Aromatic white wines are defined by intense fruit, floral or spice aromas. The pronounced aromas they display come from a higher than normal concentration of an aroma compound class known as terpenes.
While different varieties share a common aromatic intensity, the acidity, flavor and sweetness levels vary from grape to grape. Indeed, many of the most important aromatic white varieties are made in both dry and sweet styles.
Serving & Pairing Aromatic White Wines
In general, aromatic white wines should be served chilled in a standard white wine glass. Wines of higher quality can be served closer to ambient temperature, at which point they will reveal even more aromatic characteristics. (Learn more in "A Guide to Wine Glasses.")
Aromatic white wines can be very difficult to pair, but when matched correctly, they represent some of the most interesting food and wine combinations. The intense floral and spice notes that make these wines so interesting to drink can dominate the palate, producing undesirable food pairings. Some aromatic varieties, including the Argentine Torrontés, present an ever so slightly bitter afternote, making food pairing all the more challenging.
The lighter bodied, fruity expressions of these wines make for a refreshing aperitif, to be enjoyed in the late afternoon sun with cured meats and hard cheese. Alternatively, wines loaded with tropical and floral aromas offer the perfect antidote to spicy Indian and southeast Asian cuisine. Finally, sweet styles of aromatic white wines (as with regular sweet wines) pair excellently with sweeter foods, as well as blue cheese and foie gras.
Major Varieties of Aromatic White Wines
There are large numbers of aromatic white varieties, which nowadays, are grown and produced all over the world.
We are going to look at just a few of the most important varieties, how to identify them and where they are traditionally produced:
Identifiable from its intense jasmine aroma, this variety also displays an impressive array of primary fruit aromas including apricot, pineapple and citrus fruits. Some Rieslings may display aromas of petrol or petroleum wax, particularly after some amount of aging.
Riesling is a good example of an aromatic white wine made in both sweet and dry styles, made possible because of its striking acidity.
Perfect foods to pair with Riesling include whitefish & pork, as well as spicy Asian cuisine.
Tell-tale lychee aroma identifies Gewürztraminer, giving way to roses and sweet baking spices. Like Riesling, Gewürztraminer is produced in both sweet and dry styles, though it displays a much lower acidity.
Middle Eastern and Moroccan cuisine goes well with this wine.
Albariño displays heavy citrus fruit aromas, including lime blossom and lemon as well as grapefruit, apricots and peach. It produces highly acidic wines.
Albariño is traditionally grown in Rías Baixas DO, Spain.
Albariño pairs well with sushi.
Torrontés typically displays floral aromas including rose petal and white flowers.
Torrontés is traditionally grown in Argentina.
Torrontés pairs well with charcuterie and hard cheese.
Muscat Blanc produces wines with aromas of orange blossom & rose. Muscat Blanc is one of the very varieties displaying grape aromas.
Muscat Blanc is traditionally grown in Alsace, France.
Fried whitefish and Chinese cuisine pair well with this wine.
Aromatic white varieties are equally as interesting to smell as they are to drink. If not just for the depth of attractive, perfumed aromas they present, aromatic wines should be discovered for the wide range of pairing options they offer alongside spicy and exotic foods.