The ABC’s of “Anything But Chardonnay” 7 White Wine Alternatives
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Are you a Chardonnay drinker? The “ABC - Anything But Chardonnay” movement began several years ago when many brand-level chardonnay producers all wanted to mimic the success of Kendall Jackson with that oaky, buttery, creamy flavor and texture. In 2021 we are fortunate to have many faces and facets of Chardonnay. Chardonnay styles vary from the unoaked crisp apple and pear expressions to the new oak, barrel-aged buttery, creamy mouth-feel variety.
OK, we love Chardonnay, but why not widen our horizons with these 7 white wine varietals that are gaining more attention? Each of the wines I have chosen has a 90+ point or above rating. The wine examples can hail from such diverse wine regions as South America, Alsace, Spain, California, France, USA, New Zealand, and Italy. Note all wines suggested are sourced from Wine.Com – a great place for Virtual Tastings.
Party Idea: Throw a virtual Zoom sampling party of these 7 standout wines and add these delicious alternative varietals to your wine Rolodex©.
Sauvignon Blanc grapes make a white wine that takes on the different expressions of the area’s terroir – climate, soil, sun, wind, and elevation. For example, a Sonoma Russian River Sauvignon Blanc like Merry Edwards has aromas and tastes of tropical fruit and Crème brûlée. A New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc like Kim Crawford may have aromas of grapefruit and grass that is evident in the wines of NZ’s Marlborough region.
2018 Merry Edwards Sauvignon Blanc, Sonoma, Russian River - $32 for a ½ bottle, 375 ML Wine Spectator 93 Points
Tasting Notes: This wine exhibits notes of muskmelon, mango, papaya, and guava that widen the aroma, along with accents of white peach, nectarine and Meyer lemon. Hints of minerality, crème brûlée, and toasted hazelnuts add even more sophistication. This wine is lush with good viscosity. Sweet Ruby Red grapefruit, tangerine zest, and lively acidity throughout balance this richness.
Merry Edwards is my absolute favorite Sauvignon Blanc, pricey but worth it. The winery in Sonoma, Russian River Region, has a highly entertaining and educational presentation of how they grow their grapes and make their wines. Merry Edwards is one of the early female master’s degree graduates of the celebrated University of California at Davis Enology program.
The most famous white wine in France’s Rhône Valley comes from the Viognier grape. Winemakers in the Condrieu AOC-Appellation d'Origine – in Northern Rhône - create exceptional and expensive wines. Viognier’s New World wine expressions exhibit a rich mouthfeel (much like Chardonnay,) but with floral aromas and lychee and stone fruit flavors.
Wine Enthusiast 90 Points
Tasting Notes: This wine is a blend of six vineyards and delivers aromas of delicate floral, apricot, peach, quince, and ginger spice. Hints of melon and peaches carry through the long, creamy finish…..a perfect pairing with a veal chop or seafood.
Chenin Blanc is grown virtually around the world and may be most famously grown and made in the Loire Valley region of France and in South Africa, where it is also known as Steen. Chenin Blanc is used to make everything from dry white wines to sparkling wines to well-balanced dessert wines. Here I have chosen a New World Washington State Chenin Blanc.
Wine Enthusiast 91 Points
Tasting Notes: This wine has delightful aromas of floral, citrus, passion fruit, guava, and Kiwi. It has mouthwatering acidity and flavors of starfruit, gooseberry, and guava. There is a lingering finish. This is a “best value” wine of Washington State.
Asti, Italy is the most famous home of the Moscato grape (also named Muscat.) Currently, many regions of the world including the US and Australia grow this aromatic grape. “Moscato Madness” is alive in the US and Moscato is one of the fastest growing varietal wines. The “frizzante” or lightly sparkling wine version has caught fire here, too. It’s light, low-alcohol, and has a sweet style which has captured some of the former “White Zin” drinkers. Moscato is a food-friendly wine. Featured here is one of the premier Italian producers, Saracco, of Asti, Italy. A perfect food pairing for Moscato is Dim Sum, white chocolate, and dessert with raspberries and cheesecake.
