Terra Incognita Wines
By Marco Giovanetti
If you come to my home there’s a very good chance that you’ll be served one of the following white wines sometime during the course of your stay. I do this for two reasons: Already, white wine is less popular than red and the other purpose to introduce guests to offbeat varietals they may not know. These under-the-radar wines can be complex and extremely well made. As they are unknown to many neophytes and even to seasoned wine lovers, prices of all these wines tend to be fair with some exceptions and will remain so until they are widely discovered and prices dramatically escalate.
Roussanne from The Northern Rhone
Roussanne is a white grape variety usually associated with the white wines produced in the Northern Rhône region of France, such as Hermitage and St-Joseph Blanc. Roussanne is aromatic, elegant and highly acidic. Roussanne is almost always blended with fuller-bodied Marsanne grapes to produce white wines. Roussanne and Marsanne are permitted in blends of the red wines of the same region. They are occasionally found in Australia, Italy and the United States as a varietal wine. These wines have smooth, rich flavors of almonds, apples and apricots. Roussanne grapes are also used in making Hermitage Blanc. The wine is floral, herbal with notes of honey and spice.
Roussanne is the only other white wine variety, besides Marsanne, allowed in France’s mostly red wine producing northern Rhone appellations of Crozes-Hermitage, Hermitage and St. Joseph. There are limited plantings in a few other French regions and in Italy’s Liguria, Tuscany and Australia.
Roussanne is a great white wine for the winter months, as its full body and intense flavor complements nicely with heavier comfort foods. Roussanne pairs well with seafood such as shellfish, oysters, lobster, and grilled fish. It also goes well with bacon, chicken, veal, salads, spicy foods or creamy sauces, and just about any dish containing rosemary.
The recommended serving temperature for Roussanne wines is 10 C-12 C. Roussanne ages very well, and it is good to give it five or even ten years to age.
Ribolla Gialla from Friuli
Another of my favorite white wine grapes is Ribolla Gialla. This is an ancient grape that hails from the region of Friuli in northern Italy. While the Ribolla Gialla is a transplant of the Greek varietal Robola, it is hard to say that a grape that has been growing in the same region since the 13th century is not “indigenous.” Wines made from the Ribolla Gialla tend towards the light and crisp side of white wines, with hints of apples, citrus and almonds. It is often called just Ribolla, though the Gialla helps to distinguish it from the lesser Ribolla Verde varietal.
Traditionally, Ribolla Gialla was vinified in a light body and acidic style with slight floral aromas. However, recent producers have been making it more concentrated with a deep yellow colour with nutty and mineral flavours. Ribolla Gialla is found on the Italian appellations of Colli Orientali del Friuli and Collio DOC, with the towns of Cialla, Rosazzo, Capriva, Cividale, Cormons, Gradisca d’Isonzo, Manzano and Oslavia producing fine examples.
This wine can pair with a wide range of foods due to its lemony core and zesty personality that will help refresh the palate between bites. Try with creamy soups or fish dishes or even quiche and frittatas.
Savagnin Blanc from the Jura
My last favorite white grape is Savagnin that come from the Jura Region in France. Savagnin is cultivated on the poorest marly soils in Arbois and the rest of the Jura region. It has been suggested that the grape is related to the Traminer from the Bolzano area of northern Italy. Savagnin is best known as the variety used in the vin jaune (yellow wine) of Chateau-Chalon aged for 6 years on ullage in barrel. Vin Jaune undergoes a process similar to sherry, whereby a film of yeast (une voile) covers the surface, thereby preventing oxidation but allowing evaporation and the subsequent concentration of the wine. The result is a sherrylike wine with a delicate, nutty richness.
Besides, Vin Jaune, Savagnin can produce dry and dessert wines. It is also typically blended with Chardonnay to create a sparkling wine called Cremant de Jura.
Savagnin is great with classical French dishes such as Poulet Bresse aux Morilles. It also pairs beautifully with Indian fowl curries and Spanish rice dishes. I personally like a glass of Savagnin with a plate of fried calamari or seafood Paella. Try it with a shrimp yellow Thai curry and it will take you to the stars!
I hope that this article sparks your curiosity to try one of the wonderful wines made from the grapes. Next time you have guests, impress them with one of my suggestions from this week’s wines.
Many thanks for this week’s sponsors. Genevieve Boucher from Rezin for the beautiful sample of St-Joseph and Sylvie Chagnon from Selections Frechette for the Jermann bottle.
Marco Giovanetti is an Italian-Venezuelan Sommelier. He specializes in European wines but also enjoys emerging wine regions and has over 15 years tasting experience. In addition of The West End Times, Marco writes for the magazine EGF and the city in Madrid, Spain and he is a member of the IFWTWA. Marco enjoys fine wine, literature and films, in addition to teaching about wine. You may contact him at:
Legend of rating
Under 60- Do not
buy. Faulty wine
60-70- Mediocre wine
70-80- All right
80-90- Very good
90-100- Excellent wine.
QPR : Wines that deliver tremendous value for
the money paid.
Hasta la vista and see you next week!!!
Wines of the week:
Very rich and complex bouquet. Honey, dry-jammy apricots, mango puree, ripe pineapples, wax, a hint of minerality. Flowers such as acacia and lavender. In the mouth, full body and dry yet very refreshing with a dense mouthfeel and pointy acidity. Supreme elegance Very complex, pleasant and intriguing flavors, that lack words to describe such as : apricots, pollen, royal jelly minerals ( granite). The dusty minerality coming back at the end with a very long and vibrant finish with echoes of peach, and English tea and crusted bread. Beautiful well-crafted wine that takes some time to understand, but worth the effort i. Drink now or keep for the next 5-7 years. 95\100.
On the nose, very fresh aromas of citric and tropical fruits with delicate nuances of minerals. In the mouth, dry and medium body with pronounced mineral flavors. This is an elegant and balanced wine with a slight and pleasant bitterness at the finale which reflects the majestic terroir of the Friuli. 90\100.
Exquisite wine. Very complex nose that reminds me of baby powder, white peaches, flowers, grapefruit with mineral undertones. In addition, well spiced with aromas of curry and anis etoile. In the mouth, medium body and very distinguished with a refreshing acidity. Stunning elegance with a well mastered oak aging. Complex flavors that reminds of butter, pecan, sand and horse saddle. Very charming and digest wine with a long aromatic finale that reminds me of coconut milk, vanilla yogurt, and pineapple. 95\100.