It’s easy to ‘play it safe’ and stick to the wines we know we enjoy already. But with this fantastic weather upon us, now is the time to add a little variety to your house wine list.
So, if you like a drop of ‘the usual’ and rarely stray from Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio or Chardonnay, we’re here to help.
Neil Phillips, ‘The Wine Tipster’ and Jockey Club Catering’s resident raceday expert, has helped pick out some alternatives from around the world.
So, now’s the time to find your new favourite white wine. Unlike most experiments – DO try this at home.
CRISP AND DRY
Sauvignon Blanc is the epitome of a crisp and dry wine. First grown in the French regions of Loire, which is famous for Sancerre, and Bordeaux, we now enjoy a lot of Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough in New Zealand. With its citrusy, mouth-watering and thirst-quenching appeal, the UK has had a love affair with Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc since the mid-1980s. Often said to have notes of grass, gooseberry and even cat’s pee, this wine is perfect paired with fish and chips!
You would be on the money with a Sancerre, but other great value Sauvignon Blanc are offered by Touraine, also in the Loire, and Chile.
Another great tip would be the increasingly popular Assyrtiko from Greece. I’m very excited about the white wines coming out of Greece as they are really good and represent great value.
If you enjoy a dry, crisp wine then why not look closer to home and try English Bacchus? To mark your card Bacchus is the best English white grape variety. Try Lyme Bay Winery in Devon and Winbirri Vineyard, in Norfolk. These dry but floral wines go well with this season’s asparagus or a juicy fillet of salmon.
Albarino from Spain would be an obvious choice when opting for a zesty wine as it has great citrus character. In Portugal, this grape variety is known as Alvarinho and I think this country offers fantastic value overall. Vinho Verde has a really nice fruity character - great on its own as it’s relatively low in alcohol and has a bit of spritz.
Pinot Grigio can be great but if this is your go-to white, why not look at alternative fruity options like Verdejo from Rueda, in Spain, a dry Riesling from Australia or Torrontes from Argentina?
These wines are fantastic paired with food. I love grilled sardines but also try with tuna niçoise salad or a tomato-based salad.
FRUIT AND OAK
Chardonnay picked up a reputation in the 90’s for being over-oaked, but now it is high time to say hello to Chardonnay again. It’s such a great and versatile grape variety and Burgundy, in France, produces some of the greatest wines in the world.
Californian producers often favour big, full-flavoured Chardonnay and the use of oak adds complexity and texture to the whole wine experience. Australia boasts fabulous wines all round and they are producing great Chardonnays that have a lovely balance of fruit and oak.
It’s a fantastic food wine and one I would enjoy with pasta in a creamy sauce. Chicken Caesar Salad and pork dishes would be winners too!
For me, German Riesling is the ultimate off dry white wine.
I guarantee if you did a survey of all the Masters of Wine in the World – there are 394, by the way - the majority would choose Riesling as their favourite grape variety. It’s such a versatile grape and can be fantastic dry, wonderfully sweet and there is a huge range in-between.
It’s perfect to drink on its own or with lightly-spiced Thai food and the incredible value for what you get is really impressive. Discovering this grape variety promises to take you on a memorable journey and you don’t have to leave your home to enjoy it.
Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer, and Grüner Veltliner also fall into the category of off dry. Pinot Gris offers more intensity than Gewürztraminer, which is great from Alsace and the New World and is very perfumed and has classic notes of lychee. Pair with curry and other spicy food like pumpkin and lentil tagine to get the best out of it.
Grüner Veltliner is an excellent value off dry white with a more aromatic style while, elsewhere, I really believe Viognier has class but has never fully reached its potential.