: Full

Dry / Sweet: Dry

Acidity: Generally medium

Age: Best enjoyed young due to its tendency to oxidise.

Aka: Also known as Garnacha Blanca in Spain and as Garnatxa Blanca within Spain’s Cataluña region. Sometimes referred to as White Grenache.

Other: Tends to be high in alcohol.

Description
Grenache Blanc (gruh-NASH BLAHN), which originated in Northern Spain, is a white-berried mutation of the renowned red wine grape Grenache Noir – see Grenache (Blends) in the Smooth style. While it shares many botanical characteristics with Grenache Noir, it is very much a unique grape variety in its own right and a very good quality one at that. Many red wine grapes have white mutations with the best known examples being Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris, both derived from Pinot Noir.

From its home in northern Spain, Grenache Blanc spread to southeast France where it plays an important role in the white wines of the Southern Rhône valley and Languedoc-Roussillon. Since the turn of this century it has also established a small but growing presence in California, particularly in the Central Coast region. Like Grenache Noir it is a warm climate grape, being very drought resistant and preferring dry, arid conditions.

It is naturally quite low in acidity and can accumulate sugar readily leading to high alcohol levels. Good management in the vineyard is therefore essential. Restricting yields and harvesting before sugar levels peak helps to preserve acidity, as well as fruit flavor, and results in better control of potential alcohol. It does reflect its terroir and takes well to oak, but care is needed as it oxidizes easily. It is often fermented at low temperatures in stainless steel tanks, without malolactic fermentation, to preserve a vibrant fruit character.

At its best, Grenache Blanc is a delicious full bodied wine with a luscious texture. Aromas of apple, stone fruits and white flowers are followed by flavors of green apple, honeydew melon, lemon, white peach, apricot and herbs, together with a delicate spiciness and subtle mineral notes. It can also be creamy if aged on its lees and may display oak flavors. An additional feature is its long lingering finish, which adds greatly to its appeal.

Increasingly, Grenache Blanc is being produced as a varietal wine and depending on where it is grown it can share many characteristics with Viognier and Marsanne. More often it is blended for its fruit flavors, substantial body and long finish. Grenache Blanc wines are best enjoyed young as they have a tendency to oxidize quite easily. Whether as single varietal or blended wines, we can expect to see a lot more of Grenache Blanc in the future. It is a great addition to the repertoire of those who enjoy Rich style white wines.

Grenache Gris is deserving of some mention here. A rare variety, and little researched, it is also a mutation of Grenache Noir and shares many botanical and flavor characteristics with Grenache Blanc. Its grapes are pink or light red in color, which often gives its rich, full bodied, wines a pale salmon color. Most of the plantings that exist are in southeast France where it was traditionally planted in small quantities alongside Grenache Noir and both were often fermented together. There are also some plantings in northern Spain. Varietal examples are difficult to find, but they are available and well worth trying.

Taste: Great structure with layers of honey and toast added to the grape’s natural citrus and stone fruit flavors and trademark white pepper spiciness. Pronounced mineral notes reflect the soils where the vines are grown.

Body: Full

Dry / Sweet: Dry

Acidity: Medium to high

Age: The top wines need five to ten years to reach their full potential and can last considerably longer.

Description
While the vast majority of Grüner Veltliner (GROO-ner VELT-lee-ner) is young and refreshing (see youthful Grüner Veltliner in the Crisp style) the highest quality wines are made in the Rich style. These wines age beautifully, developing great structure and complexity with layers of honey and toast added to their citrus and stone fruit flavors and trademark white pepper spiciness. They are full and rich in body, without being heavy, and can express pronounced mineral notes.

Only the finest fruit, usually from older vines, grown on the best vineyard sites is used to make these wines, which gives them a creamy texture. They generally have alcohol levels above 12.5%. The most renowned areas for these top wines are the Niederösterreich (Lower Austria) sub-regions of WachauKremstal and Kamptal, where the unique terroir of the steep south-facing terraces on the banks of the river Danube give these wines great mineral expression and complexity.

