When you come to think
about it, “white” wine is a curious misnomer. Milk is white and so are
Malibu bottles but white wine is transparent. Hardly any white wines are
completely colourless. They come in different shades of straw, yellow,
sometimes with a greenish tinge, sometimes bright gold. One of the most
important features to look out for in white wine is freshness. It makes it
an ideal welcome drink at parties and celebrations, because a fresh dry
white is a wonderful stimulant for the appetite.
White wine has been
around for at least 2,500 years and there’s a staggering variety of
different types; the result of different climates, different grapes and
methods of winemaking. White wine is usually made from white grapes. Of
course, they’re not white either but usually green, yellow or somewhere in
between. Any grapes can be used to make white wine, even red grapes. The red
Pinot Noir grape, for example is sometimes used to produce Champagne. The
juice of the grape is virtually colourless and any colour in your glass
comes entirely from the grape-skins.
Although there are
thousands of grape varieties, only about 150 tried-and-tested varieties are
used to make white wine. If we narrow it down even further, there are only a
handful of varieties that are considered white wine classics. These are
Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Riesling and they produce some of
the finest white wines anywhere. Oh, and before I forget, white wines -
including fino sherry - always taste better when they’re served cold. If
they’re too warm, they feel flabby and lose their freshness.
Soave 2016 (white), Italy. THB 670 @ Wine-Now.Asia
During the 1980s, Soave
was one of the biggest sellers in America and tremendously popular in
Britain. In those days, it was usually pretty basic stuff, not much fruit
but crisp, firm and refreshing and perfect to accompany dinner on a warm
summer’s evening. You might be surprised to know that Soave is neither a
grape variety nor a style of wine. It’s a place. To be more precise, it’s a
small town enclosed by medieval walls in northern Italy. It’s just off the
A4 expressway that runs between Verona and Venice and the grapes come from
vineyards in the countryside around the town. They’ve been making wine there
since Roman times.
is made mostly from Gargenega grapes which are grown all over Italy though
with Soave the regulations permit a small percentage of Verdicchio or
Chardonnay. This wine is a golden-yellow colour with an attractive, slightly
oily appearance. It has a gentle fruity aroma, with honey, mandarin and
peach and I wouldn’t mind betting that there’s a generous dollop of
Chardonnay in there. You’ll need to swirl the wine around in the glass to
release the aromas, otherwise they will be reluctant to appear. This is why
a large wine glass is best because when it’s a third full, you can swirl the
wine around in the confident knowledge that it won’t fly out all over your
The taste comes as a
pleasant surprise for despite the soft and beguiling aroma, this little
number hits the palate with assertiveness. This is no shrinking violet, but
a wine which makes you sit up and take notice. You’ll probably notice the
finely balanced acidity first, a lovely refreshing zesty taste with a dash
of citrus. The mouth-feel is smooth and satisfying and the taste lingers on
in the mouth long after the wine has been swallowed. This is known as the
“finish” and a long one is the sign of a well-crafted wine. This would make
a terrific aperitif to drink before dinner, if you can still afford such
indulgences. It would make an excellent partner for something like chicken
fillets in a light mushroom sauce. You can buy this wine online and have it
Wolf Blass Yellow Label Riesling (white), Australia. THB 785 @ Villa
is one of the classic white grapes and has been cultivated in Germany since
the fifteenth century. Note the pronunciation, by the way. If I catch you
calling it RIZE-ling, you’ll be poked with a pointed stick. Some writers
claim that Riesling produces the most spectacular white wines in the world.
These super-star examples come from either the Alsace region of France or
the Mosel and Rhine areas of Germany. With a few notable and expensive
exceptions, Riesling is completely dry.
Vineyards in Soave.
This Australian example
is a bright, light gold with hints of green. There’s a delicate and sweetish
floral aroma of ripe peaches, oranges and a note of herbs. Instead of oak
barrels, stainless steel was used to preserve the freshness of the wine. The
taste is as dry as the proverbial bone, with a very smooth mouth-feel.
There’s also a fair amount of acidity too, giving the wine a kind of
refreshing quality that wine experts like to describe as “racy”.
With a long, citrusy
dry finish, this would be terrific with fish and seafood and would partner
the tangy Asian flavors of ginger and lime. It could match many spicy Thai
or Indian dishes too. If your previous encounters with Riesling were with
those awful sweetish mass-produced German Rieslings of the 1960s and 70s,
you are in for a surprise with this one. You can buy it online or from the
Villa branches in town.