White Blends/Other Whites
Some grape varietals share a great synergy, like classic time-honored combinations including Bordeaux blends of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc or, on some occasions, other unlikely combinations of grape varietals that complement each other beautifully, such as a red Shiraz and a white Viognier. And in some instances, grapes from one region are blended with those from another region to produce a wine of greater balance and complexity.
White Bordeaux Blends The white Bordeaux blend is, perhaps, one of the most overlooked categories of wine in the world today. Until the 1960s, vineyards in Bordeaux were dominated by white grape varietals, namely Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle. However, changing tastes and fashions, as well as improved winemaking techniques that made red Bordeaux more affordable to the general public, relegated white Bordeaux to the sidelines.
White Bordeaux is still produced in great volumes, but it is not exported anywhere near the same scale as its red counterpart. The white blend must contain at least 25% Sauvignon Blanc, though some Chateaus prefer to embolden their wines with a high proportion of Semillon, resulting in slightly heavier wines that are generally barrel-aged and designed for drinking five or more years after release.
In the prestigious Graves region, white Bordeaux wines can be consumed young and still display fresh citrus and grassy flavors, resulting from the influence of Sauvignon Blanc. Muscadelle adds some grapey aromas to the blend, while Semillon imparts texture and honeyed characteristics if the wine has had time to age.
White Rhone Blends White Rhone blends consist of two or more grapes from the Rhone Valley, such as Viognier, Roussanne, Marsanne and Grenache Blanc, though other white grapes may be included in miniscule amounts. Viognier is typically alone in the Northern Rhone and absent in the Southern Rhone though, in the north, 20% of the Viognier varietal can be blended into the predominant Syrah of Cote Rotie. Marsanne and Roussanne, like two peas in a pod, are usually found together, both in and outside of the Rhone region. Blends outside of the Rhone are mostly found in California and Australia and can include all four of the primary varietals.
The white blends of the Rhone Valley are usually rich in fruit flavors and aromatics. Three of the primary varietals -- Viognier, Roussanne and Marsanne -- are intense in aromatics and texture. The fourth primary grape, Grenache Blanc, is a fairly neutral grape with crisp acidity and high sugars. Blending Grenache Blanc with the other three varietals helps the wine stand up in acid levels and adds a crispness to the texture. Flavors of white Rhone blends include spice, nut, honeysuckle and green apple.
In considering what foods pair well with white wine blends, one should look at the varietals that comprise the particular white blend.
As a general rule, pairing white wine blends with cheese is an easier proposition than matching red wine blends with cheeses because white wines, with their less assertive nature, are simply more cheese friendly, a quality that makes them more compatible with high-acid cheeses, including fresh and slightly-aged goat cheeses. In considering which cheeses to match with a white wine blend, it would be best to base a decision upon the main varietal or varietals that comprise the particular red blend.