They generally need five to ten years to reach their full potential and can last considerably longer. At their best they are world class and can rival the top white wines of Burgundy. As there is very strong local demand for these top quality wines, the prices are generally very high.

Taste: Rich texture with aromas of hedgerow flowers and flavors of melon, peach and apricot. Oak adds additional honey, nut and spice flavors as the wine matures.

Body: Full

Dry / Sweet: Dry

Acidity: Low to medium

Age: Drink within a few years of release.

Aka: Also known as Hermitage BlancErmitageGrosse Roussette and Marsana.

Description
Marsanne (MAHR-san) is a high quality grape variety native to the RhôneValley in France where it plays a leading role in the white wine blends of the Northern Rhône appellations of Hermitage, Crozes-Hermitage, Saint-Joseph and Saint-Péray. It is also grown in Languedoc-Roussillon and the Savoie region of eastern France, as well as in Switzerland, California and Australia.

In the Northern Rhône Marsanne is often blended with some Roussanne, which increases acidity and adds complexity. These two grape varieties complement each other extremely well and in the hands of a good winemaker produce some excellent wines. Further south in Languedoc-Roussillon Marsanne is often blended with Viognier and these wines tend to be slightly higher in alcohol.

In the vineyard Marsanne is a reliable grape to grow although it can be sensitive to temperature, needing the correct range – not too hot and not too cool – for the wines to be at their best. It also reacts unfavourably to over cropping, so good management is required.

Marsanne makes dry, full bodied wines with high alcohol and low to medium acidity giving them a rich texture. Delicate aromas of hedgerow flowers and honeysuckle combine with melon and stone fruit flavors of peach and apricot. It takes well to oak (but not too much new oak as it can overwhelm the personality of the wine) and develops more complex flavors of honey, nut and spice as it matures.

Marsanne makes wines of great character, both varietal and blended, that are best enjoyed within a few years of release. If you choose to store good quality Marsanne it is worth noting that it can go into a dull or dormant phase, emerging after about a decade as a lighter and more vibrant wine with a very different profile to when it was first released – still excellent, but less Rich in style.

Taste: Floral aromas and a complex structure with delicate flavors of peach, pear, nuts and spice, along with mineral notes.

Body: Full

Dry / Sweet: Dry

Acidity: Medium

Age: May be drunk within the first few years, but the best wines need about ten years to fully develop and those from Hermitage may need up to 20 years.

Description
Marsanne (MAHR-san) and Roussanne (roo-SAHN) are grape varieties native to the Northern Rhône valley in France where they are blended together to produce the famous full bodied, dry white wines of this region.

Each grape brings its own unique qualities to the blend, with Marsanne providing body and delicate flavors of peach, pear and spice, while Roussanne brings elegance, aroma, crisp acidity for aging and equally delicate fruit and nut flavors, along with mineral notes. The resulting wines are long lived, can develop great complexity and are regarded as some of the finest white wines in the world.

These intriguing wines are still relatively rare and those from Hermitage in particular are in great demand and fetch high prices. However, examples made outside of the Northern Rhône – by progressive winemakers in Australia and California – can be wonderful and offer exceptional value.

Taste: Aromas of acacia, jasmine, lemon blossom, yellow fruit and nuts are followed by flavors of apricot, peach, pear and lemon, with a mineral edge and sometimes a slightly spicy finish. Occasionally, these wines can display more tropical fruit flavors (e.g. pineapple) and if oak is used you can expect notes of vanilla.

Body: Medium to full

Dry / Sweet: Dry

Acidity: Medium to high

Age: Drink within two years of release, but the best wines need a few years in bottle to fully develop and can improve for up to ten years.

Aka: Also known as ArquatanellaArquitanoMoscioloPecorina and Vissanello.