2019 Saracco Moscato d’Asti, Asti, Piedmont, Italy - $15 Wine Enthusiast 95 Points
Tasting Notes: Intensely aromatic, this wine opens with tantalizing scents of citrus blossom, yellow peach, and aromatic herb. The creamy, foaming palate offers apricot, candied tangerine zest, lemon drop, and a note of crystallized ginger. Bright acidity and a hint of thyme lift the rich flavors. What a great wine. The alcohol is only 6%, and the price is a great value.
Albariño is a variety of white wine grape most well-known for growing in Galicia (northwest Spain), Spain’s Rias Baixas region, and in northwest Portugal where it is used to make varietal white wines. Albariño is the Galician name for the grape; in Portugal it is known as Alvarinho. In the US, this grape is planted primarily in California, Oregon, and Texas.
2019 Granbazan Etiqueta Verde Albarino, Rias Baixas Spain Wine & Spirits 92 Points
Tasting Notes: This wine has a pale yellow and chartreuse color. An assertively perfumed nose displays an array of honeysuckle, citrus, and golden apple fruit scents. Sappy, penetrating and pure, this wine offers crackling lemon-lime flavors and a slight hint of saltiness… a great pairing with scallops or any seafood. You can almost feel the sunny Atlantic coast drinking this wine.
Pinot Gris/Grigio is a white wine grape variety thought to be a clone of the Pinot Noir variety. It normally has a grayish-blue fruit, accounting for its name (gris meaning "gray" in French) but the grapes can have a brownish pink to black and even white appearance. Pinot Gris is grown around the globe. The expressions range from the "spicy" full-bodiedAlsace, France Pinot Gris styles to the lighter-bodied, more acidic Pinot Grigio Italian styles. The Alsatian style is often duplicated in New World wine regions such as Marlborough, New Zealand, Tasmania, South Australia, and in the US in Washington and Oregon. These New World wines tend to have a moderate to low acidity, higher alcohol levels, and an almost oily texture that contributes to the full-bodied nature of the wine.
2018 Acrobat Pinot Gris, Oregon - $15 Wine Enthusiast 90 Points
Tasting Notes: Fresh and vibrant, this harmonious white is appealing for its aromas of Asian pear can ripe cantaloupe. Flavors of fresh pear and Fuji apple abound. This is a medium bodied mouth-feel with a bright finish. Acrobat represents some very good-valued wines. This wine is perfect with grilled fish, cream sauces, chicken, and pork dishes. It would be wonderful with foie gras.
White Bordeaux: A White Wine Blend
White Bordeaux wines are a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Semillion, and Muscadelle grapes. A few less-know varieties such as Colombard and Ugni Blanc can also be used. This wine can only be called a White Bordeaux if it is made in the Bordeaux region of France. Of course you can find this wonderful blend made in other countries and wine regions, particularly Australia (wonderful in the Margaret River region), South Africa, and the US. They may be called “SSB” wines. You can spend quite a bit for a high quality White Bordeaux, so I’m going to suggest a top producer, Leeuwin Estate, in Margaret River Australia who makes this blend.
2019 Leeuwin Estate Siblings Sauvignon Blanc Semillon, Margaret River, Western Australia - $23 Wine & Spirits 91 Points
Tasting Notes: This wine exhibits aromas of citrus, lime, and lemon along with savory notes of cardamom and chamomile. Flavors of limes, cut lemons, and guava are layered with a subtle texture and commendable length.
We all love Chardonnay in all of its styles and expressions. White wine alternatives, however, represent a whole new range of scents, flavors, and mouth-feel to complement a whole range of dishes, particularly Asian dishes whose spices would tend to fight with the oakiness of Chardonnay. These alternative white wines offer new terroir (a wine “sense of place”) adventure. Anything But Chardonnay? Experience these traditional and new classics and let us know about your own personal wine revelation.
Next Tuesday - Join us for the Continuation, Part II:
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