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A Whiff of Summer Relief: Aromatic White Wines

Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc wines dominate the international kosher white wine marketplace. Both typically appear as dry wines and appeal to imbibers who want either a big butter bomb typical of an oaked California “Chard” or the crisp citric & grassy tones of a “Sauv Blanc.” However, there are more and more “aromatic” alternatives hitting the shelves to help one quench one’s thirst and endure the summer heat with a smile.

 Aromatic white wines are just that, white wines that fill ones glass with enticing aromas of white and often tropical fruit, honey and herbs. Riesling, Viognier, Gewurztraminer and Muscat are the most common examples you’re apt to find available from domestic producers or imported from overseas.

Riesling, hailing originally from Germany and the Alsace region of France, is the most prominent and most pliable aromatic white grape as it lends itself to being made into dry or semi-dry wines, still or sparkling and is often made into a wide array of dessert wines yet few if any kosher examples are available from those sources. It too has the crisp acidity similar to a Sauvignon Blanc but when made as a sweeter wine that acidity appears subdued but prevents a sweeter wine from coming off as syrupy. As a Riesling ages it often develops a strong petrol flavor that can be pleasantly balanced by notes of green apple, lemon or lime, peach, honey and flint. Israel’s Carmel Winery and the Golan Heights Winery under its Yarden label offer a couple of good examples to familiarize yourself with the grape and the Hafner Winery from Austria is also producing some interesting variations.

 Viognier is becoming more popular as an alternative to Chardonnay as both lend themselves to making fuller bodied wines and often benefit from oak aging. Peach, apricot, jasmine and tropical fruits with hints of honeysuckle await those who venture into Viognier.  Its not very common anymore in its native France but has become more popular in New World regions and several Israeli wineries have successfully dabbled with Viognier as a possible flagship white wine for the region as its so easy to get lost in the ocean of Chardonnay that’s flooded wine stores and restaurant wine lists.  Israel’s Carmel, Yatir, Yarden, Galil Mountain and Dalton labels all offer distinctively differently choices to savior.

Gewurztraminer is seemingly one of the hardest grapes to pronounce but one of the easiest wines to enjoy. Originally from German speaking villages in Northeast Italy, it gained prominence in the Alsace region of France. Literally it means “spicy traminer.” Traminer is a family of grapes and the spicy doesn’t mean hot; it means flavorful and anyone who has “Gewurz” will tell you its packed with pleasurable punches of apricot, peach, honey, herbs and most uniquely lychee. Typically as a kosher wine its being made as semi-dry table wines and that sweetness is a great complement to match fish as well as spicy Asian cuisine. More and more though late harvest Gewurztraminer dessert wines are winning fans and creating an insatiable demand that wineries are trying to keep up with. If you happen upon a bottle from Israel’s Tishbi, Yarden, Carmel, Binyamina or Gush Etzion wineries grab it up because they don’t stay on shelves for long.

Muscat covers a whole range of grapes from black to white but in this context we’re talking about the white variations and they are often floral and noticeably the most grapey of the aromatic white wines. Muscat Alexdroni has been traced back to the days of Cleopatra and finds its way into many Old World wines. In Israel, it often is used for simpler fruity semi-dry table wines that exhibit notes of honey. Muscat has also found traction as the base of dessert wines and maybe best shines as the source for slightly sweet slightly sparkling “frizzante” wines. A few kosher Moscato d’Asti wines from Italy are imported into the United States complemented by Israeli examples under the Golan and Dalton labels.

With a wide variety of aromatic whites to choose from, stock up your fridge to last you into the fall and you and any guests will be glad you did.