Description
Pecorino (peh-koh-REE-noh) is an old grape variety, believed to be native to the Marche (mar-kay) region on the east coast of central Italy. Having the same name as the famous Italian Pecorino cheese can cause some confusion, but the two are unrelated – the name Pecorino derives from the Italian word for sheep pecora and it is thought that the grape obtained its name because sheep liked to graze on the bunches as they moved between high and low pastures in autumn.

As with so many lesser-known grape varieties, Pecorino was virtually extinct by the 1970s. Its amazing survival is due to the efforts and foresight of one man, Guido Cocci Grifoni. Already a renowned winemaker at that time, Guido was concerned about the quality of white wines in the mountainous province of Ascoli Piceno, in the south of Marche. The widely grown Verdicchio grape did not thrive there. To find a solution Guido researched the native white grape varieties of the region and discovered references to a grape that ripened at high altitude, called Pecorino.

Further investigation led him and some colleagues to a tiny, almost abandoned, vineyard high in the hills where, remarkably, some Pecorino vines still survived. Guido then planted cuttings in his vineyard and, after producing his first vintage of Pecorino wine in 1981, became convinced of the great potential of this old grape variety. Initially, winemakers in the province of Ascoli Piceno were not interested in Guido’s discovery, but in the neighboring region of Abruzzo the grape variety was welcomed and widely adopted.

Pecorino is quite a hardy grape variety and is naturally low yielding. Yields can also be inconsistent from year to year, which may explain its fall from favour in the past. Perhaps its most important attribute in the vineyard, and the reason for its revival, is its ability to ripen at higher altitudes. This is particularly important in the Ascoli Piceno province of Marche and in neighboring Abruzzo, to the south.

The dominant characteristics of Pecorino are high acidity levels and a high sugar concentration in the grapes. The latter results in elevated alcohol levels, but also helps to keep the wine’s acidity in balance. This combination gives Pecorino the ability to age for a period of up to ten years or more, and as it does so it becomes more complex and refined as the acidity mellows and the flavors evolve.

These wines have a lovely soft texture and can benefit from contact with oak, either during fermentation, or the aging process, although many see no oak at all. If the wine is left on its lees (dead yeast cells and grape pulp at the bottom of the fermentation tank) you can expect a richer and deeper flavor profile. Aromas of acacia, jasmine, lemon blossom, yellow fruit and nuts are followed by flavors of apricot, peach, pear and lemon, with a mineral edge and sometimes a slightly spicy finish. Occasionally, these wines can display more tropical fruit flavors (e.g. pineapple) and if oak is used you can expect notes of vanilla.

The best Pecorino wines are produced in the Offida DOCG in the Ascoli Picerno province of Marche. This is reflected in the fact that Offida is the only Pecorino appellation to be awarded DOCG status – the highest quality classification in Italy. Generally the Pecorino wines from Marche are richer and more concentrated than those from neighboring Abruzzo, as regulations require yields of no more than 70 hectolitres per hectare, compared to 110 permitted in Abruzzo. As a result wines from Abruzzo can be more Crisp, rather than Rich, in style. Nonetheless, there are many fine producers of Pecorino in Abruzzo.

Tiny quantities of Pecorino are produced in other Italian regions – such as Lazio, Tuscany and Umbria – but most are from Marche and Abruzzo.

Most Pecorino wines should be consumed within two years of release, but more serious examples can age well and need a few years in bottle to fully develop.

Taste: Full, soft and fresh with aromas of grapefruit, lemon, rhubarb and wisteria, followed by flavors of citrus fruits, honey, mineral notes and a surprising, but characteristic, hint of saltiness on the finish.

Body: Full

Dry / Sweet: Dry

Acidity: Medium to high

Age: Drink within a few years of harvest, the best can age for ten years.

Description
Petite Arvine (puh-TEET ARR-vin) is a high quality grape whose origins are obscure and DNA testing has not found any relatives. It has a long history in the Valais region of Switzerland where it is almost exclusively grown today, but it may have originated in the Alpine region of Valle d’Aosta in northwest Italy.

