02/20/08: Fresh off the Boat: Old World white varietals in the New World

By jasonm1 on February 20, 2008


I’ve begun to realize that we’re not at all utilizing Gary Vaynerchuk to the extent that we could be.

For those still unfamiliar with www.winelibrarytv.com even after several shout-outs in the e-mails, I definitely recommend you spend some time browsing the two years of weekly blogs that exist. Gary and his team have covered just about every tasting topic imaginable, and those who have started figuring out what we like best in the wine world — which probably covers most of us — will find that his videos provide a bounty of tasting notes and recommendations we might find interesting. In addition, he really knows how to taste wine in an open-minded, approachable and unbiased way, and watching him interact with a wine is hugely beneficial in terms of learning how to taste. He’s basically the “Car Talk” of wine, lets put it that way.

We’ll be basing our next two meetings off of an idea that Gary explored on this episode from earlier this month (Mac users can click here to watch a Quicktime version), in which he tastes several European varietals grown here in the states. Please watch the episode before coming in, and preferably before buying your wine. This week we’ll try the whites, followed by some reds next week.

Basically, you’ll want to buy an “old world” varietal that’s grown somewhere in the “new world” (Australia, New Zealand, South America… or, of course, the good old USA). But Jesse, aren’t all varietals “old world” varietals? Well, that’s a good point, and most of the major ones are. We’ll start by eliminating the big four: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, and Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio. Please do not bring any of those. Other than that, any traditional European white grape is fair game, as long as it’s grown outside of Europe. Here are some suggestions:

Albarinomade famous by the Spanish region of Rias Baixas, this crisp and floral white also appears in California (we had one at Longoria on the Santa Barbara trip). This possible ancient clone of Riesling is light and aromatic with a bouquet of peaches and melon.

Pinot Blanc — I hope someone finds a good Pinot Blanc. One website claims that “California winemakers who employ classic Burgundian techniques in making pinot blanc — using new and/or almost new French oak barrels for fermentation and aging and inducing a malo-lactic secondary fermentation to maximize the wine’s complexity — are creating truly memorable wines that are every bit as enjoyable as California chardonnays costing considerably more.”

Gewurztraminer — in California, this classic Alsace varietal runs crisp and floral with tropical fruit on the palate. If anyone finds the bottle that Gary tasted, I’ll be thrilled.

Roussanne — this classic Rhone varietal also does well in sunny California, where it can produce full-bodied wines of exceptional richness and flavors of honey and pear.

Semillon — along with Sauvignon Blanc, this is the major white grape of Bordeaux, and has since been grown successfully in California and in Australia, where it makes solid, honeyed wines that can age for years.

Viognier – Remember the Scarlett Johannson wine? The majority of the articles on the white grape Viognier tend to reference its floral nature, its intense fruit aromas, and its richness of body and flavor.

We’ll be meeting for the first time at Jen Johnson’s place in Santa Monica: (Jen’s sweet address)

Chill your delicious Old World white varietal grown somewhere new, and we’ll see you all at 9pm tomorrow night.