Shakespeare was wrong. Custom can indeed stale our palates when we drink the same wine every day through lack of attention or hedonistic laziness. Don’t get me wrong. I love chardonnay. So do you, on average; it’s been America’s favorite white wine in every survey for years.
But our over-reliance on chardonnay has even led to an ABC (Anything But Chardonnay) movement of wine fans who, while they love the stuff, could use an occasional change of pace.
Luckily, other white wines exist in the infinite variety to which the Bard alluded. So here are some very nice wines that are decidedly not chardonnays:
▪ Sauvignon blanc: This has always been chardonnay’s unnoticed little sister. It’s a shame, since it probably goes better with food than chardonnay, because it’s leaner, crisper, less overwhelming. It can range from steely cut-grass flavors to ripe pineapple. Oh, and it’s usually cheaper than chardonnay on a wine list.
▪ Fumé blanc: This is sauvignon blanc with a stage name. When wine pioneer Robert Mondavi decided to grow sauvignon blanc in the 1960s, he wanted to avoid its then-mediocre reputation as bland and dull. So he fermented it in oak in the style of the famous French wine Pouilly-Fumé and gave it the similar name of fumé blanc. Now everybody’s doing it.
▪ Pino bianco: From Italy’s cool, mountainous regions, it is a mutation of better-known pinot grigio. It is steely, fruity, mineral-scented, making it good for blending with other white grapes.
▪ Tocai friulano: A mainstay grape in Italy’s cool Friuli region north of Venice in the Julian Alps, it is light and crisp, starting out with dry green apple flavors and taking on a hint of sweetness as it ages.
▪ Ribolla gialla: From near the Italy-Slovenia border, it is light and lean and minerally, good for blending.
▪ Riesling: Considered by many the world’s noblest white grape, it confuses American wine fans who don’t know how dry or sweet it will be. Once they come to know it, they love it.
▪ Pinot grigio: A northern Italian grape today grown everywhere, making light, crisp wines with peach and apricot flavors.
▪ Pinot gris: The same grape as Italy’s pinot grigio but with a French name. Grown widely in France and Oregon, it is riper, richer and sweeter from the way it’s grown and made.
▪ Arneis: A rare grape from Italy’s Northern Piedmont region, it is also grown in Oregon. It is crisp and fruity and rich.
▪ Viura: Known by this name in Spain, and as macabeu in France, it makes lean, steely dry white wines with ripe apple and melon flavors.
▪ 2012 Marco Felluga Bianco Collio “Molamatta,” DOC Collio, Italy (40 percent pinot bianco, 40 percent tocai friulano, 20 percent ribolla gialla): very dry, intensely fruity, with flavors of ripe pears, spice and minerals, long finish; $23.
▪ 2012 Hugel et Fils Riesling, Alsace, France (100 percent riesling): rich and dry and minerally, with riesling’s prized light oily touch, green apple flavors; $22.
▪ 2013 Grgich Hills Estate Fume Blanc, Napa Valley (100 percent sauvignon blanc): hint of oak, lean and crisp, with aromas and flavors of fresh-cut grass and minerals; $30.
▪ 2013 Matanzas Creek Winery Sauvignon Blanc, Sonoma County (91 percent sauvignon blanc, 9 percent semillon): light and crisp, with aromas and flavors of grapefruit and herbs, long finish; $22.
▪ 2013 Concha y Toro “Devil’s Collection White,” Casablanca, Chile (85 percent sauvignon blanc, 10 percent chardonnay, 5 percent gewurztraminer): floral aromas, flavors of ripe mangos and lemons, crisp and light; $15.
▪ 2013 Alois Lageder Pinot Bianco, Dolomiti, Italy: lean and crisp, with intense green apple flavors, lean finish; $14.
▪ 2014 Ponzi Vineyards Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley, Oregon: lightly sweet, quite crisp, with aromas and flavors of oranges, lemon meringue and guava; $17.
▪ 2013 Ponzi Arneis, Willamette Valley: rich and fruity, with aromas and flavors of ripe apricots and pears, quite dry; $29.
▪ 2013 Bodegas El Coto de Rioja white wine, DOC Rioja, Spain (100 percent viura): intensely fruity, with flavors of melons, oranges and spice, very crisp; $11.
▪ 2013 Murphy-Goode Pinot Grigio, California (100 percent pinot grigio): light and lively, with aromas and flavors of ripe pears and cinnamon; $12.