Although the quantity of wine made is small, Petite Arvine is gaining an increasing international reputation as a high quality wine. It is considered the best white grape of the Valais region, where it demands and generally gets the best vineyard sites. These sites are often steep and difficult to work, in addition to which the vines are demanding to grow. Consequently, the wines are expensive to produce.

Petite Arvine makes very individual and characterful dry wines with excellent structure that are full bodied and have good acidity. Aromas of grapefruit, lemon, rhubarb and wisteria are followed by flavors of citrus fruits, honey, mineral notes and a surprising, but characteristic, hint of saltiness on the finish. While it is full and soft, it is also very refreshing.

It is best to drink Petite Arvine within a few years of harvest, although the finest wines can age for up to ten years and gain additional complexity. Petite Arvine is also used to make some medium-sweet and sweet wines from dried grapes.

Taste: Soft and fresh with aromas of flowers, green apples and a hint of spice, followed by creamy fruit flavors of apple and peach, together with nutty tones and a mineral finish.

Body: Medium to full (can be light)

Dry / Sweet: Dry

Acidity: Low to medium

Age: Drink while young but the best wines can age for a few years.

Aka: Also known as Pinot Bianco in Italy, as Weissburgunder in Austria and Germany and as Beli Pinot in Slovenia. It is sometimes referred to as Klevner or Clevner in Alsace, France.

Description
Pinot Blanc (PEE-no BLAHN) has a good pedigree as it is a clone of Pinot Gris, which itself is a lighter-skinned mutation of Pinot Noir. All these three grapes are therefore closely related and form part of the “Pinot Family” of grape varieties. While not the most illustrious of the Pinot family, Pinot Blanc is a good quality grape and has an important role to play in many wine regions.

It originated in France, almost certainly in Burgundy, however its adopted home today is a little further north, in Alsace. Although Pinot Blanc is widely grown around the world, it never gets sufficient attention or focus to compete with the major stars of the white wine world. It is made in various styles and frequently draws comparison with its cousin Chardonnay, both oaked and unoaked versions, but is usually not as complex. Chardonnay is also a member of the “Pinot Family”.

In the vineyard Pinot Blanc is quite a vigorous vine and yields need to be restricted to ensure good quality fruit. While vineyard management and terroir, as well as vinification techniques, play a definitive role in determining the style of the finished wine, it should be said that Pinot Blanc’s relatively moderate level of acidity and flavor compounds limit its capacity for complexity and longevity. This is not to say that it cannot make extremely enjoyable and satisfying wines.

In the Rich style (Alsace, Germany, Austria, Slovenia and California) Pinot Blanc makes soft, round wines with good acidity and freshness. Aromas of flowers, green apples and a hint of spice are followed by creamy fruit flavours of apple and peach, together with nutty tones and a mineral finish. Oak is often used and the best wines can age well for a few years, developing lovely honey flavors.

Examples from Northern Italy and the American Pacific Northwest are lighter in body and produced more often in the Crisp style. These wines are generally made without the use of any oak and have higher levels of acidity than their Rich style counterparts. It is best to drink these Crisp style wines while they are young and fresh. Pinot Blanc is quite versatile and is also widely used to make some lovely Sweet Dessert wines.

Perhaps the key appeal of Pinot Blanc is that it makes wines that everybody will like and they go very well with food. While they may not win many awards, on the right occasion they can be just perfect.

Taste: Rich and elegant with floral aromas and flavors of peaches, pears, honey nuts and hay. Develops great depth and complexity with age.

Body: Medium to full

Dry / Sweet: Dry

Acidity: High

Age: Drink within three to four years, but the best wines are very long-lived.

Aka: Also known as Bergeron in the Savoie region of eastern France.

Description
Roussanne (roo-SAHN) is native to the Rhône Valley in France, where the majority of vines are planted. It is generally recognised as one of the top white grape varieties in the world, although availability is still quite limited. It is also considered a higher quality grape than its frequent blending partner: Marsanne.

