Textural White Wines
By Jen Pfeiffer
When I think of texture in white wines, I think of varieties such as Chardonnay, Marsanne and Viognier. These wines are more full bodied than aromatic whites, and can be paired with more robust flavours in our cooking.
What makes one white wine more textural than the other? It is a combination of the attributes of the grape variety and also the influence of the winemaker. Varieties such as Chardonnay, Marsanne and Viognier all sit in the medium to full bodied category, and have fruit flavours that present on the middle of the palate. This immediately gives some texture to the wine.
As a winemaker, it is our job to build on that texture. Fermentation in oak barrels creates more fullness and builds body in the wine. Extended contact with the yeast lees (deposits of dead or residual yeast and other particles that settle out in a wine) in either tank or barrel is a great tool to build a creamy mouthfeel. The winemaker will agitate these lees regulary to return them to suspension in the wine, thus creating the creaminess in the mouth. Malo-lactic fermentation (converting the malic acid in wine to lactic acid) is another technique that can be employed – this gives a distinct buttery character to the wine.
When pairing these textural whites with food, texture in the dish also plays an important role. A more oily fish such as salmon is a great match to a white wine with a rich texture. Veal and pork are often combinations that are overlooked, but these meats are terrific with textural whites as they are flavoursome but not as heavy as beef for example. The classic match is of course a lovely roasted chicken with all the trimmings. And vegetarians could look to richly flavoured dishes using mushrooms, truffles and eggplants when opting for a textural white with dinner.
I would suggest trying serving your next Chardonnay, Marsanne or Viognier with only a slight chill on it. Try taking the wine from the fridge one hour before service, or refrigerating for one hour prior to service. This allows more of the textural properties of the wine, as well as full aromatics to be appreciated.
Overall, textural whites offer the consumer plenty of flavour, interest and depth, and make a match for a vast array of dishes.