Mediterranean White Wine Varieties

E Wine of the Week

By Bruce Cochran

Hello Everyone,

Let’s celebrate our 350th weekly E Wine with a discussion of my all-time favorite springtime grape varieties, wines that are at their best with warm weather, outdoor dining and seafood dishes.

Mark your calendars for the 10th annual “Art of Wine” festival at the Walton Arts Center. Tastings will be June 11-12, plus much more.

Try a new wine this week!


‘White To The Power Of 4’

For most of us, red wines come to mind when someone mentions Mediterranean grape varieties. Syrah, grenache and mourvedre are now grown all over the wine world, so popular that when blended together they are sometimes called by their initials, G-S-M. They thrive where other grapes don’t, in the hot, dry summers of southern France and Spain and other places that have similar climates.

Even fewer white wine grape varieties succeed there. When viognier is the best known of any group, that’s a pretty eclectic group. But it is, especially along the Rhone River Valley of southeastern France.

A couple of others, Marsanne and Roussanne, also do well there. It takes a special white grape to make good wines in a warm climate. They’re usually varieties that have high natural acidity, as the heat tends to lessen it over the growing season as the grapes ripen. And those crisp, tart fruit acids are the backbone of a white wine.

Some of my favorites are from Spain. Verdelho is one. For me, nothing quite matches seafood like a crisp, light, dry, unoaked Spanish white wine, especially with shellfish. Another favorite is from the northern coast of Tuscany, called vermentino.

One of my all-time favorite dining experiences was several courses of seafood at a restaurant near Lucca, close to Pisa. The wine and the food were ideally matched and I’ve never quite recreated that experience again. Some of you readers were with me, and I’m sure you remember it, too.

I’ve had vermentino since then, but mostly from Sardinia, and mostly not too memorable. I just like that Tuscan version better.

At any rate, when I think of blending my favorite Mediterranean white wine grapes together — vermentino, verdelho and viognier — it just says “springtime” and “seafood” at once. And my friends at Vina Robles did it. They’re located near Paso Robles, in the center of California’s Central Coast. They have similar hot, dry days and cool nights and their highly-allocated (that means limited supply) blend — White4 — has just arrived.

“White to the Power of 4” is an estate blend of vermentino (42 percent), verdelho (29 percent) and viognier (26 percent) with 3 percent Sauvignon Blanc. Last year was this wine’s first release and Arkansas was one of only 10 markets nationally to get any. It sells for about $17.

Bruce Cochran has traveled to every major wine region on four continents. A 30-year veteran of the wine trade, he taught continuing education wine classes for 26 years at colleges throughout Arkansas.

Categories: Legacy Archive