Seven aromatic white wines

"... four excellent Gewürztraminers, a Riesling, a Pinot Gris and a modern Viura ..."

available in Ontario on October 14, 2017

This set of seven white wines includes four Gewürztraminers, a Riesling, a Pinot Gris and a Viura. That is certainly an unusual mix of grape varieties and wines, but the common thread is an attractive, delicate, aromatic essence. In the past few years, I have become increasingly fascinated and appreciative of more aromatic whites, as I have observed some interesting and welcome changes in the way I believe that such grapes are grown and then vinified.

A number of varieties are unquestionably aromatic, the most well-known being Gewürztraminer, Viognier, Torrontés, Moschofilero and Muscat. Each has somewhat different aromatic qualities, mixing obvious (and sometimes strident) florality with ripe fruit elements, spices and in some cases herbal elements and honey. And while the quality and force of the aromatics of these grapes can vary considerably, depending on their origin and winemaking, it is rare to find examples that don’t immediately make you react to their high-intensity aromas.

Other varieties, such as Riesling and Albariño, are sometimes identified as semi-aromatic, and to my mind the aromatic nature of wines made from these grapes very much depends on their origin and winemaking. For example, while very dry Riesling can be quite austere and muted, many off-dry and sweeter versions can be vibrantly aromatic. Think of a lovely, stony Claire Valley Riesling beside a delicate Mosel Kabinett, or a zingy Niagara sweet-tart off-dry Riesling. With the Pinot Gris grape, ripeness may be one of the issues: in my experience, the riper the grapes are, the more aromatic the wines are likely to be. Think of a neutral “Grigio” style wine versus an Alsatian Gris. Then consider the difference between the minimalist aromatics of an austere, stony Sancerre and those of a bright, vibrantly fruit, herb and vegetal-driven Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, both from the same grape and with similar dryness, but grown in different climates and soils, and cultivated and vinified under different regimes.

So of the seven wines presented here, the first four Gewürztraminers are made from a truly aromatic variety, while the last three wines are delicate, more aromatic examples from grapes that are less aromatic in nature.

I also alluded to the fact that I have recently been finding aromatic wines more attractive. Frankly, I used to avoid Gewürztraminer like the plague. I often found an over-the-top, blousy florality, that could manifest itself as a stomach-churning soapiness. Do you remember that purple, chicklet-style chewing gum called Thrills? Yes, that aroma and flavour! But there have been some welcome changes. Especially in southern France and Spain, but elsewhere as well, there seems to be a growing appreciation of the benefits of keeping grapes more shaded, picking white grapes earlier to preserve acidity and fruit, and then vinifying more gently. The result seems to be that aromatics are more subtle, and enhanced acidity gives the wines life and grace.

The four Gewürztraminers presented here reflect this more nuanced approach, although each has a unique character. It would make a very enjoyable tasting experience to compare all four at once. You would identify the varietal similarities, but notice interesting and significant differences in aromas, flavours and textures. I guarantee that you will like some much better than others, and of course your preferences would likely differ from mine! The Darting Gewürztraminer from the Pfalz is a delicate, nuanced and rather sweet wine that I suspect would be difficult to use at the table, but its fine acidity provides a good balance, and I am tempted to serve it as a fine, after-dinner sipper.  The Cave Spring wine from Beamsville and the Alsatian wine from Baron de Hoen are similarly off-dry, with the Cave Spring showing a little more overt ripeness and a tiny bit more heft and alcohol. The Gray Monk wine from the Okanagan is at the very top end of the off-dry spectrum, making it juicy and attractive. I think it would work better with food if it had a little less residual sugar, but that’s a quibble, and all four are very good.

The Niagara Riesling from Fielding Estate is crisp, crunchy and off-dry, with enjoyable Riesling aromatics. The Pinot Grigio from Alois Lageder has the subtle aromatics of northern Italy, without the heft of a fully “Gris” style. And the final wine, the Vetiver Viura — known as Macabeo outside of Rioja — is very different from the sometimes oaky, waxy and even dull wines that I remember from many years ago. The winery website says that the wine has aged in American oak for six months, and perhaps there’s a subtle spicy breadth that might be the consequence. But I would probably have guessed that it was unoaked from my tasting. I believe that the wine reflects earlier picking, showing the bright acidity and fruit that I mentioned, and although it is 100% Viura, I would not have been surprised if we were told that there was some (permitted) Sauvignon Blanc in the blend. It’s a lovely wine for the price.

