As the seasons turn, most of us tend to swap the hearth-side comfort of velvety red wines for the lively world of fresh, vibrant white wines. Nothing like a chilled glass of white wine in the sunshine, right?
According to Alice Massaria, independent wine consultant with Wine Concept and group sommelier for Sydney’s Liquid & Larder restaurant group, seasonal white wine provides a great opportunity for people to reset their palates. “When we talk about the warmer months, what comes to mind are types of white wine that are lighter, fresher, more fun and easy,” she says.
From the tried and true to lesser known varietals worth a try, we asked a few experts for which white wines they recommend this season.
This fresh, light grape variety is a strong contender for the best Australian white wine crown at the moment. Mitch Tiller, sommelier at QT Melbourne hotel, can’t go past a young Australian riesling when the temperature rises. “Australian riesling is going from strength to strength,” he says. “In their youth, they show delicate florals against an electric acid line; forever my apéritif of choice.”
Worried you may not enjoy it if riesling is a sweet wine? Riesling wine can be both a sweet or dry white wine depending on the fruit harvest. For example, the Brown Brothers Crouchen Riesling is a sweet riesling that captures the flavours of ripe fruits and green grass, whereas Pikes Riesling has a plump and juicy mouthfeel, mineral backbone and dry finish.
As Australia’s most widely-planted grape variety, there are plenty of options when it comes to chardonnay wine.
“Chardonnay, in a crisp and fresh style but with a bit of lees contact can be wonderful,” Alice says. Yering Station Into The Valley Chardonnay is precisely that, showcasing melon and peach with some French oak and lees character.
Chardonnay also works beautifully in a blend, like the Grant Burge Pinot Noir Chardonnay – a sparkling white wine with notes of apple, pear and juicy peach – and the good-value
Jacob’s Creek Chardonnay Pinot Noir.
Is semillon dry or sweet? The answer is that it can be both. Semillon is quite versatile and is commonly blended to create fusions like semillon sauvignon blanc, a dry white wine. Interestingly, its susceptibility to the fungus botrytis can actually benefit its flavour compounds and the character of the wine — take Cookoothama Botrytis Semillon, a sweet white wine which contrasts piercing acidity with a luscious sweetness from the botrytis-induced overripening. When it comes to choosing a semillon wine, Alice’s advice is to: “Look for a bottle with a bit of age, which will make it more complex and interesting.” Brokenwood Semillon is one such bottle that will become more honeyed and rich with age.
Fresh, spicy, and full of tropical fruit and citrus flavours, pinot gris is an easy-to-drink dry white wine. Pinot gris is also an excellent food wine, pairing as well with fresh seafood as it does with spicy dishes. “Pinot gris is so versatile when it comes to food. You can have it with a plate of prawns, a fresh caprese salad or with roast pork. It’s equally wonderful with Asian food as it can stand up to spices,” says Paul Scorpo, from Scorpo family vineyard in Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula.
Try Squealing Pig Pinot Gris if you favour a creamy mouthfeel or Tim Adams Pinot Gris for a fruit-meets-mineral flavour hit — a classic pinot gris taste.
Looking for something outside the square? Alice hails from the Veneto region in northern Italy and tips the Italian white wine grape garganega as one to watch. “It can get close to a lighter style of chardonnay and is starting to be quite known in Australia,” she says. Postcards from Italy Soave utilises the garganega grape to evoke savoury, fruit and flowers flavour with an almond finish.
Albariño wine is another sommelier pick as a lesser-known white wine that flies under the radar. But what exactly is albariño wine? Albariño is a Spanish wine from the Atlantic coast region of Rias Baixas, with a nose of vibrant peach and lime zest and a salinity on the palate that’s perfect companion for alfresco seafood meals.
Mitch describes it as “whimsical and youthfully exuberant”.
A crisp, dry white wine from Austria that punches well above its weight, grüner veltliner is refreshing and pairs perfectly with spicy Asian and Mexican flavours as well as seafood and veal. “It’s a focused and crystalline white wine with citrus, pepper and herbal notes that’s also being produced in Victoria’s cooler regions and the Adelaide Hills,” Mitch says. Domaine Wachau Grüner Veltliner marries a thin vein of acidity and an explosive mouthfeel with crisp green fruits and white pepper on the palate.
This Italian dessert wine, traditionally made with white grapes like trebbiano and malvasia, is a full bodied and sweet with a beautiful amber hue and perfume of hazelnut, caramel, and tropical fruits. Pinsanto, a specialty of Scorpo winery, is a take on this wine style using pinot gris grapes instead. This honeyed sweet white wine is an ideal complement for a cheeseboard at a picnic. “We enjoy our pinsanto with all kinds of cheeses — whether it’s a pecorino, a gorgonzola dolce or Sardinian goat and sheep cheeses,” says Paul. “It’s a beautiful seasonal match.”