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What to sip on a summer day? Try an aromatic white Add to ...

Are you fond of aromatic wines? All wines have aroma, of course. That’s a big part of their geeky appeal. But only some qualify as “aromatic,” at least in the technical sense. Wine pros like to reserve that term for a class of white grapes that tend to have a punchy scent, often strongly fruity, floral or spicy. It’s a subjective classification but usually refers to any or all of the following: gewürztraminer, riesling, sauvignon blanc, muscat, torrontes and pinot gris.

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It’s a timely descriptor to add to your wine lexicon because aromatic whites, a strong suit of cool-climate regions such as Niagara, are on the rise. Often you won’t find the grape listed on the label. Many producers in the New World have been crafting blends composed of the aforementioned varieties, labelling them simply as “white” or with proprietary names, such as White Palette.

The term is very much of the moment also because aromatic whites make for consummate summer sipping. Almost always unoaked, they’re the essence of freshness, unencumbered by the buttery, toasty, vanilla-like characters of barrel age. At the table, they tend to pair nicely with lighter fare and are the perfect partners for hot or otherwise spice-heavy dishes based on Thai, Chinese and Indian cuisines. Gewürztraminer, usually oozing white table grape and lychee and imbued with a suggestion of roses and ginger, works especially well with many fiery-hot dishes that would bring other wines to their knees.

You’ll get more out of the following selections if you stop and smell the roses (and apples, mangoes and ginger) first. Yes, there are many high scores here. That’s not because I spilled jam on my “9” key. I think the wines are very good. But I’ll admit the sultry summer season may have played in their favour.

Greenlane Estate Winery Old Vines Riesling 2010 (Ontario)

SCORE: 91 PRICE: $29.95

Winemaker Dianne Smith has crafted a beauty here. Off-dry yet zesty, it’s plump and full of flavour, with a prominent essence of green apple and nuance of mineral. The regular (non-Old Vines) riesling 2010, at $21.95, is good as well.

Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc 2010 (New Zealand)

SCORE: 91 PRICE: $21.95

Kevin Judd, the founding winemaker of New Zealand’s famous Cloudy Bay winery, named this new brand after the rounded river stones prevalent in the Rapaura district of the Marlborough region. The sauvignon blanc is superb, with expressive fruit but a lean presence, finishing with a nuance of mineral and an herbaceous tang.

Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc 2010 (New Zealand)

SCORE: 91 PRICE: $19.95

One of my favourite New Zealand producers, Dog Point is the place the aforementioned Kevin Judd makes his Greywacke. This wine starts out with punchy Marlborough-style tropical fruit, but it’s lean and finds elegance in a flintiness typical of Sancerre.

Tramin Gewürztraminer 2009 (Italy)

SCORE: 91 PRICE: $18.95

From the far-north Alto Adige region of Italy, this very dry gewürztraminer exhibits characters of lychee and ginger typical of the classic Alsatian style but with juicier acidity and an intriguing note of jasmine tea.

Château des Charmes Gewürztraminer 2008 (Ontario)

SCORE: 90 PRICE: $19.95

The founder of this winery, Paul Bosc, has family roots in the Alsace region of France, where gewürztraminer rises to its greatest heights. It would be difficult to find a more compellingly Alsatian style than this in North America. Silky, with a delectable syrupy richness, it shows clear flavours of lychee, rose and spice. An impressive seam of mineral rises up through the lively, almost-dry finish.

Tawse Gewürztraminer Quarry Road Vineyard 2010 (Ontario)

SCORE: 90 PRICE: $24.95

It’s off-dry but the subtle sweetness is nothing a die-hard dry drinker need fear. The acidity brilliantly balances the sugar, as in a juicy peach. And you may find a note of peach here as well as lychee. Winemaker Paul Pender coaxed out deliciously opulent concentration from the fine 2010 growing season.

13{+t}{+h} Street White Palette 2010 (Ontario)

SCORE: 90 PRICE: $14.95

Here’s one of those fine aromatic blends, containing gewürztraminer, chardonnay musqué, riesling and pinot gris. Talented French-born winemaker Jean-Pierre Colas has produced a deft, dry blend that’s medium-bodied and suggests grapefruit and jasmine.

Benjamin Bridge Nova 7 2010 (Nova Scotia)

SCORE: 89 PRICE: $25

Gerald McConnell, Benjamin Bridge’s owner and a gold-mining executive with Halifax-based Etruscan Resources, pulled something beautiful out of the ground with this white from the East Coast’s marquee winery. In its fourth vintage, Nova 7 tends to be a quick sellout locally, and this latest vintage was recently released in Ontario in small quantities. Modeled after Italy’s lightly sparkling, moderately sweet moscato d’Asti, it’s true to style, with nuances of table grape, citrus and light spice.

Tilia Torrontes 2010 (Argentina)

SCORE: 87 PRICE: $12.95

Bone-dry and delicate, this good value shows the classic white-table-grape flavour of Argentina’s signature Torrontes grape as well as hints of apricot, blossoms and spice.

 

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