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CorkscrewIt may be that drinking and learning about white wine varietals is going to be the most enjoyable and most exciting time in a wine drinker's life. When you make the effort to learn a little bit about German Rieslings, and then get the chance to taste one for the first time you are ready to be electrified with all the vivid fruitiness and balanced acidity it offers and bow down to the fifteen hundred years of winemaking history that is a part of the German culture upon which you have just experienced for the first time. Then you move on to your first Viogner, and then you first Gewürztraminer, and then your first Pinot Grigio. I mean these are just enlightening moments in your personal wine drinking history that you don't get to experience again, and if you are at least semi fired-up about enjoying wine, you will remember.

The first time is always paramount, but then to understand the huge array of white wines out there and to get to know their personalities and regions is where all the fun and challenge comes from. If you like what you have tasted and do enjoy white wine then you have 50 years of tasting ahead of you, if you don't enjoy them, then you are headed on to red wine and a lot of fun awaits you there also.

  • Chardonnay

As with red wine, white wines have many different varietals and blends, so let's start off with a white wine varietal who claims to be the king of the white grapes, Chardonnay (shar doe nay). Chardonnay has probably found it's way into almost every single wine drinker's glass at some time or another. This is because it is planted almost every where wine grapes can be grown, does well in different climates and has a history going back about 2000 years in France. Chardonnay is grown in all the U.S. wine growing regions and is the premier white wine grape of Burgundy, France. The white wines of Burgundy are 100% Chardonnay, world famous for their quality and ageability, are often produced in very small quantities, and reach very high prices due to supply and demand. Chardonnay is grown in Australia, South America, oh hell, almost everywhere grapes can be grown.

Chardonnay is exciting in the fact that it is a grape that gives the winemaker an open playing field onto which many flavors and textures can be imparted. Chardonnay can be crisp, light and acidic from one winery and creamy, toasty, and full-bodied from another winery across the street. Its popularity is in its flexibility to produce many different styles enjoyed by many different drinkers. A flavor spectrum on this wine could be down right confusing if you let it, but don't let it. If you start off with a selection from California for about $12, you will possibly run into citrus fruit flavors, hints of melon, vanilla, some taosty character and some creaminess. California has over 1200 wineries producing wine, and probably 95% of those make a Chardonnay, so there are a ton of choices on the market and many different styles made.

White wines are generally not a wine to be put in a cellar for aging, but some high end, top quality Chardonnay producers do make Chardonnay's that can be cellared for 3-10 years and will show some improvement after time. Most all the Chardonnays you will see at your wine store are ready and willing to opened and drank today. Chardonnay matches up with many foods and is a wine varietal that you should give some of your time to get to know.

  • Sauvignon Blanc

Next in line for white wines I think Sauvignon Blanc (so ven yawn blank) deserves the next mention. Sauvignon Blanc is a lot easier to pin point from a tasting profile and has some nice flavors to offer. With hints of fig, herbs, grass and some tartness, Sauvignon Blanc comes across very crisp, dry and light in body. Fume Blanc is a name put on many bottles of Sauvignon Blanc, and had applied to Sauvignon Blancs made with more oaky and smoky qualities, but is often just used instead of Sauvignon Blanc to get in on the catchy name game. Remember that Fume Blanc is Sauvignon Blanc.

This wine should always be drunk upon release and do not improve with age. World wine producing regions like Australia, New Zealand and South America are producing very nice Sauvignon Blancs and the price is usually very appealing. The regions of Bordeaux and the Loire Valley in France are the originators of this quality grape and they produce tart, very crisp, sometimes earthy wines made from Sauvignon Blanc. In the glass Sauvignon Blanc has a very light yellow and bright hue, and should always be very clear and clean looking. Fresh seafood can always benefit with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc next to it on the table.

  • Riesling

Moving on from tart and crisp leads us right into Riesling / Johannisberg Riesling (rees ling). Riesling is an easy wine to enjoy and drink on its own. The fruitiness and balance of acids makes this German native very popular, and it is planted in many other areas around the world. Rieslings out of Germany come in many degrees of sweetness and can be complex and elegant with an easy drinking fruit forward quality. Many German wine labels seem confusing when you are trying to pick out a Riesling but your wine merchant should be able to narrow things down for you, if not e-mail me for help. California offers a fairly large selection of Rieslings and they too are delicate, very fragrant, fruity, dry to semi-dry wines. This grape thrives in a cool climate and should generally have a very acceptable price tag on them. Some German late harvest Rieslings can come with a huge price tag, and that is not the wine to start off with. The Alsace region of France is masterful at producing some of the best Rieslings in the world and these wines are produced in enough quantity that all your larger wine stores should have a good selection for you to choose from.

Greg Meserole

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