Crisp and refreshing white wines are ideal to sip during warm, summer months, but the cooler nights ahead call for wines with more structure and depth of flavour. That doesn’t mean you need to move over to red wines by any means. Instead, you should look for fuller-bodied wines, such as chardonnay, viognier or chenin blanc in place of lighter pinot grigios and sauvignon blancs.
It’s also a good excuse to check out the selection of stylish white blends, including Côtes du Rhône Blanc and sauvignon blanc semillon blends from Bordeaux and other regions. Many of these wine styles have smooth textures and weight thanks to aging in oak barrels, but that doesn’t mean that they all feature strong vanilla, coconut or toffee flavours. Winemakers are increasingly using older and/or larger sized barrels to minimize added flavour from the oak while taking advantage of the richness and complexity that comes from barrel aging wine.
A terrific assortment of barrel fermented chardonnay is always available at liquor stores, so a quick scan of the shelves should offer some tempting selections. The world’s most popular white wine is produced almost every place where grapes are grown. I enjoy the rich and refreshing examples made in Canadian wine regions, such as the Sketches of Niagara ($21.95 in Ontario) and Quarry Road ($35.95 in Ontario) chardonnays made by Tawse or the Hidden Bench Organic Estate Chardonnay ($31.95 in Ontario, $36.99 in New Brunswick). From British Columbia, Quails’ Gate Chardonnay ($26.99 in British Columbia, $26.95 in Ontario, $26.05 in Quebec, $29.99 in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island) and Meyer Family McLean Creek Chardonnay ($37.99 in British Columbia) always impress. Two international bottles to watch for: Louis Latour Ardeche Chardonnay ($26.99 in British Columbia, various prices in Alberta, $26.32 in Newfoundland) and Mountadam Eden Valley Chardonnay 2019 ($18.95, LCBO Vintages outlets)
Like chardonnay, the chenin blanc grape is capable of producing a wide variety of wine styles from lighter, unoaked styles to full-bodied, barrel fermented expressions, as well as racy sparkling and lusciously sweet dessert wines. Ken Forrester Old Vine Chenin Blanc ($18.95 in Ontario, $22.99 in British Columbia, various prices in Alberta, $32.99 in Saskatchewan, $23.99 in Manitoba, $18.75 in Quebec) and Robertson Winery Chenin Blanc ($11.95 in Ontario, various prices in Alberta, $11.30 in Quebec, $13.78 in Newfoundland) capture the sweet and tart fruit character that make South African chenins so rewarding, while fruit from older vineyards and barrel fermentation add more richness and texture to Ken Forrester’s benchmark expression. Specialty shops might have other selections from South Africa or the Vouvray region of France’s Loire Valley. Bottles marked Vourvay Sec are refreshing whites, while Demi-Sec lets you know to expect a wine with sweeter fruit flavours.
Bursting with fragrance and flavour, white wines made from the viognier pack a punch. That powerful expression has led to a global renaissance for a variety that’s native to the northern Rhône. Winemakers in Australia, United States and other parts of the world have embraced its charms. Well-made viogniers typically have a richer, chardonnay-like texture, with more provocative apricot, peach and floral aromas and flavours. The Cono Sur Bicicleta Reserva Viognier ($13.95 in Ontario, $12.99 in British Columbia and Manitoba, various prices in Alberta, $13.99 in Saskatchewan and New Brunswick, $11.95 in Quebec) is a great value introduction to the style, while the family owned Yalumba Winery in Australia produces an exciting range of viognier each year, including the popular Y Series Viognier ($15.95 in Ontario, $19.99 in British Columbia, various prices in Alberta, $15.45 in Quebec).