It is a difficult grape to grow, has irregular yields and is susceptible to diseases like mildew and rot. As a result, plantings have declined over time in favor of the more productive and predictable Marsanne. Roussanne’s most valued characteristic has been the very important role it plays in blends, generally with Marsanne, as it adds elegant aromatics and high acidity allowing these wines to develop and improve over time.

Fortunately, in recent years there has been a revival of interest in this rather elusive and elegant grape, as it has become quite fashionable amongst those seeking new and interesting varieties. It has become more popular with winemakers too, because of its quality and blending abilities. New clones are also making it easier to cultivate the vine and its future seems assured even if plantings are still relatively small and mainly in France.

The wines Roussanne makes are rich and complex with floral aromas and flavors of peaches, pears, honey, nuts and hay along with mineral notes. In the Northern Rhône they can be quite delicate on their own, requiring some Marsanne to add structure and body. Although many wines are fermented in stainless steel tanks, Roussanne does take well to oak, which can add additional complexity and also extend the life of the wine.

Roussanne has traditionally been used for blending in France, and still is today, although more varietal examples are now being made. This is certainly the case southwest of the Rhône Valley in the warmer Languedoc and also in New World regions, such as California in the USA and the Goulburn Valley in Australia. In these warmer climates, Roussanne is generally full bodied, displays more tropical fruit flavors, and because acidity is naturally high, it has considerable aging potential.

It is very interesting to taste a varietal Roussanne with a Marsanne / Roussanne blend and compare and contrast the different structures and flavor profiles.

Taste: Soft texture, but still displays the crisp, green fruit flavors of classic unoaked Sauvignon Blanc. Contact with oak contributes addition flavors of toast and vanilla, as well as a touch of spice.

Body: Full

Dry / Sweet: Dry

Acidity: Medium to high

Age: Most can be drunk young but the best wines age well.

Description
As classic Sauvignon Blanc (SOH-vin-yohn BLAHN) is unoaked and comes from cool climatic regions, it is generally only in warmer climatic zones that oak is used. With the addition of oak (barrel fermentation and / or aging), the green fruit flavors of classic unoaked Sauvignon Blanc are softened, and the wines gain toasty and spicy flavors of vanilla and licorice that can develop complexity over time. It can also soften its acidity and the stronger vegetal flavor characteristics of the grape, while preserving its fruitiness.

Oaked Sauvignon Blancs are full bodied, but still retain good acidity. In contrast to classic unoaked versions, they will improve with bottle age. In the 1970s, Napa Valley winemaker Robert Mondavi did a great deal to popularise these wines in America by naming his oaked Sauvignon Blanc Fumé Blanc. This term Fumé Blanc has no legal meaning, but is generally applied to Sauvignon Blanc that has been barrel aged in new oak, although some unoaked wines also carry this descriptor.

If you are a fan of Rich style white wines, and like the flavors imparted by oak, you will enjoy these wines. They present a different and very interesting aspect of Sauvignon Blanc, which, in its unoaked form, has become so enormously popular worldwide. They also make excellent partners for richer white meat and seafood dishes.

Taste: Softwell rounded texture with aromas and flavors of apple, lemon, gooseberry, nectarines and pineapple, as well as honey, nuts and butter. Oak contributes additional flavors of vanilla and toast.

Body: Full

Dry / Sweet: Dry

Acidity: Medium to high

Age: Most can be drunk young, but the best wines age well for up to a decade, developing complex flavors.

Description
The Sauvignon Blanc / Sémillon blend (SOH-vin-yohn BLAHN / seh-mee-Yon) is most closely associated with the traditional white wines of Bordeaux in France (called Bordeaux Blanc). At their best, these are some of the world’s finest dry white wines and are often compared with the top white wines of Burgundy.