My formal tasting notes follow.



Vintages #944181 • $19.95 • 750ml. • WD Score 90/100
This is a lovely wine. It is well into the medium-dry to medium-sweet spectrum, but the fine acidity balances, and the fruit is full of life and vigor. It's rich, with apricot, peach, tangerine, pink grapefruit and a whack of ginger and spice. The nose is surprisingly delicate and finely etched, but the complexity does foretell the richness of the palate. The fine acidity dries the finish, that lingers with a rich peach and apricot essence. So compelling, and an incredible value.
Tasted 22-Sep-2017 • H.H.D. IMPORTS (Agent)Find it at your nearest LCBOShare Review


CAVE SPRING ESTATE BOTTLED GEWURZTRAMINER 2013, Cave Spring Vineyard, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Escarpment

Vintages #302059 • $17.95 • 750ml. • WD Score 89/100
This wine was previously released through Vintages in June. It pours medium yellow-gold in the glass, with a bright, floral nose suggesting peach blossoms and peaches, rosewater, tangerines and lemons, complemented by an underlying depth of ginger and other spices. While the wine is off-dry, bright acidity keeps the palate lively and vibrant, with a deeper apricot denseness building towards the finish. This is a fine wine and a compelling value.
Tasted 22-Sep-2017 • CAVE SPRING CELLARS LTD., (Agent)Find it at your nearest LCBOShare Review



Vintages #377721 • $18.95 • 750ml. • WD Score 89/100
This is a refined Gewürztraminer from Alsace. While fully aromatic, it is understated and delicate, with evident rosewater notes, then aromas of apples, pears, peaches and tangerines. The wine is off-dry, with bright acidity that energizes the palate — elegant, with finely etched fruit, full of life, and so very well-balanced.
Tasted 22-Sep-2017 • FAMILY WINE MERCHANTS INC. (Agent)Find it at your nearest LCBOShare Review



Vintages #321588 • $21.95 • 750ml. • WD Score 88.5/100
This is an attractive Gewürztraminer from the northern Okanagan. The nose suggests aromas of ripe peach, yellow apple and tangerine fruit. The palate jumps with welcome acidity, enlivening the fruit and balancing significant residual sugar that gives the wine a slightly rich texture. It's so juicy and appealing, with a spicy edge, and a lengthy, drying finish.
Tasted 22-Sep-2017 • CHARTON HOBBS INC (Agent)Find it at your nearest LCBOShare Review


FIELDING ESTATE BOTTLED RIESLING 2016, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Escarpment

Vintages #251439 • $19.95 • 750ml. • WD Score 89/100
A lovely Riesling from Fielding, with joyful red apple, apple blossom, lemon, lime and pear fruit, and a nuance of what will evolve into a Riesling kerosene-rubber component. While the wine is off-dry, the bright acidity makes the palate crisp and crunchy, with the lively citrus and apple fruit adding a surprisingly peachy note. The finish totally dries, with peach, apple and lime fruit and a lingering wet stone essence. A terrific wine at a terrific price.
Tasted 22-Sep-2017 • FIELDING ESTATE WINERY (Agent)Find it at your nearest LCBOShare Review



Vintages #681429 • $21.95 • 750ml. • WD Score 89/100
This is a very good Pinot Grigio from Alto Adige that should help remind you that the Italian version of the grape doesn't have to be neutral. The wine is bright straw in colour. The nose suggests apple blossoms, then red apples, melons, white peach and lemon. It is dry, with brisk acidity that infuses the palate with a pleasant crispness, and that contrasts nicely with a subtle weight. A light apple skin burr enhances the crisp finish.
Tasted 22-Sep-2017 • MARK ANTHONY BRANDS (Agent)Find it at your nearest LCBOShare Review



Vintages #437707 • $14.95 • 750ml. • WD Score 88/100
This is an interesting Viura from Rioja, made in a modern, fresh style. It is dry, bright, crisp and medium weight. The nose is floral and peachy, with delicate aromas of apple, lemon and honeydew melon fruit, and notes of herbs and fennel. The fruit replays on the palate, and towards the finish adds a pleasantly bitter, drying undertone. A great value, and very much a worthy WineDiscovery exploration.
Tasted 22-Sep-2017 • UNIVINS AND SPIRITS CANADA INC. (Agent)Find it at your nearest LCBOShare Review


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