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Learn to taste exciting white wines

Expand your wine horizons with these gems!

by: Cathy Marston | 17 Feb 2016

Once you’ve got the basic grape varieties sorted out then it’s time to be adventurous! By now you are probably familiar with Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc but what else is out there? Well lots actually, so here are a few things you might try.

Rhône -ranging
Hi-ho Silver – away! No, we’re not actually talking about men in masks, we’re talking about some of the most exciting grapes around. The Rhône Valley in France is a warm area with strong winds and lots of sunshine and the grapes traditionally grown there are hot news here in SA right now.

Here are a few you could try in your wine club:

The Foundry – this boutique brand belonging to Meerlust’s Chris Williams contains 3 stellar examples of Rhône white wines. He makes a Grenache Blanc, a Viognier and a Roussanne, all of which share some characteristics (peachy stone fruit, plenty of texture) but which differ in terms of intensity and freshness. You can buy them from specialist wine shops or online retailers.

Fairview – SA’s original Rhône Ranger, Charles Back, was backing the Rhône long before most other people thought about it. He makes both the country’s first Viognier as well as a Roussanne but the best way to try these wines is as part of his amazing Nurok white blend which mixes some Chenin and Grenache Blanc with the Roussanne. More readily available, and well worth seeking out!

Bellingham – this well-known brand is racking up the awards, many of them for their hand-crafted Rhône wines. They have a Roussanne and a Viognier of course, but they’re also one of the first to make a Marsanne as well as an interesting Grenache Blanc/Viognier blend.

Portuguese Princesses

There are plenty of other Southern European grapes coming through – think Assytiko, Viura, Picpoul and Bourboulenc - but the most planted at the moment seem to be Portuguese. Here’s a couple to try plus something from Portugal itself, widely available cross-country.

Verdelho – this isn’t quite the same as Verdejo which is a Spanish grape – perhaps this is more widely-planted now because of our Port heritage? There are some really interesting versions available. Top of the tree is the KWV Mentors which is truly elegant and interesting though not cheap, but you can also try versions from Fairview, Thelema and Flagstone as well. They’re all zippy and zesty with lots of peachy overtones and limey acidity. Great food wines too.

Albarino – okay, this is spelt in the Spanish way, but it’s the same grape as the Portuguese Alvariñho so I think it’s allowed! This is a very exciting variety coming from the north-west coast of the Iberian Peninsula and is the only one currently made in SA is by Newton Johnson in the Hemel-en-Aarde. Lovely acidity, limey and fresh – a really interesting addition to the SA wine scene.

Loureiro – actually, no-one in SA is growing this yet so you’re going to have to stick to a Portuguese wine here. Try the Casal Garcia Vinho Verde – easily available at Liquor City and a couple of other major retail chains – it’s like the grown-up version of Graça with plenty more zip and zing. And it’s a very good price too.

Next week we’re going to tackle the reds!

Follow Cathy Marston on Twitter @CathyMarston for more fun and interesting wine commentary!

- Cathy Marston


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