Most people only know the names of two or three dozen or so wine varieties, but there are literally thousands of distinct wine-making grapes grown in the world. Some of the lesser known grapes varieties make outstanding value wines that are delicious in their own right.
Even people who know a bit about wines might not recognise the words Falanghina, Parellada, Verdejo or Grüner Veltliner. All of them are the names of white wine-producing grape varietals from Europe and all of them are excellent wines for drinking in Cayman’s tropical climate.
To demonstrate the point, wine gurus Lee Royle and Sergio Serrano from Jacques Scott sat down over lunch at Luca along with the restaurant’s manager, Cheryl Pokoradi, to taste four European white wines.
A white wine grape from the Catalonia region of Spain, Parellada is probably best known as one of three main varieties used to produce Cava, a dry sparkling wine. Although it is more often used for blending, it can also be used to produce a light, fruity, single-variety white wine.
One of the best known single-variety Parellada wines is Torres Viña Sol, a light-bodied, dry and refreshingly crisp wine.
With an alcohol content of 11.5 per cent, this easy-drinking, straw-coloured wine would be great by the pool, with a light lunch or as an apéritif.
Viña Sol displays intense floral and fruit aromas, as well as a complex array of tastes on the palate.
“It’s a beautiful summer wine,” said Royle, noting people who like Sauvignon Blanc would probably also like Torres Viña Sol because of their similarities.
The wine paired nicely with spinach salad served with crispy prosciutto, shaved Parmesan cheese, cherry tomatoes and mandarin oranges.
“It’s a great salad wine,” Pokoradi said. “It has lots of flavours.”
Viña Sol would also pair well will fish, shellfish and rice dishes.
At a retail price of $9.99, Viña Sol represents an incredible value for a wine that is right at home in the tropics.
Wine making goes back a long, long time in Italy and Falanghina is one of the oldest grape varieties cultivated in that country, thought to have been brought there by Greek settlers around 700 BC.
After almost being wiped out by the phylloxera disease in the 20th Century, Falanghina is once again flourishing in the Campania region of southern Italy.
One noted producer of Falanghina is Feudi di San Gregorio, an acclaimed winery established in 1986. Its Falanghina is a medium-bodied wine of pale gold colour and aromas of fruits and flowers. It has a lingering citrus finish and touch of minerality that makes it a delicious pairing with fish and other seafood, white pasta sauces and risotto.
With lunch this day, it paired best with the snapper in lemon, butter and sauce.
Because of its complexity, Falanghina would pair nicely with many of the fish available in the Cayman Islands.
Feudi di San Gregorio Falanghina (retail $24.99) has an alcohol content of 12.5 per cent, making it another wine ideal for Cayman’s tropical climate.
Grüner Veltliner, a white wine primarily from Austria, might not be known widely on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, but in New York City it has been the trendy summer wine for several years now.
It’s also been known in Europe – under many different names – since the days of the Romans. In Austria, Grüner Veltliner has been at the forefront of that country’s move to making quality dry white wines since the late 1980s.
Like all of the other white wines tasted at Luca at lunch, Pfaffl Haidviertel Weinviertel Dac Grüner Veltliner ($27.99) has an alcohol content of 12 per cent, making it an easy-drinking wine, perfect with lunch or outdoor events.
But unlike the other wines tasted this afternoon, the Grüner Veltliner – often called Gru-Ve for short – was not only more complex, but paired better with all of the dishes, including the classic Piedmont dish Vitello Tonnato – thinly sliced steamed veal with fried capers and tuna sauce. The latter dish paired extremely well with the wine, Royle said.
“The salt really brings out the fruit in the Grüner.”
The golden yellow wine has a floral and fruity nose. On the palate, it was fruity and full with crisp acidity, making it a good pairing with variety of foods.
Although Verdejo is one of Spain’s iconic white wine grapes, the country is much more known for its red wines like Rioja.
The Verdejo grape most likely originated in North Africa and came to the Rueda region of Spain in the 11th century.
Historically, Verdejo was used mainly to create a Sherry-like wine. By using different processes like harvesting at night and fermenting at cool temperatures, the winery Marqués de Riscal started creating a fresher, less oxidised wines from Verdejo in the 1970s.
The result is a bright, straw-coloured wine that is highly aromatic with a unique and complex flavour profile that includes tropical fruit, fresh grass and a slightly bitter finish.
On the palate, the wine has medium to full mouth feel, allowing it to pair not only with the typical white wine foods like fish and shellfish, but also with chicken, pasta and cold meat salads.
With a relatively low-alcohol content of 12.5 per cent and a bargain price of $12.95, Herederos del Marqués de Riscal Rueda is another great wine for the Cayman Islands and an interesting alternative to Sauvignon Blanc.