White Wine Categories

LIGHT BODIED WHITE 10% – 12.5% Alcohol

It sounds silly, but I feel refreshed just thinking about light bodied whites.  These are probably the wines I crave the most often. There is something about a dry or off-dry German Riesling, Chenin Blanc from the Loire, and many of the Italian white wines that have such a vibrancy aboutthem that they just put you in a better mood. Wines in this style tend to come from colder climates and alpine regions. The high levels of acidity is also very versatile and can be paired with a plethora of styles of cuisine. They are also great by themselves, especially on warm humid days. These are the wines I think of people drinking on patios in the warmer months of the year. Some have affectionately nicknamed them “glug-glug” wines which I like alot as well. I think you get the idea.

EXAMPLES:

EVESHAM WOOD “Blanc du Puits Sec” Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer | Willamette Valley, OR

GERARD BERTRAND Picpoul de Pinet Picpoul | Languedoc, FRA

ERIC CHEVALIER Muscadet Melon de Bourgogne | Loire, FRA

PIERRE BRETON Vouvray Sec Chenin Blanc | Loire, FRA

MASSONE MASERA Gavi Cortese | Piedmont, ITA

ALOIS LAGEDER Pinot Bianco | Alto Adige, ITA

LEITZ Leitz Out Riesling | Rheingau, DEU

LIOCO Chardonnay | Sonoma Coast, CA

LANGOUREAU Aligote | Burgundy, FRA

SCAIA Bianco Gargenega | Veneto, ITA

GAROFOLI Verdicchio | Marche, ITA

NEBOA Albarino | Rias Baixas, ESP

DORIGO Pinot Grigio | Friuli, ITA

AV Vinho Verde | Portugal

MEDIUM BODIED WHITE 12.5% -13.5% Alcohol

Texture is a big part of wine. When I blind taste it is probably the first thing I think about when tasting. The weight of the wine gives me a good idea where it came from and the hand that was used. It also is a great indication of what to pair with the wine. It’s tempting to say that medium bodied wines are a “catch-all”.  I could list most grape varieties as examples of medium bodied wines because most alcohol levels for white wine are in this range. One of my favorite things about these wines is the balance and complexity they exhuberate. It’s fair to say that the best (or at least, the most expensive wines) in the world are in this category.

EXAMPLES:

SALVARD Sauvignon Cheverny Blanc Blanc/Chardonnay | Loire, FRA

DOM. ROMAIN COLLET Chablis Chardonnay | Burgundy, FRA

PERNOT Bourgogne Blanc Chardonnay | Burgundy, FRA

ELENA WALCH Gewurztraminer | Alto Adige, ITA

HONIG Sauvignon Blanc | Napa Valley, CA

TALLEY Chardonnay | Arroyo Grande, CA

NIGL Gruner Veltliner | Kamptal, Austria

LA SPINETTA Vermentino | Tuscany, ITA

VIETTI Roero Arneis | Piedmont, ITA

COLOME Torrontes | Salta, ARG

ELK COVE Pinot Gris | Oregon

A TO Z Chardonnay | Oregon

NAIA Verdejo | Rueda, ESP

FULL BODIED WHITE 13.5% + Alcohol

I like to think of this category as hedonistic. These are the wines that you want as a cocktail or with a rich creamy dish. These are generally from warmer areas and have undergone a different processes. These wines generally see more time in oak, and go through a secondary fermentation called malolactic fermentation. These processes are very similar to what is done in red wines to achieve similar effects. What’s great about these wines is their ability to age for many years. Chardonnay is a large portion of this category, and a large category in white wine as well.

EXAMPLES: Look on the label for alcohol levels above 13.5%

DOMAINE DE CRISTIA Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc | Rhone, FRA

TORBRECK “Woodcutter’s” Semillon | Barossa, Australia

ROMBAUER Chardonnay | Napa Valley (Carneros), CA

BOUZEREAU Meursault Chardonnay | Burgundy, FRA

STEELE Chardonnay “California Cuvee” | California

GERARD BERTRAND Viognier | Languedoc, FRA

STOLPMAN Roussanne | Ballard Canyon, CA

BOXLER Pinot Gris | Alsace, FRA

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Color

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White wine comes from white grapes, and red wine comes from red grapes.  Seems pretty straightforward, right?…. well, kind of. The truth is most juice that comes from grapes is clear (although there are exceptions alicante bouchet, and norton being a couple).  It’s actually the skins that give the wine it’s pigment or color. The primary difference between white wine and red wine is that it does not see as much time on the skins (think hours rather than days).  

