“The BIG Picture!” In one word, refreshing! The base wine should offer good acidity that goes well with many foods, these wines also are “fruity” but remember, spicy foods make these wines less sweet, a pairing that would cause other, less fruity wines to become bitter.
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Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio This close relation to Pinot Blanc, and a mutation of Pinot Noir is available in many styles. Pinot Grigio (the Italian version) has become popular. It is a refreshing and tasty wine. Pinot Grigio can be sweet or dry. Many of the inexpensive Pinot Grigio sold here in the States is sweeter. When done well you will find full flavors such as rich peach and pear, and impressive spicy quality and acidity in the mouth. The Alsatian soil of France brings out some of the best classes in Pinot Gris. It can also be too much of a good thing. Oregon has done quite well with Pinot Gris. The cold climate suits this grape, bringing out a stronger flavor. They are more expensive than the imported Italian version. It’s easy to match Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio to food. Chicken and pasta dishes, salads and appetizers pair nicely.
Sauvignon Blanc A green-skinned grape variety which originates from the Bordeaux region of France; the grape gets its name from the French word sauvage (“wild”) and blanc (“white”) due to its early origins as an indigenous grape in South West France. It is now planted in many of the world’s wine regions, producing a crisp, dry, and refreshing white varietal wine. Conversely, the grape is also a component of the famous dessert wines from Sauternes and Barsac. Sauvignon blanc is widely cultivated in France, Chile, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Brazil, and California. Depending on the climate, the flavor can range from aggressively grassy to sweetly tropical. Wine experts have used the phrase “crisp, elegant, and fresh” as a favorable description of Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley and New Zealand. Sauvignon blanc, when slightly chilled, pairs well with fish or cheese, particularly Chèvre. It is also known as one of the few wines that can pair well with sushi. Along with Riesling, Sauvignon blanc was one of the first fine wines to be bottled with a screw cap in commercial quantities, especially by New Zealand producers. The wine is usually consumed young, as it does not particularly benefit from aging, except for some oak-aged Pessac-leognan and Graves from Bordeaux that can age up to fifteen years. Dry and sweet white Bordeaux, typically made with Sauvignon blanc as a major component, is the one exception.
Arneis is a white Italian wine grape variety originating from Piedmont, Italy. It is most commonly found in the hills of the Roero, northwest of Alba, where it is part of the white Denominazione di Origine controllata (DOC) wines of Roero. It can also be used to produce DOC wines in Langhe. Arneis (literally: little rascal, in Piedmontese) is so called because it is regarded as a somewhat tricky variety to grow. It is a crisp and floral varietal and has been cultivated for centuries in the region. The white wines made from the Arneis grape tend to be dry and full body with notes of pears and apricots.
Sémillon, The history of the Sémillon grape, is hard to determine. It is known that it first arrived in Australia in the early 1800s and by the 1820s the vine-covered over 90 percent of South Africa’s vineyards, where it was known as Wyndruif, meaning “wine grape.” It was once considered to be the most planted grape in the world, although this is no longer the case. In the 1950s, Chile’s vineyards were made up of over 75% Sémillon. Today, it accounts for just 1% of South African Cape vines.
Riesling is a white grape variety which originates in the Rhine region of Germany. Riesling is an aromatic grape variety displaying flowery, almost perfumed, aromas as well as high acidity. It is used to make dry, semi-sweet, sweet and sparkling white wines. As of 2004, Riesling was estimated to be the world’s 20th most grown variety at 48,700 hectares (120,000 acres) (with an increasing trend), but in terms of importance for quality wines, it is usually included in the “top three” white wine varieties together with Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Riesling is a variety which is highly “terroir-expressive,” meaning that the wine’s place of origin influences the character of Riesling wines.