I've had a few folks ask me to write about "alternatives" to chardonnay.
I've had a few folks ask me to write about "alternatives" to chardonnay. I am getting quite a few clients who are seemingly tired of this venerable grape. I have written about this before, but there is a growing wine population wishing to look elsewhere for white wine. The first thing I mention to them is that chardonnay is really unique by virtue of the grape being able to be vinified in so many different manners. Today, when we think of chardonnay, we need to understand that the flavors of this white wine can go to anywhere from very steely, to apple, as well as buttery and oaky.
I feel that most folks really are not aware of this and ironically, chardonnay is one of the only white wines which has the ability to move around in taste sensations like this. The beauty of this ability to be vinified in so many ways gives chardonnay the ability to go well with a very vast array of different cuisine. My suggestion is to branch out and look — if oak and butter in chardonnay is not your preference in chardonnay — to Macon or Chablis. These chardonnay will fit the bill and may resurrect your enjoyment of the grape. If you feel that chardonnay is too linear or crisp, head for Australian, Sonoma or Central Coast chardonnay which might be what you are looking for. These are obviously general directions but I think these suggestions are worth seeking to find out whether you are tired of the grape or simply tired of the style of how a particular chardonnay is made. Truly, there are very different tasting wines out there which go by the name "chardonnay."
Alternatives to chardonnay abound in the world of wine. Let's look at a couple of fun whites;
Sauvignon blanc — This is the workhorse of the white wine scene in New Zealand and I think that, thanks to the New Zealanders, Americans have come to fall in love with this wine again. Sauvignon blanc does well in California and Washington state with some produced in Oregon which can be quite good. The native area for sauvignon blanc is Bordeaux, France, where it is the queen of the Bordeaux wine and cuisine scene. Look for white Bordeaux or some of the very fine Napa Valley or Washington producers.
Pinot grigio — Also known as pinot gris, this is possibly the fastest-growing white wine in popularity today as pinot gris sales have hit an all-time high. Oregon is the leader in pinot gris production and we have made gris at world class levels for some years now. The Willamette Valley has scored big time with this grape and the wines coming from there are fresh, clean and full of character. In southern Oregon we make very good pinot gris as well, but the alcohol levels, generally are a tad higher and the wines seem a bit "fatter" and less lean than those produced in the northern climes. Again, this is a general feeling about these wines, but, after tasting hundreds of gris from different locations around the state, I think that I might be correct in saying this. Italy and France are the Old World leaders in pinot gris and the pinot grigio from the north of Italy are some of the best grigio for the money. The venerable Di Lenardo winery in the Northeastern part of the country really puts out some stunning examples of this wonderful, fresh varietal.
Gewerztraminer — Spicy traminer — I love these wines. Gewerztraminer comes in dry or sweeter versions and can be just the wine for curry dishes, Thai dishes or Mexican cuisine. I am a fan of the drier versions, those showing 13 percent alcohol or a bit higher. These wines exhibit spice in the nose and delicious spicy dry or sweet flavors in the finish. Oregon and France have some of the best Gewerztraminer, anywhere.
Lorn Razzano is owner of the Wine Cellar in Ashland. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.