WANT to expand your horizons beyond chardonnay and sauvignon blanc? This week we focus on our top ten unoaked, zippy, dry, characterful whites for springtime quaffing from lesser known grapes such as falaghina, treixadura, albarino, muscat or torrontes. All are suitable for serving as aperitifs, or with salads or seafood.
Mendoza, Argentina: VINALBA TORRONTES 2011
(£7.99 each for 2 until 23 April or £9.99, Majestic)
The quality levels of torrontes emerging from Argentina can be quite mixed. Some, like this one from Vinalba, are juicy, fleshy with typical sweet sour notes, while others are too dilute or too austere.
Marlborough, New Zealand: YEALANDS GRUNER VELTLINER 2011
(£10.81, Fine Wine Co, Musselburgh; Longship, Orkney; Vinos, Hendersons, Margiotta, Edinburgh; Ellie’s, Crieff; Mostly Wine, Kirkcaldy; House of Menzies, Aberfeldy; Luvians, St Andrews/Cupar; Aitken’s, Dundee)
Austria’s gruner veltliner grape is causing quite a stir in New Zealand. Yealands plants it in old river beds in the cool, windy Awatere valley in southern Marlborough. This is the richest, most textured, and most peppery of the Kiwi examples.
South Africa: BELLINGHAM ‘THE BERNARD SERIES’ VIOGNIER 2011
(£8.79 each for 2, or £10.99, Majestic)
One of the best Cape viogniers I have tasted: peachy, apricoty aromas, stonefruit freshness, juicy acidity and a dry finish. Suitable as an aperitif, or with white meats.
Frankland River, Western Australia: FERNGROVE RIESLING 2010
(£14.49, Great Grog, Edinburgh)
Another misunderstood grape. For those who like their riesling flinty, limey, minerally and thrillingly dry, this Frankland River riesling scored very highly in our recent Australian tasting. Snap it up whilst stocks last.
Italy: TABURNO FALAGHINA 2010
(£11.17, Justerini & Brooks, www.justerinis.com)
Campania, known as the Switzerland of the south, is a mountainous region with tufa soils which are a great source of zippy, dry whites. This is the best example I have found from the high quality, but little grown, falaghina grape; it’s a nutty, weighty and very elegant aperitif. STAR BUY
Loire, France: SAVENNIERES, LE CLOS DU PAPILLON DEMI-SEC 2010 Domaine des Forges
(£16.50, Berry Bros & Rudd, www.bbr.com)
A vibrant off-dry chenin blanc from Savennieres on Loire’s northern banks. Clear cut, floral, waxy aromas, superb fruit intensity with a flinty finish: a star in our recent Loire tasting. STAR BUY
Alsace, France: MUSCAT BRANDHOF 2010 Remy Gresser
Much confusion surrounds the muscat grape as it is popular as a sweet wine grape in southern France. This is a superb dry example from an organic grower in Alsace in eastern France. It has a honeyed sweet nose, but a fine dry palate.
Ribeiro, Spain: CASAL DE VIDE TREIXADURA 2010
Usually found in Vinho Verde in northern Portugal (called trajadura), treixadura also grows in remote Ribeiro in north west Spain. Aromatic, elegant with light lemony fruit: it would suit sauvignon blanc lovers.
Ribeira Sacra, Spain: ALBARINO ABADIA DA COVA 2010
Every time I put albarino into a tasting, it steals the show. Jose Manuel Moure in little known Ribeira Sacra in Galicia has crafted a fine albarino, bolstered with 15 per cent godello in the blends. A wonderfully elegant citric, floral albarino with a savoury finish.
Rueda, Spain: QUINTALUNA VERDEJO 2010
This is beautifully packaged and supremely good for the price – and ideal for those who usually drink sauvignon blanc. Rueda is well-known for its zippy, fleshy whites but you need to buy carefully, as many ruedas taste quite neutral.