Aromatic wines = wine made out of aromatic grapes (seems simple right?). But then what is an aromatic grape?
Generally speaking, and as the name suggests, these grapes are characterised by their aroma. If you've ever had the chance to try a Sauvignon Blanc grape you will know what we mean - these grapes are vastly different from your standard table grapes with flavour so distinctive and powerful that it is like eating a solid form of the wine we know and love so much. By comparison a Chardonnay grape is fairly lacklustre with very little to distinguish it from an ordinary table grape. For this reason, it not only gets left out of the aromatic category but you'll find Chardonnay as a wine is much more of a "winemakers" drop - it requires hand-ons manipulation in the winery in order to enhance those more subtle, natural flavours. That's why it lends itself so well to treatments such as malo-lactic fermentation and oak ageing.
So back to aromatics...... when using this term we tend to speak only to white varieties and most commonly refer to the varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Gewürztraminer & Viognier. The most common element across these wines is that they tend to be fermented at lower temperatures in order to preserve their beautiful, natural aromas and very often have either no or very little influence from oak during the winemaking phase in order to allow their natural, highly perfumed flavours shine through.
The trick with any food and wine pairing is to stick to what you like - no-one's opinion is more important than your own. That being said, there are some basic rules that just makes sense - match white wine with white meat (seafood, chicken, pork), compliment or contrast (rich food with a rich wine) and pair wine from a particular region with the traditional food from the said region. However, none of that really helps in finding a specific match to aromatic wines. Often they can be tricky to pair food with given that they are highly perfumed and aromas like floral notes can be hard to marry up to an appropriate food flavour. For this reason, these wines are often delightfully enjoyed as a starter or aperitif before a meal or as a wee treat to round things off afterward instead of being part of the main event.
That being said if you have the right combination these wines really come into their own when paired with the right dish. A juicy, sweet Gewürztraminer with a warm, spicy curry is just the bees pajamas and Pinot Gris makes for a delicious partner with a chacuterie of peppered meats and creamy cheeses. The key is to not be afraid - try different things, experiment with flavour combos because that's when the magic really happens!
Sauvignon Blanc (Pronounced Sow-vuh nyon blongk)
The Sauvignon Blanc varietal boasts flavours of crisp citrusy goodness, a very popular wine variety known to be refreshing and crisp with rich aromas of lemongrass, citrus and herbs.
Pinot Gris (Pronounced Pee now gree)
Like Sauvignon, the Pinot Gris varietal is also known to be refreshing and crisp. However, the grape tends to be more creamy with fruity aromas like nectarine, green apple with spice and honey flavours.
Riesling (Pronounced reez-luhng)
A sweeter aromatic wine. The characteristics of a Riesling wine tends to showcase fruity, flowery and delicate characteristics with apricot, honey and nectarine notes.
Gewürztraminer (Pronunced ga-VERTZ-trah-mee-ner )
A fragrant and floral style with intense flavours of lychee, grapefruit, mandarin and lemon. Gewürztraminer (an older grape) is also known for it's higher alcohol content (usually around the 14% mark).
Viognier (Pronunced vee-ON-yay)
Viognier is a drier styled aromatic wine, similar to Pinot Gris but with a bit more spice. Aromas and notes of guava, lychee, pear and nectar notes shine through. Age it for a bit and you might catch some sweet honey notes.
Muscat (Pronounced Muh skat)
Muscat also known as Moscato. A delicate grape that is sweet and spicy. Naturally lower in alcohol meaning naturally sweet, it is a fresh easy to drink varietal and a delicately sweet wine.