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Cooking Q&A: Choosing White Wine?

Q.

I’m sick of Chardonnay. Any suggestions?

A.

First, let’s figure out what kind of wine you like. If you’ve been drinking Chardonnay simply out of habit, answer a few questions:

  • Do you like light wines or more medium- to heavy-bodied wines? The “body” of the wine describes how the wine feels in your mouth -- like a bite of lamb feels heavy while a scallop is light.
  • Do you like light, acidic wines or softer, mellow wines? You can judge a wine’s acidity by the amount it takes to make your cheeks and tongue “twinge.”

Because the characteristics of a wine depend a lot on where the grapes were grown, my recommendations are fairly general. The only way to figure out what you like, or to learn the difference between a French Burgundy and a California Chardonnay (both made with Chardonnay grapes), is to try it. Think of it as “research.”

If you like light, acidic wines, my favorite is Gruner Veltliner [GROO-ner vehlt-LEE-ner] -- an Austrian wine. Dollar for dollar, you can't beat the Loimer Lois Gruner Veltliner. Other wines that fit the bill: Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Grigio, Italian Verdicchio, Albarino, Chenin Blanc, and Vino Verde.

If you like fuller, softer wines, my favorite is white Burgundy. Other wines that fit the bill: Bordeaux, Sancerre, Pouilly-Fume, Viognier, Gewurztraminer, Marsanne, Sylvaner, and Muller-Thurgau.

My best tip is this: Try before you buy. Most wine shops -- big and small -- offer daily or weekly tastings. My local wine shop usually has at least half of their selection open to try or will open just about any bottle you want for a taste. If you have a good relationship with a wine shop, they’ll bend over backward to introduce you to different wines.

Or host your own wine-tasting party.

-- Colleen Rush