The characteristics of these two grape varieties, wonderful on their own, complement each other beautifully when blended together. Sauvignon Blanc brings a vibrant fruit character and refreshing acidity, while Sémillon adds body, texture and allows complexity to develop. The result is a wine greater than the sum of its parts when all elements come into harmony and balance.

These wines are dry, and generally full bodied with medium to high acidity. On the palate they can display citrus, stone and tropical fruit flavours of apple, lemon, gooseberry, nectarines and pineapple as well as honey, nuts and butter. Fermentation and / or aging in oak will add additional flavors of vanilla and toast. Their textures are creamy, lush, soft and well rounded, especially when the wines are aged on their lees (sediments including dead yeast cells, grape pulp and seeds that settle at the bottom of the tank) before bottling.

The best wines improve for up to a decade in bottle, developing complexity as they evolve and mature. These Rich style wines are also very versatile with food and are especially good with richer and creamier dishes. They can deliver exceptional value for money as they are often overlooked, primarily due to the fact that the focus in Bordeaux is on red wines, which account for about 12 out of every 13 bottles produced in the region.

Simpler versions of this white Bordeaux blend are generally more common and you can expect these wines to be much lighter in body and made in the Crisp style, with Sauvignon Blanc dominating and Sémillon reduced to a minor role. Many of the less expensive dry wines are pure Sauvignon Blanc varietals. While they are perfectly adequate wines they will not meet the expectations of a Rich style devotee.

Although most blends are a combination of Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon, some can also include a small proportion of the lesser-known Muscadelle grape variety to enhance the bouquet with its intense perfume aroma. Wines made in an older and more traditional way may also include small proportions of other grapes, such as, Merlot Blanc, Colombard, Mauzac, Ondenc or Ugni Blanc.

Sweet (Dessert) wines made from this blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon (with Sémillon being the dominant partner and Sauvignon Blanc playing a small supporting role) are some of the world’s longest-lived and most expensive wines. They achieve their greatest heights in the Sauternes appellation, which lies within the Graves district just south of Bordeaux, where the legendary wines of Chateau d’Yquem have been made for over 400 years.

Taste: Lush texture with flavors of lemon, pineapple and nectarines combined with an oaky richness. Hunter Valley Semillon is lighter (unoaked) and very complex when mature.

Body: Medium to full

Dry / Sweet: Dry

Acidity: Low to medium

Age: Drink within five years, with the exception of Hunter Valley wines which need ten years of bottle aging.

Description
Semillon (seh-mee-YON) comes into its own in two key areas: Bordeaux, where it is blended with Sauvignon Blanc and also used to make intensely sweet Dessert wines and Australia, where it makes dry varietal wines as well as some Dessert wines.

It is the rich dry varietal wines of Australia that we are concerned with here. These dry, varietal Semillons are relatively rare, which is a pity as they have so much to offer.

The richest examples are the oaked Semillons of the Barossa Valley of South Australia, which are full bodied, dry, lush and waxy with fresh fruit flavours of lemon, pineapple and nectarine combined with the flavours of oak.

By contrast, Hunter Valley Semillon is typically unoaked, lighter in body with higher acidity and with very delicate almost neutral, flavors when young. They need to age for up to ten years in bottle, after which they become waxy and smooth with complex flavours of toast, honey and roasted nuts.

Note: in Australia, Semillon is spelt without the accent on the letter “e” (French spelling is Sémillon).

Taste: Complex floral aroma with scents of honeysuckle, orange blossom and primroses is followed by stone fruit flavors of apricot and peach, along with spicy and herbal notes.

Body: Full with a silky richness

Dry / Sweet: Dry

Acidity: Low

Age: Drink while young.

Other: An interesting alternative to oaked Chardonnay. Tends to be high in alcohol.

Description
Viognier (vee-oh-NYAY) is a high quality grape that was on the verge of extinction in the 1960s in its Northern Rhône home of Condrieu (kon-dree-uh) in France. Fortunately, this excellent and quite distinctive grape variety was saved and today it is grown in many wine regions across the world.

