Votes have been tallied from the ABC (anything but Chardonnay) club on undiscovered white wine varietals to explore as the weather turns warmer and the cuisine lighter. For inquisitive palates, opportunities abound to go beyond the familiar Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc varietals to try classic Rhone varietals (Marsanne, Roussanne and Viognier), an unheralded wine with French origins (Pinot Blanc) and treats from Germany and Alsace (Gewurztraminer and Riesling).
Collectively, the wines will exhibit clean fruity styles, with further nuances from winemaking, soil and vintage. Prices will typically be lower than for Chardonnays, French white Burgundies and Sauvignon Blancs. The following offers a quick introduction to each and a few wineries to choose from. Your waiters and wine merchants can provide greater insights and more selections than space allows here.
Marsanne – Full-bodied white wine; bouquet of citrus, honeydew melons and almonds. Great picnic wine and tasty companion for seafood, chicken and pork dishes with subtle sauces. Selections: Paul Jaboulet, France; Qupe and Beckmen from the U.S.
Roussanne – The bouquet is a somewhat subtle combination of honey, flowers and tea; a match for cuisine with lighter sauces, including seafood pastas. Selections: Tablas Creek and Rubicon in the U.S.
Viognier – Rich bouquet of peach, apricot, orange blossoms and stone fruit. Great with seafood, shellfish, chicken, pork and even subtle veal dishes. Selections: Orfila, Bridlewood and Denner, U.S.; Chateau de Rieux, France.
Pinot Blanc – A genetic cousin to Pinot Gris, with a distinct melon and spice bouquet. Some are made in Chardonnay style with barrel fermentation and oak aging. Wonderful with seafood. Selections: Amity from the U.S.; Schaetzel, Trimbach from Alsace.
Gewurztraminer – Distinctive, spicy straightforward wine that goes well at picnics, with cheeses and fruit, finger foods and spicier dishes (Cajun chicken and fish; Thai cuisine; carnitas). Selections: Trimbach from Alsace; Fogarty and Stony Hill, U.S.
Riesling – Dry Riesling is enjoying a renaissance in the U.S. and rightfully so. Intriguing bouquet of peach, apricot, violets and hints of steel in Mosel wines. Fresh on the palate with a long fruity finish. A match for Chinese, Thai and other spicier cuisines. Selections: Prum and Dr. H. Thanisch, Germany; Ch. St. Jean, Stony Hill and Trefethen, United States; Villa Maria, New Zealand.