Another factor determining color is temperature.  Fermentations tend to occur at cooler temperatures.  I like to make the analogy of making tea because the maceration process is actually somewhat similar. Think of white wine as lightly steeped tea in cooler water.  This is one of the reasons why more fruit characteristics tend to show up in white wine, the distinction of techniques are more apparent, and why white wines generally don’t have tannins.  Where it lacks tannin, however, it makes up for with acidity. And as someone that tastes wine often, I love high acidity in my wines. 

References

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There are a plethora of websites, books, and other references to educate about wine. I try to read as many as I can. The ones I recommend most are the following:

-Adventures on the Wine Routes by Kermit Lynch is a book you can read through without having any knowledge of wine. This book is 25 years old!  Like a great wine, it has stood the test of time. Kermit is an importer of French wines.  In this book he tells the tale of his travels through France, and his encounters with the producers he represents. Anytime I find myself losing my passion for wine, I read this book, and Kermit restores it!

-The Wine Atlas by Jancis Robinson is a fantastic read for overall knowledge and perspective. What I love about the writing is that it’s not as much “opinion” as it is “cold-hard facts”.  Perfect for a wine-geek, like me!  It can be tough to read from cover to cover, but as a reference it’s amazing!  Other books of this sort are Sothbey’s Wine Encyclopedia  and Windows of the World by Kevin Zraly.

The History of  the World in 6 Glasses is a fun, historical read. There is only one chapter about wine, but it’s so insightful as it gives an overall perspective of the role beverages play throughout the ages and discusses the periods where they have dominated society.

There are other books and articles I could list, and honestly should probably reference. It’s difficult to keep track of what I’ve read when and where.  Similar to wine, the more you learn, the more you realize you don’t know. I am probably less confident in my knowledge now than I’ve ever been.  However, I continue to love the exploration of the art, history, and beauty depicted in my favorite labels and yearn to grow into a deeper understanding of what makes each bottle so fascinatingly unique.

Tomas Cusine Vilosell 2011

The village of Vilosell in Costers del Segre, Spain boasts of a time when beauty was basic and agriculture was raw.  The orange hues of carved stone and rolling hills of farmland, gives the nostalgia of an age where life was simple, rich, and pure. This seemingly peaceful picture, however, is not without its complexities.  The Tempranillo, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Carinyena, and Garnacha varietals that abound in this region must endure a broad spectrum of temperature.  Warm summers and cold winters pose a threat to the fruit.  In order to survive these extremes, the grapes must cope accordingly.  This adaptability is what gifts the 2011 Tomas Cusine Vilosell with its unique depth of flavors.

As temperatures rise, the grape must protect itself from being scorched.  Just like our bodies cool from perspiration, the grape protects itself by surrounding the seed with moisture.  This creates a big, juicy, wet profile.  While savoring this wine, the intensity of dark fruit burst on the pallet!  The high concentration of fruit is a rarity found by the grape’s method of surviving the dog-days of summer.

As temperatures cool, the grapes must use another strategy to preserve itself.  Like a warm blanket, the skin of the grape thickens and shields itself from the cold.  While fermenting, tough skin means more organic material which equates to a smoky, deliciously-dirty flavoring.

This combination of survival strategies, creates a finished product that, like the Vilosell village itself, is off-the-beaten path.  The science/art of struggle produces the fullest spectrum of flavors that makes this bottle a truly authentic representation of its origin.

Reflection

imageFrequently, the hubs and I pour ourselves a hardy glass of wine, sit on the front porch, and reflect.  We recollect about our younger years together sipping old-vine Zin; big, bold, jammy representatives of the hot California climate where we grew up.  We recall the spirited flavors of our favorite Sauvignon Blanc back when we were bursting for life to start.  We are, now, astonished at how time seems to fly, as the discussion of a two-year-old-birthday-party inspires us to pop a bottle of bubbles!  We discuss the beauty in our frailties, and have come to cherish each season’s subtleties while swirling a bright Pinot Noir.

Every occasion calls for its complimentary wine.  Our memories are enhanced by the wine we savor.  As we have strived to better understand why we enjoy our favorite wines, it has made our memories even richer to reflect on.

#reflection #winelover #itsthelittlethings

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