Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Ideal for Summer: Aromatic Wines

Aromatic wines...what do all of these have in common? They are not shy, these wines have intense aromas and are very flavorful and fun to drink. If you go to any blind tasting and come across one of these, I can guarantee you that you will recognize them easily!

I decided to publish this post in the Summer, because as you may see, all of them are white, but I must recognize I do drink these all year long.

Sometimes when Winos smell these, they stir away thinking these are sweet, too floral, too fruity... and I want my wines dry… please don’t let your noses fool you, some will be a bit off dry, (with a bit of residual sugar) but most will be completely dry, so always taste with your palate before talking about sweetness.

Most of my recommendations don’t see any oak, it’s simple, oak will mask their aromas, and why ruin something so perfect? They are made in old casks that don’t impart any flavor or in stainless steel temperature controlled vats, to preserve the freshness of their fruit. Cold soaking with skins is a common practice for some of these, this is done to extract even more aromas and flavors.

I often refer to these wines as “pure”, because their aromatics come naturally from their grapes, and because they are usually made with minimum human intervention. So let’s explore some of the aromatic grapes, shall we?

Riesling produces the lightest of all white wines. It does best in cool and marginal climates, since it ripens early. Best places for Riesling are Germany (Mosel & Rheingau) France (Alsace), Austria (Lower Austria), NY Finger Lakes. Rieslings are usually light in body, with high acidity and enticing aromas of: flowers, peaches, green apple, pineapple, apricots and passion fruit. Some show nice minerality mostly from the soils where they grow: stony is a common descriptor of some of these wines or slatey. With age, Rieslings can smell of honey, petrol, marzipan. When buying these, always ask about their residual sugar. Germany, Austria and Alsace produce wines that go from dry to sweet (dessert styles). Best food matches will be spicy foods and Asian cuisine.

Best samples of these wines come from Galicia, Spain (D.O. Rias Baixas) but there are plantings of Albariño in Portugal (Vinho Verde), California and Australia. Albariño will produce wines of medium to medium plus bodies and good acidity. On the nose it is fruity with aromas of peaches and apricots, in cooler climates we can also find some citrus notes (lemon zest, grapefruit), in warmer areas more mango and nectarine.  Some of these undergo aging on lees (with its dead yeasts after fermentation is over) which will add creaminess to the wines. Albariños are a perfect match for all types of seafood cuisine, especially those from Galicia and Northern Portugal.

Gewürz means spicy in German, but it’s correct to say that this wine is more floral than anything else. Best places to find Gewürz are in Germany, Alsace & Trentino-Alto Adige (Italy). Most Gewürz will have medium plus to full bodies (bigger in Alsace, also alcohol levels will be higher there too, thanks to plenty of sun). As with Riesling, there are dry and sweet versions, so always ask your wine store clerk to make sure that you are buying what you want. Wines marked as SGN (Sélection de Grains Nobles) or VT (Vendange Tardive) are always sweet/ dessert styles. On the nose: Gewürz will smell or lychees, roses, bergamot, allspice, orange blossom, ginger and face cream. Best food matches: pork, chicken dishes, salads. This is a great wine to serve also as an apéritif.

Torrontés is the most important white grape of Argentina, where it thrives in Salta at altitudes starting @ 1600 m or 5200 ft. It’s a very aromatic grape showing aromas of, peach, rose, geranium, citrus. Torrontés bodies are usually medium plus to big, some samples can have plenty of alcohol and up to 14.5%. Though they smell fruity and floral, most samples are  dry. Best food matches are Asian and Indian cuisine (curries).

Viognier is rich and flavorful with low acidity. Best places for Viognier are the Northern Rhone Valley (Condrieu and Chateau Grillet) where the grape originated, these days there’s plenty of Viognier in Australia (MacLaren Valley, Murray River) in California and the Languedoc. It needs warm weather and a long ripening season to show all of its goodness, best samples come from very old vines, this has discouraged some producers to plant more Viognier. Viognier wines usually have big bodies, high alcohol (like it is the norm in the Rhone) Some samples see some oak aging, only a  touch not enough to overcome its perfume. Viognier aromas are mostly of apricots, peaches, jasmine, spice, orange peel, lanolin.

It’s possible the oldest grapes of this group, since Romans and Greeks used to make wines from Muscat. There are three types of Muscat, Muscat Blanc
à Petit Grain, Muscat de Alexandria and Muscat Ottonel.
Like Viognier it loves warm weather, so you will find it along the Mediterranean in places like Málaga (Spain) Southern Italy, Australia, Alsace (France). It produces all types of wines from dry to sweet, from table to fortified wines (wines with more alcohol than 14% like Muscat of Beaumes de Venise) and sparkling like Moscato d’Asti, which is very low in alcohol. Muscat is also used to make wines from raisins like in Passito di Pantelleria. Most Muscats will have medium to full bodies, some with high alcohol, acidity is usually balanced. Muscat is one of the few grapes that has aromas of fresh grapes, but also rose petals and orange blossom. Sweet dessert styles will feature caramel, honey, quince and dry apricots flavors, some of the stickies may see some oak aging.

My recommendations for you to try:
Dr. Loosen Red Slate Dry Riesling 2017 $16
Trimbach Riesling 2017 $20
Martin Codax Burgans Albari
ño 2018 $15 
Chateau St Michelle Gewurztraminer 2017 $12
Michel Torino Torrontes 2018 $16
Bartenura Muscat 2018 $15
Paolo Saracco Moscato d’ Asti NV $13

Cheers! Silvina