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Ordering Wine Out: Step Outside Your Comfort Zone – Whites

Part Two – If You Like Chardonnay, Try A Viognier

Using the same “if you like this, then you’ll probably like that” logic used in Part One for red wines, let’s apply that same approach to some of the most popular white wines and suggest some comparable alternatives, that you may want to try on your next meal out.

If you like a dry, full-bodied white wine like Chardonnay, you have plenty of company. Chardonnay is the world’s most popular white wine grape. It originated in France, but is now widely grown in Australia, the Americas, Italy and South Africa. Some similar wines, you might also enjoy are described below. Give some a taste.

-Viognier wine is not as widely available as other white wines, but is making a bit of a comeback. Like Chardonnay it can aged in stainless steel tanks or oak barrels, with fruit flavors accentuated by the tank method or vanilla and spice flavor notes from barrels. The wine is full-bodied and dry, with a nice smooth finish and is best drunk young.

-Soave is an Italian white wine blend made primarily with Garganega grapes, with smaller amounts of Verdicchio and Chardonnay grapes as well. Soave is a light-bodied, dry wine, with melon and fruit flavors. It can also be aged in stainless tanks or barrels, producing distinct flavor profiles. The better ones (Soave Classico) improve with age.

-Semillon grapes were originally from the Bordeaux region of France and are used in many of the white Bordeaux blends. The grape is also grown in Australia, North and South America and South Africa. It is a full-bodied, dry white wine, with citrus and fruit flavors, that can be oaked to add a buttery finish.

Others may prefer a lighter, less full-bodied dry white wine like Pinot Grigio (also Pinot Gris). Pinot Grigio is the white grape mutation of Pinot Noir and was originally grown in France and Norther Italy, but is now found in vineyards all over the world. Pinot Grigio wines are known to be crisp and refreshing, with notes of citrus and fruit. Many consider them to be the perfect thirst-quenching summer wine. If you already like Pinot Grigio wine, here are some other wines with similar taste profiles to sample.

-Chablis wine is named after a wine-producing region in Northern France that produces a distinctively different dry white wine from Chardonnay grapes. Chablis wines are known for more acidity and less fruit than Chardonnay wines produced in warmer southern climates. Chablis is described as a lighter. crisper form of Chardonnay, with very little if any time spent aging in oak barrels.

-Grenache Blanc is a white grape mutation of the red Grenache or Granacha grape, that originated in Spain, but is now grown in France, Australia and California. Granache Blanc is blended into many Chateauneuf-du-Pape and Cotes-du-Rhone white wines. As either a single varietal wine or as part of a blend, the grape produces a medium to full-bodied, dry white wine with notes of fruit and melon.

-Muscadet is a dry French white wine produced from the Melon de Bourgogne grape in the Loire Valley along the Atlantic Coast. Muscadet is a light-to-medium-bodied white wine with fruit and floral notes, that pairs well with oysters, shellfish and most anything not beef. Its mineral taste comes from the granite in the soil and unlike most white wines need two or three years aging for the best taste.

Many white wine lovers enjoy the taste of a light-bodied wine with a touch of sweetness. While Riesling wines are somewhat sweet, there are also dry and semi-dry varieties as well. You’ll need to do a little sampling to see which your palate likes best. Rieslings are high in acid and very aromatic, with notes of many different fruit flavors. The Riesling grape originated in the Rhine Region of Germany and is now widely grown in most of the world’s wine regions. If you enjoy Riesling, wines with similar taste profiles are listed below.

-Chenin Blanc is another white wine grape from the Loire Valley of France. It is also grown in South Africa, Australia and North and South America. Like Riesling it is high in natural acid and tends to take on the tastes and flavors of the terroir in which it is grown. Chenin Blanc can be used to make anything from a dry, fruit-forward wine, to sparkling or dessert wines. Have fun discovering which you like best.

-Gewurztraminer (also Gewurz) is a white wine grape grown throughout Europe, Australia, Canada, The United States and New Zealand. The wine is a deep golden color and is also high in acidity. The wine can be made dry or sweet, with notes of spice, cinnamon, apricot and pear.

-Moscato is a white wine made from Muscat Blanc grapes. Muscat Blanc is one of the oldest grape varietals in the world, originally grown in Italy and now cultivated in most of the world’s wine growing regions. Moscato can also be made as a still, sparkling or dessert wine, with surprisingly similar flavor profiles of apricot, peach and nectarine. Moscato pairs well with spicy foods of all kinds.

So step outside your comfort zone and try something new. Have some fun.  Some you try may not be as good as what you already like, but you may discover a new favorite – and either way your knowledge and enjoyment of wine will grow.

Disclaimer: Wines can vary greatly by vintage, weather, climate, terroir and winemaker. The wine descriptions described above are generalities that can and will vary.

About the Author
Jack enjoys wine and visiting wineries whenever he can and wherever he is. If you read any of his posts, it's obvious he has no formal training in wine appreciation or viticulture. Despite numerous tasting experiences guided by experts, he still struggles to taste the appropriate notes of "vanilla and huckleberry" in his cabernet sauvignon. It is still a journey he enjoys.

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