Citrus flavours are abundant in wines, and it is a common curiosity to wonder how those flavours got there without the addition of actual lemon slices (save those for sangria!) or spirals of orange peel (save those for negronis!).
In fact, citrus flavours in wine are not an additive. They are directly related to the grape varietal, and the spectrum of citrus is related to its terroir, being soil, altitude and climate. These characteristics are known as primary flavours (there are three tiers: secondary refers to wine production methods, such as oak use, whereas tertiary flavours refer to the aging and development of the wine). They are most common in white wines, although they are also found in some rosés and orange wines, and even the odd racy red.
Citrus flavours have a broad reach, ranging from tangy lemon wedges to rich lemon curd, lime zests to grapefruit piths, to ripe and juicy mandarins. While certain grapes are predisposed to exhibit these flavours, the profiles fluctuate depending terroir. Climate has a particular influence on citrus, in that cooler climate wines will tend towards notes of lemon or lime, with warmer climates fostering riper profiles, such as orange or mandarin. That said, like a rubix cube, there are innumerable combinations of styles that can occur. So get your palate ready for adventure and get ready to taste!
Here are some stimulating whites to get you started, and remember, citrus notes hold up to fresh cuisines, such as vinaigrette salads and fresh seafood, so plan a picnic, grab a bottle and start tasting the citrus kaleidoscope! —Laura Starr
Louis Roederer Brut Premier Champagne NV. Taste across the lemon rainbow, from lemon peel to Meyer lemon to lemon cream … all balanced against rich toasty brioche, nuttiness and electric acidity.
Terravista Albariño. A citrus melody of fresh limes and lemons, with a mineral and saline backbone. One of B.C.’s most invigorating secrets.
Fontanafredda Gavi di Gavi (Cortesi). A gripping palate of citrus, stone and saline. Ripe grapefruit rounds out the citrus nose, with a zippy, mineral finish.
Rieslingfreak No. 3 Clare Valley. Rich citrus fruit comes to life with orange blossoms and grapefruit, and while the region is hot, cool nights in the Clare Valley ensure a vibrant acidity.
Benjamin Bridge Pet Nat Can. That’s right! Pet Nat in a can! This is a delight of rich herbal funk, with a zesty spine of grapefruit and orange peel. So refreshing, and it’s easily toted from beach to boat to mountaintop!