Because of its full body, silky richness and the fact that it takes well to light oak contact, it has been placed in the Rich style. However, it could equally be included in the Aromatic style due to its characteristic and very pronounced floral perfume.

The wine that Viognier makes is dry with high alcohol and low acidity and is at its best when consumed young. The aroma is complex: rich and powerful with the scent of honeysuckle, orange blossom and primroses. On the palate it is lush with a silky richness and displays stone fruit flavors of apricot and peach, along with spicy and herbal notes. The best wines are world-class and truly stunning.

Viognier has become very popular in recent years as an interesting alternative to oaked Chardonnay because it is full bodied, but with a much more aromatic quality. This in turn has encouraged many producers to plant Viognier to capitalise on this demand.

However, Viognier is a naturally low yielding grape, is very fussy about where it is grown and can be unpredictable. Consequently, making good Viognier is an expensive business. A cheap Viognier may be a very pleasant wine, but don’t expect it to have great complexity, a heady floral perfume and luscious flavors of apricot and peach.

To be at its best Viognier also requires old vines, so over time quality will improve. Having said all of the above, there are many excellent varietal examples made outside of Viognier’s Northern Rhône home. It also plays an important blending role in many white wines of the Southern Rhône and a small proportion is often added to the famous Syrah red wines of the Northern Rhône.

If you have not yet tried Viognier you should seek out a good varietal example: you are in for a treat!

Taste: Modern barrel fermented Viura is rich and creamy with aromas of wild flowers, citrus and stone fruits, followed by flavors of grapefruit, lemon, apricot and pear. Oak contact contributes additional vanilla and toasty notes.

Body: Generally full when barrel fermented (otherwise light to medium).

Dry / Sweet: Dry

Acidity: Medium

Age: Drink within a few years, but the best wines have good aging potential.

Aka: Also known as Macabéo in Spain and Maccabeu in southern France.

Description
Viura (vee-UR-ah) is a Spanish grape variety that is also known as Macabéo in its home country and as Maccabeu in southern France. It is the main white variety in the northern Spanish region of Rioja (ree-OH-hah), which runs along the valley of the Ebro river. It has traditionally played a central role in the white wines of Rioja, which have gone through considerable change in recent decades and continue to evolve today.

Up to the 1980s Traditional White Rioja was made from low yielding Viura vines which were harvested late (to achieve full ripeness and reduce acidity), followed by barrel fermentation in oak and then aging in oak casks for several years before release. These wines were very rich and intense, as well as being quite unique, though few are made today.

In the 1980s there was a move away from these traditional Rich wines in favor of making Crisp Style White Rioja wines that were fresher and lighter. At this time higher yields were permitted and the grapes were harvested earlier to retain acidity and reduce sugar content (making them lighter, with lower alcohol) followed by cold fermentation in stainless steel tanks without any oak contact and minimum maturation before being released. These Crisp style white wines based on Viura (many are pure varietals) are still dominant in Rioja today.

However, at the end of the 1990s progressive winemakers began to produce Modern Oaked White Rioja by reverting back to lower yields and barrel fermenting Viura in oak, but without subsequently prolonged aging for years in cask – many are also matured on their lees for several months to add a creamy / yeasty richness. This modern approach plays to the strengths of Viura, which takes well to oak and is very different to those made in the Crisp style, while still retaining freshness.

These modern wines are usually blends dominated by Viura with some Malvasia and / or Garnacha Blanca (aka Grenache Blanc) added for extra body and texture. They are rich and creamy with aromas of wild flowers, citrus and stone fruits, followed by flavors of grapefruit, lemon, apricot and pear, as well as notes of vanilla and toast contributed by the oak. They can be very elegant and develop more flavor intensity and complexity with age. Most should be drunk within a few years of release, but the best have good aging potential.

If you enjoy Rich style wines it is well worth adding modern oaked Viura to your repertoire.

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