Tag Archives: pinot gris

W(h)ining: Aromatic Whites and a Toast to the Spring Season

25 Mar

I was delighted to pour a flight of three aromatic white wines on Sunday to celebrate the first day of spring.  I was a bit apprehensive, though, that many of my tasting-bar customers would be less than excited by the offering of all white, off-dry wines.  But the intense fragrance and vibrant, mouthwatering, palate of wines poured from unassuming, Alsatian bottles, pleasantly surprised many folks who might normally shy away from this style of wine.

I’ve noticed that a majority of consumers drink only red, or very little white, and almost everyone, it seems, is afraid of a touch of sweetness in their wine.  I’m not sure if it’s the memory of sugary, flavourless, mass-produced American White Zinfandel circa 1980, or the surprisingly explosive sweetness of that first sip of quality icewine, but it seems to me there is a general reluctance to try off-dry, or, as many people mistakenly call them, ‘sweet’ wines.  An off-dry wine, unlike a sweet wine such icewine, late harvest wine, or port, has just a touch of residual sugar, and, if made to my liking, a good amount of mouthwatering  acidity to balance the sweetness; indeed, this is precisely the difference between an exquisite off-dry Gewürztraminer, and an unpalatably cloying wine of the 80s blush variety.  Acidity in off-dry wine is kind of like a squeeze of lemon in a recipe; it brightens the flavours of the wine, adds a bit of tartness to balance the sweetness, and provides a clean finish to a round palate.

Now, to answer the obvious question I’ve neglected thus far:  What is an aromatic wine?  Wines that are considered ‘aromatic’ exhibit an intense nose, or fragrance, of flowers, fruit, and spices that come from the grape itself, Vinification, by contrast, or the winemaker’s tinkering, produces what we call the bouquet rather than the aroma of the wine.  The bouquet of a Syrah might exhibit characteristics of vanilla and smoke from the oak barrels it is aged in, for example, and its aroma might show luscious black fruit and white pepper.

Some wine varieties (or grapes) considered aromatic are Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Muscat, and Pinot Blanc, although wines from these grapes do not always exhibit the intense nose characteristic of an aromatic wine, and sometimes wines can be aromatic even if they’re not made from grapes that are typically considered ‘aromatic.’

The wines I poured on Sunday, however, were all exceptional examples of aromatic wines, and perfect for welcoming the spring season, with their bright aromas of fresh fruit and flowers. Continue reading

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Four More Whites

22 Jan

Church and State Wines Viognier 2007church-and-state
VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia
$24.90 Winery Direct

Beautiful and intensely floral nose followed by a creamy peach palate. Some malolactic fermentation adds to the richness. Best BC Viognier I’ve tasted to date. Former Burrowing Owl winemaker Bill Dyer has contributed to a greatly improved portfolio at Church and State, now boasting an impressive range of primarily Okanagan-grown offerings. 89 points – Very Good


Anakena Single Vineyard Riesling 2006
Maule Valley, Chile
$16.99 Everything Wine

Nice concentration and Riesling character, with lime, honey, petrol and crisp acidity. A touch of alcoholic heat and an abrubt finish. 84 points – OK


Domaine de Chaberton Estate Winery Pinot Gris 2007
VQA British Columbia
$16.49 Winery Direct

A bright, fruity nose with peach and honey aromas. The palate is crisp and simple, but pleasant. 84 points – OK


Henry’s Drive Vignerons Pillar Box White 2006
Padthaway, Australia
$13.99 Everything Wine, BC Liquor Stores (delisted)

A blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Verdelho. Recently reduced from $16.99 and all but sold out in BC. Granny Smith apple, citrus and spicy oak. Not a bad little white for the (new) price, but not really worth seeking out. 82 points – OK