food & drink

American white wine: Can it offer more than just Chardonnay?

Kirstie Keate, Kettlemag, US, white wine, America Season
Written by kirstiekeate

One of the things that springs to mind as soon as you mention the US is their food and drink. Beer, as mentioned in Kealie Mardell’s article is a big part of American culture, but so is their growing wine industry. Whilst they produce some excellent reds, their white wine industry lags behind somewhat with its heavy Chardonnay bias.

As someone who thinks battery acid makes a better accompaniment to a dinner than a glass of Chardonnay, I decided to have a look at what other white wines the US produces.

Barefoot Pino Grigio – California

From: Co-op

Price: £4.99 (less 10% if you have an NUS card)

Alcohol: 12%, 9 units per bottle, 3 per 250ml glass

What the label says: Crisp, full of citrus and peach flavours. Goes well with chicken, seafood, spicy pasta and pizza.

What I thought: It’s a perfectly pleasant wine, although it does seem to stick to the back of the throat a bit. Nothing particularly amazing about it, but no-one is going to turn down a glass, it’s not eye wateringly alcoholic so you’re not likely to regret a few glasses the next day and for the price, it’s very drinkable.

Winemakers Selection Sauvignon Blanc – California

From: Sainsburys

Price: £5.00

Alcohol: 12%, 9 units per bottle, 3 per 250ml glass

What the label says: Rich tropical fruit notes with a crisp citrus zing.

What I thought: Despite it’s mid range alcohol level, this is one that’s definitely going to have you waking up in the morning, feeling rough and thinking, “but I only had half a bottle.” The citrus zing is more like citric acid and you can feel it’s acidity scalding it’s way down into your digestive system. Give it a miss, unless you think looking like you’ve sucked on a lemon after after each mouthful is a good look on you.

Geyser Peak Sauvignon Blanc – California

From: Waitrose

Price: £10.00

Alcohol: 13%, 9.8 units per bottle, 3.3 per 250ml glass

What the label says: Crisp and refreshing with flavours of lime, honeydew melon and lemongrass.

What I thought: It was OK. There was more depth to the flavour than the other two but for twice the price you would expect it to. It was probably second favourite after the Barefoot Pinot Grigio.

The verdict 

When I started this article, I had intended to write up five non Chardonnay US wines, but here is where we come to the big problem with US whites. There are no other real whites, well certainly not on the mainstream UK market. And the wines that I tasted, were certainly nothing to write home about.

The US is still a fairly new wine region, and for many Chardonnay is seen as a rite of passage and an easy way into the international market. The grape itself produces a fairly neutral flavoured juice, which allows the flavour obtained from the oak or ground itself, terroir to the aficionados, to shine through, giving them a chance to establish their basic flavours before they start entering into the more complex arena of true viticulture. Which is the reason why they are still producing Chardonnay en masse.

No doubt as the US white wine industry grows up they will start exploring different wine types and producing a more diverse selection of wines, but for the moment, they are stuck in this Chardonnay rut, which as the ABC (anything but Chardonnay) trend continues, will do them no favours.

Kettle mag, America season