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What To Drink Now: White Varieties of Southern France

The most exciting thing about being a wine lover, writer and drinker is seeing how palates change through the years and varieties that were somewhat obscure or forgotten about emerge as the next best thing, my palate included.  A few years ago it was some of the more interesting white varieties like Albarino, Moscato, Torrontes and dry Riesling.  Now, we are seeing a big trend both nationally and internationally with the emergence of white varieties that come from the south of France.  Fragrant, well-rounded and interesting, varieties like Roussanne, Viognier, Marssane, Vermentino (or Rolle in France) and Ugni Blanc, are being planted everywhere from France to the US to Argentina to South Africa.  Here are a few suggestions if you are in the mood for a white wine with character and personality, yet maintains a delicate style with good texture and balance.  A few selections were sent for editorial consideration.

Treana White blend of 50% Marsanne and 50% Viognier from the Central Coast of California is as complex and vibrant as it is smooth, lush and balanced.  Golden colored and filled with aromas of orange blossom, honeysuckle and just a touch of tropical fruit, follow by flavors of stone fruit and spice on the finish. Though most don’t think of aging a white wine, especially one from America, for a long period of time, this one will just get better with age, helping develop some dried fruit and herb flavors in the wine. 

Stag’s Leap Viognier from Napa Valley maintains a bright, balanced and fresh palate even though it is fermented in oak and aged on the lees for four months prior to bottling.  Aromas of white peach, wet stone and herbal notes are followed by flavors of peach, apricot and melon.  The wine maintains a nice balance between floral and fruit characteristics by maintaining bright acidity in the wine from start to finish.

Another delicious Viognier is made by Novy Family Wines, owned by Texas natives Adam and Dianna Lee who had the dream of opening a winery in California as they worked the epicurean department at Nieman’s years ago, along with Dianna’s parents who still live in Ennis, TX.  This Viognier has a fruit forward style with delicate floral and honeysuckle notes drifting through each sip of the wine.  Ripe pear and peach flavors fill the palate, elevated by touches of spice on the finish.  Lively, fresh and tasty.

From one of my favorite wineries in Napa, Miner Family Wines started producing a Marsanne for their La Diligence line a few years ago.  The fruit comes from a small piece of land at the top of Napa’s famed Stagecoach Vineyard, better known for producing big, beefy reds, this white is as approachable as it is complex, with layers of stone fruit and citrus, married with mineral and herbal notes.  An elegant wine to enjoy by itself of with anything from a fall salad to roast chicken to pork tenderloin.

Miner also does a Wild Yeast Viognier that is out of this world.  Fermented in oak barrels using native yeasts, this wine is incredibly well-rounded and rich, while maintaining freshness and acidity.  Easy to drink, with luscious fruit flavors melded with white flowers and a touch of vanilla.

Truchard Winery, another Napa Vineyard and Winery is making a Roussanne filled with citrus and melon.  The winery, established in the mid-1970’s captures the essence of the grape creating a wine filled with layers of tangerine, sweet lemon and fresh honeydew with touches of dried herbs and tropical fruit.

Torbreck Vineyards in Barossa Valley, Australia blends 55% Roussanne 25% Marsanne 20% Viognier, all of which is aged individually on the lees for 7 months then blended, creating a silky wine with texture and character.  Filled with creamy citrus, toasted nutty notes and layers of chalk and mineral flavors this is a balanced and delicious wine.