The Tax Free Guide to White Wine …..
If by magic we could tot up the number of bottles of wine on sale at airport shops around the planet, my guess is the split between red and white would be 80:20 in favour of red. It is red wines, especially those iconic premier cru Bordeaux wines that fetch silly prices and put the smile on duty-free retailers’ faces. And of course, vintage red wines from famous French domains have huge cachet across Asia, where red is also a lucky colour.Wealthy Asian travellers clutching printed lists of must-have vintage red wines given high scores by legendary wine critic Robert Parker are now a commonplace sight at big international airport duty-free stores around the world. These travellers can and often do spend thousands of dollars on rare claret wines. Yet white wines, even fêted vintages from Burgundy, the world’s most famous region for producing white wine, just don’t get the same sort of attention.All this has left white wine out in the cold. That is is a crying shame, especially as many white wines go well with the lighter, healthier foods we are all being encouraged to eat more of these days. Granted, historically it has been harder for winemakers to make great white wines because white grape skins just don’t have as much flavour as red ones. Nonetheless, improvements in wine-making technology and a rediscovery of unusual varietals means there has never been a better time to explore the rich and varied world of white wine while on your travels.
Let’s start our white wine tour over in the US, famous of course for its buttery oaked chardonnay wines produced in California’s sun-drenched Napa Valley. Californian wineries use plenty of other white grape varietals such as pinot grigio, riesling, gewürztraminer and viognier. Other less well-known US wine-growing regions such as Washington, Oregon and New York State’s Finger Lakes also produce excellent white wines.
Where to start? Well, Vino Volo’s chain of US airport outlets, a pleasing cross between a stylish wine bar and a street corner bodega, are thoroughly recommended for those travellers looking to find a good bottle of US white wine. The award-winning chain now has outlets at airports all over the country, including big hubs such as New York JFK, Philadelphia and San Francisco. Their wines are available to taste by the glass, and retail purchases can be shipped anywhere in the States. A dainty tapas-style menu of snacks and light bites complements the wines very well.The Vino Volo staff really know their stuff. They can guide customers to a wine style that suits their palate and pocket. Alongside easily recognisable international wines, each location showcases wines from the local region so that travellers can sample wines from up-and-coming US wine regions such as Washington, Oregon, the Hudson Valley and even Texas. To get a better idea of what Vino Volo is all about and to see whether they are opening a branch at your local airport, see the company’s website at www.vinovolo.com.As for Californian wine, San Francisco international airport does a great job of showcasing the state’s superb range of both white and red wines from the Napa and Sonoma Valleys. Look out for Marilla (Terminal 3), Wine Wisdom (also Terminal 3), and the duty-free San Francisco Wine Gourmet outlet in the International Terminal. None of these shops has a website to browse the selection ahead of your trip so you will have to roll up and see what’s on offer. All three stores have got good reviews for the ranges they carry.
Onwards and upwards to Canada, home of delicious, but pricey Canadian ice wine. This top tipple is a delicious sweet dessert-style white wine produced from grapes picked while still frozen on the vine. Why the high price tag? Well, the grapes have to be picked at a moment’s notice by a large labour force. And because the grapes are frozen, only a relatively small amount of wine is produced. Often, the plunge in winter temperatures doesn’t happen quickly enough and the grapes are left to rot on the vine. All these conditions add to ice wine’s high price, which on per centilitre basis is more expensive than XO Cognac. Ouch!
Now Canadian ice wine is hard, if not impossible, to find outside of Canada. And if rumours are to be believed, much of what is labelled as ice wine in Asia, may not be what it seems. Reputable brands to look out for are Vincor’s outstanding “Inniskillin” ice wine – who pioneered the introduction of the category into duty free/travel retail and the various editions of Peller Estates. So do yourself a favour – If you are passing through one of Canada’s big international airports such as Toronto Pearson or Vancouver, buy yourself a bottle. At Vancouver airport seek out The Cellar in the airport’s International Terminal (near Gate 53) for the best selection, while at Toronto airport’s main duty-free shop you can pick up exclusives such as Wayne Gretzky Estates 2011 Vidal Ice wine, which is priced at C$99 (£62.60) per bottle.
Of course, Europe also has its fair share of great dessert wines, including the most famous of them all, Château d’YQuem, which can fetch some eye-watering prices for some of the rarest vintages. Expect to find a good selection of Château d’YQuem wines at Aelia’s Buy Paris Duty Free outlets at Paris Charles de Gaulle and Paris Orly airports along with a selection of less expensive Sauternes sweet wines.If France has its Sauternes white wines to boast about, Hungary has its Tokaji, another famous European sweet white wine made from grapes which are left long enough on the vine to develop what is called “noble rot”, a type of mould which concentrates the grapes’ natural sugars. Don’t let all this talk of mould put out off. Tokaji wines are fabulous and at Budapest airport’s new Skycourt international terminal travellers will find an excellent selection of rare Tokaji wines with vintages dating back as far as 1940.Germany is rightly now famous for the quality of its white wines, which tend to be light and fruity with a relatively low alcohol content because of the country’s cool northerly climate. Wine critics used to slate bargain bucket German wines such as the infamous Blue Nun for being sweet and one-dimensional, but the quality and variety of the country’s wines has greatly increased in the past two decades.
Riesling is the grape varietal most associated with German wines but pinot blanc and pinot gris have gained enormously in popularity in the past few years. For one of the best selection of German white wines at an airport head to Gebr. Heinemann’s shops at Frankfurt airport Terminal 1B. The wood-panelled Regionals zone stocks a wide range of Mosel wines. Prices start as low as €6.30 (£5) and as high as €210 (£166.50) for a bottle of eiswein, Germany’s equivalent of ice wine. See http://www.heinemann-dutyfree.com/frankfurt_en/wine-champagne/white-wine to have a look at the full selection.
We can’t leave the subject of white wine in travel-retail without mentioning New Zealand, which is world famous for producing some of the best sauvignon blanc wines anywhere on the planet. Light and crisp with floral and classically grassy notes, Kiwi whites are the perfect refreshing drink for hot summer days.
Sauvignon blanc accounts for nearly half of all the wines the country produces and travellers can find a decent selection of them at JR Duty Free’s shops at both Auckland and Wellington international airports. Popular Kiwi white wine labels stocked include Oyster Bay, Stoneleigh Bay, Villa Maria and Martinborough Vineyard with prices ranging from NZ$13-62 (£6.60-31.70). To browse the full range visit http://www.jrdutyfree.co.nz/category/WHITE+WINE?sort=price&order=desc.
Of course, in this short article we can only scratch the surface of the many different white wines that you will find at airports worldwide. In fact, every great wine-producing country of the world boasts some excellent white wines. So if your default wine setting is red, why not give white a try?
The chances are you won’t be disappointed.
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