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Are you a "wine snob?" Or are you a "wine geek" (which may be the same thing only you don’t want to admit to being a snob. You are way too nice for that)?
One sure-fire “tell” of a wine snob/geek is ABC. In parlance, that means "Anything But Chardonnay." For some cluster of reasons, and they all have varying levels of validity, many wine drinkers associate the juice from the chardonnay grape as being beneath serious consideration. If you drink chardonnay, the reasoning goes, you are not serious about enjoying wine.
What makes that attitude all the more ridiculous is that for every 10 bottles of wine sold in the United States, 3-4 are chardonnay. Yes, this little-respected, often compromised grape comprises 34 percent of all wine devoured in the largest wine-consuming market on the planet. Aretha Franklin should be applying her Spelling Bee hit to chardonnay. R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
White wines provide many attributes to those who appreciate quality adult beverages. First of all, whites are usually lower in alcohol and tannins than reds. This makes them easier to drink and more of the wine can be enjoyed without the serious effects of too much alcohol, tannins that start to overwhelm the palate and the allied effect of teeth-staining.
In addition, whites provide a wide-range of pleasant aromas, tastes, and they are quite compatible with many foods.
But let’s assume for a minute that you have some sort of mental block against chardonnay, earned over a long period of time with chardonnays that were of low quality or California chardonnays caught up in the “more oak” craze of a few years back that has, thankfully, receded. Not disappeared, but receded.
Anyway, let’s all of us move on and find some white wines, not chardonnay, which can create different impressions and provide enjoyment.
Sauvignon Blanc – the most logical alternative to chardonnay is sauvignon blanc. Maybe you don’t like SB. But the reality is that this grape from wildly diverse regions provides different expressions. Try sauvignon blanc from the Loire Valley or Bordeaux, both in France, or New Zealand. If you want to stay in the USA, sauvignon blanc from Russian River, Oregon; New York State; or Washington State all present different aspects of this delightful grape.
Viognier – the white grape from the Rhone Valley of France that is used in the blend for red wines such as Chateauneuf du Pape. On its own, Viognier from the northern Rhone Valley, or northern California, Oregon or Washington state is a joy to behold.
Albarino or Alvarinho – the white grape from the northwestern corner of Spain and the northernmost area of Portugal is catching on in a big way, particularly in a fresh seafood eating town like ours. Fine acid structure means this wine is still identifiable alongside a platter of fresh trout topped with crab and a beurre blanc sauce. They are not eating that in Kansas City.
Roussanne and Marsanne – while these white grapes flourish in the Rhone region of France, lately we have seen a number of wineries on the West Coast of the US try their hand with these crisp styles. Not only are these wines quite delightful, but imagine the fun you will have with friends around the dinner table who have never even heard of these names.
Riesling and Gewürztraminer – don’t wrinkle your brow at the mention of these grapes. Sure, they can be a bit on the sweet side but not all are, Those that are not provide amazing palate sensations and long finishes. Keep in mind that in their home countries, Germany and Austria, a lot of sausage is consumed. That does sound like a place some of the cuisines we all know very well and from quite close.
Vermentino – put down the lacking, flabby examples of pinot grigio and try the other Italian white favorite, Vermentino. While this grape is very well-respected in northern Italy, it also enjoys considerable success on Corsica and Sardinia.
One of the real points here is that we are entering a holiday season and we are going to be enjoying a lot of difference styles of food. We are, because of who we are, likely to be doing a lot of drinking, Wouldn’t it be wonderful to try some new beverages, lower in alcohol than the stuff we are accustomed to, and find something delightful or a selection of many somethings that are appealing?
That’s where a lot of the fun is – trying many different items and enjoying the voyage of discovery. Getting “stuck” on one answer can’t be the best we can be. If performing important research with adult beverages ain’t fun, what’s the point?
Read Happy Hour here on myneworleans.com every Wednesday, and listen to The Dine, Wine and Spirits Show, hosted by Tim, every weekday, 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. on WGSO 990AM and streamed as well as stored (podcast), at www.wgso.com. Also, check out Last Call, Tim’s photo-feature every month in New Orleans Magazine.