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A nice glass of white wine

Summer is nearly here, and for many of us one of the big pleasures at this time of year is sitting outside with a nice glass of wine. White wine, with its lighter body and fresher flavour, is a summer favourite but for those of us who are not experts, sometimes it can be tricky to know what wine to choose.

Rather than stick to one you know, once you learn about their different backgrounds and flavours, it can become fascinating to try different white wines…and there are just so many varieties to choose from.

Pinot grigio is still a current top seller in white wine, displacing the previous favourite Chardonnay.
Pinot grigio really is a wine from Italy or Germany, especially from the Venezia and Alto Adige regions of Italy where the grape is grown extensively. But it is also grown in France, usually termed Pinot Gris, and in Germany where it is sometimes called Ruländer or Grauer Burgunder.

 The grape produces a crisp dry wine with a good acid bite. Pinot Gris from the Alsace region in France has a slightly more aromatic fruity flavour.

Chardonnay used to be Britain’s top favourite white wine and is still hugely popular. It is the principle white wine of Burgundy in France - it originated here - but it is very versatile and today is successfully grown all over the world.

Because of Chardonnay’s adaptability to being grown in different soils and climates, it is produced with quite a wide variety of tastes. The wines are often softer than other types of dry white wines, with a citrus undertaste. When the grapes are fermented in newer oak barrels this can add a vanilla or even a toffee tone. 

Sauvignon blanc is a generally popular wine that originally came from France but is now global and produced extensively in Australia and New Zealand and other areas. A cooler climate can suit it best. Interestingly, the grape produces very different flavours not only from the soil and climate in which it develops, but also across a wide spectrum of ripeness.

Its typical taste includes a fresh aroma with a strong acid finish; it has a herbal character with some apple, pear and even gooseberry undertones.  In the Loire Valley in France, especially in Sancerre and Pouilly-Fume, the wine is affected by the acidity and minerals in the soil to give a strong herb, almost grasslike, pungency. New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is very popular and offers a green citrus and berry fruit flavour. Sauvignon Blanc grapes are harvested late and blended with Semillon wine to make sweet white wines, especially Sauternes.

Semillon wine is a major white grape from the Bordeaux region of France. It is often said to have a fig-like character with strong berry like flavours. As mentioned above, this wine can be blended with Sauvignon Blanc to make Sauternes and Barsac sweeter white wines.

Riesling are popular the world over, but the greatest Rieslings as the name suggests come from Germany, especially from Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Rheinhessen and Rheingau. They have a range of flavours from dry and stony to quite floral and sweet – the sweetest varieties may have been aged for decades.
There used to be a general thought that Californian Rieslings are not as good as European because they lacked sufficient acidity to balance the natural sweetness; but this is no longer the case and American Reislings can now be excellent.

Gewurztraminer is not generally well known in the UK which is a shame because it is a lovely white wine .  It is pronounced  gah…vurtz..tra…meener if you need to ask for it. Its best known varieties are from Alsace and it can offer a fruity flavour with aromas of peaches, lychees and allspice. It may not be quite as refreshing as other dry white wines on a hot summer day. However, when grown in cooler climates such as northern Italy, where it is called Traminer, it can offer a crisp grapefruit flavoured white wine which can be very refreshing.

Gruner Veltliner is another white wine with a slightly difficult name, although this certainly doesn’t detract from its popularity. It accounts for over a third of all the plantings in Austria and offers a wide range of flavours and styles. Wine from the smaller vineyards that has been allowed to age in oak casks can offer unique mellow fruit, white pepper and spicy characteristics that can make it very sought after.

Muscat wine is very distinctive, with its hint of orange sweetness.  It is also a very interesting wine, which includes over 200 grape varieties with a history that goes back into antiquity. There are lots of theories about the origin of its name but the most common explanation is that the name is derived from the Persian word muchk.  Muscat can be made into excellent light sparkling wines, especially the Moscato d’Asti of north Italy.

Once you have tasted the above, you will probably be well on your way to becoming a wine enthusiast, knowing the sort of wines that really appeal to you and the ones that don’t. With so many varieties across the world, wine really can quickly develop into quite an obsessive interest!

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