Menus & Entertaining

White wines you'll love: Aromatic whites

By: Anne Martin, sommelier

Author: Canadian Living

Menus & Entertaining

White wines you'll love: Aromatic whites

By: Anne Martin, sommelier
Ever had a white wine whose scent practically jumped out of the glass and enticed you to sip its fruity nectar? If so, you've probably encountered an aromatic white. Their varied, expressive flavours make them perennial favourites on restaurant wine lists and the go-to choice for many wine lovers.

Characteristics of aromatic whites
Aromatic whites have flavour to spare – and it doesn't come from oak barrels but rather the grapes they're made from. Their natural aromas and flavours range in intensity from medium to "Wow, that's amazing!" They're seductive, with the ability to evoke a summer garden in bloom, a ripe peach, rose petals or fresh-cut grass.

This broad category covers white wines of many weights, textures and sweetness levels. They can run the gamut from floral to fruity to herbal/vegetal to mineral. On the sweetness spectrum, aromatic whites can fall anywhere from completely dry (Albariño) to medium-sweet (some German Rieslings). The one thing these wines have in common is that they are usually not aged in oak.

In many ways, they're the ideal whites. Their structure tends to be lighter, with lower alcohol and higher acidity – perfect for food. While they're delicious on their own, aromatic whites can pair up with a variety of fare, including difficult-to-match spicy dishes.

Aromatic white grape varieties
Aromatic white wines come from all over the globe – almost every wine-producing country makes one. Here are some of the grape varieties that make up this exciting category:

Muscat – This is the most aromatic variety. It smells of fresh grapes and is often used in sparkling wines, such as Asti Spumante from Italy, as well as still wines from Alsace.

Page 1 of 2 Discover 7 more enticing white grape varieties on page 2.

Gewürztraminer – This highly perfumed grape offers the exotic scents/tastes of lychee and rose. This weightiest of aromatic whites hails from Alsace in France and makes very distinctive white wines. Many other countries are producing delicious Gewurtz (as they say in the biz) now, too.

Viognier – This grape, with its peach and floral characteristics, comes from the Rhône Valley in France but is popping up everywhere these days. There are great examples from the South of France, California, Canada, Australia and Chile. It's a relatively robust white that suits Chardonnay fans.

Riesling – The noblest of the aromatic grapes, Riesling can produce a range of wines, from very sweet to bone-dry. It offers up an array of aromas/flavours from citrus to stone fruit (apricot, peach) to tropical fruit (mango, papaya) and can have mineral or floral accents. These characteristics depend on where the grapes are grown. The best come from cooler climates – Germany, Austria, Alsace and Canada – but cool spots in other countries, such as Australia, Chile and New Zealand, also produce some fine examples.

Albariño or Alvarinho – This grape hails from northern Spain (the Galicia region) and Portugal (the Vinho Verde region). It has high acidity and exhibits flavours of peach, citrus and flowers, with some mineral notes.

Moschofilero – This Greek white grape produces wines similar to those made from Muscat grapes, but they're drier and lighter, with lovely citrus fruit.

Torrontés – This is the new hot native grape from Argentina. With intense floral aromas/flavours, it produces a range of styles from somewhat sweet to quite dry. The best ones come from the cooler region of Salta.

Sometimes-aromatic grape varieties
Sauvignon BlancSauvignon Blanc can be aromatic, but it depends greatly on where it's grown. French examples tend to be earthier with more mineral notes, whereas examples from New Zealand and South Africa can be very fragrant.

Pinot Gris – This is not technically an aromatic grape, but some wines made from it in Alsace, Oregon and Canada can fall into the aromatic category.

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White wines you'll love: Aromatic whites