It is common for wine lovers to change the style of wine they drink with the change in seasons. At this time of year when spring is changing into summer, consumers will often lose interest in red wines and switch to drinking white wines.
Generally red wines are heavier and more comforting than whites, while white wines are lighter and more refreshing than reds. For this reason, red wines are usually enjoyed during colder weather and white wines are often enjoyed during the hotter months.
But what if you are somebody who thinks they do not enjoy white wines at all? How can you change the wines you drink with the season and still buy wines that you genuinely enjoy?
Never fear! I believe that there is a white wine for every red wine drinker and vice versa. The key to finding a white wine that will satisfy a red wine drinker is to hone in on the characteristics of red wine that the drinker enjoys and then to find a white wine that exhibits those characteristics as well. It can be done!
Please find here three characteristics that red wine drinkers often cite as reasons that they prefer reds. For each characteristic, I have made a suggestion for a white wine style that exhibits that characteristic as well:
When I host tours of Niagara’s wine country for Niagara Vintage Wine Tours, one aspect of red wines that my guests often tell me they love is “spiciness.” Spice is a flavour that occurs naturally in the fermented juice of some grapes. Certain grape varietals are naturally more likely to develop a spicy flavour than others (for example, Shiraz and Malbec are generally spicier than Gamay Noir), and some spicy flavours can be imparted directly from the barrel in a barrel-matured wine. While “spice” is a general term, an experienced taster may be able to pick up on more specific flavours that offer up “spiciness.” These could include a flavour of black pepper, cloves, or baking spice, just to name a few.
A white wine that is known for featuring a hallmark spiciness is Gewurztraminer. Gewurztraminer is a medium bodied white wine grape best known for winemaking in the Rhine Valley in Germany and in Alsace, France. It is a grape that is commonly grown in the Niagara Peninsula as well. The first part of this grape’s name, “Gewurz,” is actually the German word for “spice.” If you are a lover of red wines with a spicy element and you are trying to make the switch to whites, give Gewurztraminer a try!
When a wine is described as “full bodied,” this is a reference to the weight or the mouthfeel of the wine. Forget about flavour and concentrate on sensation. This is a wine that feels big, and heavy, and round on your palate. Just a few red wines that are known for being full bodied include Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Zinfandel, Barolo, Bordeaux, Meritage, and Amarone. By contrast, a few wines that are known for being light bodied would include Pinot Noir, Gamay Noir, and Beaujolais.
A white wine that is known for being full bodied is Chardonnay. Indeed, Chardonnay has a reputation for being the biggest and most full bodied of all white wines, especially when it is grown in a hot climate and is matured in American oak barrels. Other heavy white wines include Viognier and Marsanne.
Most red wines spend a duration maturing inside oak barrels before they are bottled. Time spent in oak serves to soften the character of the wine, smoothing out its rough edges, so to speak, and also imparts flavours into the wine directly from the wood. Flavours that come out of the oak can include vanilla, coconut, wood spice, and smoke.
If it’s the barrel’s influence that makes you love red wines, consider trying a bottle of white wine that has matured in oak barrels as well. Chardonnay is famous for how well it takes to oak, but there are lesser known and more intriguing options out there if you know what to look for. Consider trying Fumé Blanc, which is what Sauvignon Blanc is called when it is matured in oak. Also try an oak-aged Viognier. And believe it or not—each of these wines is being offered by wineries in Niagara!
Hooked on red wines but curious to try some whites? There is a white wine out there for every red wine lover!
If you’re looking for a chance to try some of the wine styles mentioned here, join a tour of Niagara’s wineries with Niagara Vintage Wine Tours! Our tours feature a sampling of at least three wines at every winery stop and our tours are completely interactive. Our Wine Smart Guides love to share their knowledge and they look forward to helping you find the wines you love. Call our guest services agents today at 1-866-628-5428.
Michael Twyman – Sommelier and Niagara Wine Country Guide for Niagara Vintage Wine Tours and Bootleggers