Often sporting descriptors of perfume, exotic flowers and tropical fruit, aromatic grape varieties are fascinating and provide some flavourful and interesting sipping for consumers.
Some are outright aromatic like Gewurztraminer, Moschofilero, Muscat and Torontes. Occasionally, these are so pretty, you might be tempted to dab a little behind your ears. Others, like Viognier, Pinot Gris and Riesling, walk the line and often exhibit bold, fragrant aromatics.
The king of blatantly aromatic whites has to be Gewurztraminer. Probably most noted from the Alsace region of northwest France, it is now produced in many cool climate viticultural regions around the world. This varietal is a complex little number as it often bounces back and forth between perfume and spice. Lychee, rose petal, white peach and tropical fruit are its fragrant calling cards, however a savory spiciness is common in many models. Occasionally it displays some peppery notes and nuances of smoke. Stylistically, it ranges from bone dry to very sweet including amazing Icewine.
Moschofilero is a white Greek varietal hailing from the Peloponnese part of the country. A little like Muscat, but drier and lighter, it displays lovely floral aromas of violets, roses and citrus fruit with hints of spice. Unfortunately, there’s not much of it in North America, but if the Greeks have anything to do with it, that may change down the road.
Muscat is a fascinating grape. Many clones exist ranging from white to black. Often used for table grapes or to create raisins, this variety can be made in many styles. Most commonly it is produced in a sweet, fortified dessert-style wine, however dry versions do exist. The Alsatians of France do a bang-up job with a bone-dry style. Got to love the honeysuckle, orange blossom, raisiny notes this baby exudes!
Hot on the scene these days is Torrontes. This Argentinean white varietal is making big waves in North America, along with its more famous brother, Malbec. The best ones hail from the cooler Salta region of the country. Similar to Viognier, with hints of peach pit, orange citrus and flowers, it tends to be created in a dry style, although sweeter versions do exist.
Viognier creates a lovely, rich, full-bodied wine. Most noteworthy from the northern Rhone in France, this white grape is popping up all over the place. With or without oak, it displays rich fruit (apricot, peach, pineapple, mango, tangerine) and flowers (orange blossom, acacia, violet). Mostly made in a dry style, Chardonnay aficionados love it.
As mentioned earlier, Pinot Gris (not the lighter Pinot Grigio incarnation from northern Italy) is not technically an aromatic varietal, however, certain wines made from it in Alsace, Canada and Oregon display aromatic notes. In its bolder format, it creates a full, elegant, richer wine with wildflower, apple, pear, melon and lemon notes. In Alsace, where it reaches its pinnacle, a lychee, sometimes spicy nuance exists.
Riesling is a real chameleon. This white grape is often bone-dry, minerally and petrol-like, and other times sweet and extremely aromatic with apple, peach, pear, tropical fruit, floral, spicy, honey, citrus complexity. Its range of styles is immense, depending on where it is grown. The best come from cooler climates that allow the natural acidity in the grape to shine.
As for food matches for aromatic varietals, they’re exciting. Delightful to sip straight up or as an aperitif, they are especially good with spicy or exotic cuisine. Check them out with Indian, oriental, Hakka Chinese, Thai or Mexican food. Give them a go with smoked fish, poultry or cheese. Sweeter versions are nirvana with fruit-based desserts and even, in some cases, chocolate.
So put a little perfume in your life and give aromatic grape varietal wines a try. They’re versatile and yummy. Perfect for the warmer weather and a great gift for your mom on Mother’s Day!