It wasn’t that long ago that traditionalists worried that too much wine was being made from the so-called “international grape varieties” — the ones that originated mostly in Burgundy and Bordeaux and subsequently spread to vineyards throughout the world. The adoption of these grapes in New World areas which did not have indigenous varieties of their own was not surprising, but the fear was that lesser-known regions of the Old World would give up their almost-anonymous but uniquely local grapes in favor of producing the familiar chardonnay or cabernet sauvignon that drinkers were demanding.
To a great extent their fears came true. But in recent years, as consumers in America and elsewhere became more curious about lesser-known regions and their wines, grapes with funny-sounding names started to appear more frequently on wine labels. And even in New World areas where international varieties have taken hold, some winemakers have embraced the Old World’s wallflower varieties.
A selection of white wines that recently caught our attention shows this growing diversity — 10 wines from 10 different regions utilizing 13 different grape varieties, only two of them really mainstream international varieties.
Tariquet “Premières Grives” Côtes de Gascogne 2015 ($9)
(Gros Manseng) Tariquet is a respected producer from France’s Southwest, but this sweet table wine may come as a surprise to those expecting a dry one. Nevertheless, it does have bold apple and tropical flavors and a crisp finish — good for some cheeses.
Louis Latour Ardeche Chardonnay 2014 ($10)
Burgundy producers have expanded into this Rhône region to produce affordable chardonnay, and this is a nice one — crisp, clean, apple-fresh, with a touch of creaminess and a little spritz.
Nobilo Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2015 ($10)
About as herbal and green as you can make a sauvignon — lots of lime, “sweaty” aromas, acidic and tight.
Pine Ridge California Chenin Blanc + Viognier 2015 ($13)
Floral and full-bodied yet quite tangy and spritzy with notes of orange and lime.
Le Château Tourril “Helios” Minervois 2015 ($14)
(Roussanne) This region of Languedoc is known more for it reds, but it also produces good whites, this one a blend of apple and tropical fruit flavors with a pleasant bite at the finish.
Cantina di Soave “Rocca Sveva” Soave Classico 2014 ($15)
(Garganega) Sort of a ho-hum beginning saved by a crisp, minerally finish.
Kettmeir Alto Adige Müller-Thurgau 2014 ($18)
A modest but well-constructed table wine — full with a crisp finish.
Alessandro di Camporeale “Benede” Sicilia Catarratto 2014 ($19)
Nice apple tastes, good minerality, and a floral touch. Expect to see more from this native Sicilian variety.
Susana Balbo “Signature” Barrel-Fermented Valle de Uco Torrontés ($27)
A very complex iteration of what is generally a straightforward white — with floral notes, good minerality, and tart creaminess; long on the palate.
Château La Nerthe Châteauneuf du Pape Blanc 2014 ($53)
(Grenache blanc, roussanne, bourboulenc, clairette). Full and rounded with exotic spiciness — a little like a spiced apple, actually — with good length, cinnamon juiciness, and mild tannins and good acidity in the finish.