A phrase that has been said so often, it’s practically a cliché: I don’t like white wine. I only drink red.
That drives me nuts. What do these people, maybe you, mean by that? How can anyone who likes fermented grape juice turn their back on an amazing breadth of sensory experiences? A whole category ignored and shunned.
In considering the comment, and to assume that those who say they don’t like white wine may not have tasted the “right” white, as a public service, let me suggest some wines that should be tried, considered and maybe even enjoyed. Hey, crazier things have happened. Don’t press me for details.
Many folks who proclaim their belief that white wines are not for them likely have spent their time in Chardonnay Land. And maybe they are basing their love of reds on the fact that they have been drinking some pretty lame Chardonnay. Oh, yes, there are a lot of sloppy and characterless Chardonnays out there – trust me.
Also, entering into the Life Choice decisions that some have made could be the oddly snobbish thought that white wines are not complicated, interesting or respected by wine appreciators. These are the same folks who have not had a Merlot since the movie Sideways was released (2004). By the way, they are missing the boat about Merlot also. A memorable, cute, slightly ribald line in a movie should not set the tone for life patterns and THOSE are the words to live by.
Interesting White Wines for Wine Drinkers Who Do Not Like White Wine
From northern Italy, in the Piedmont region around the town of Alba. The name of this ancient grape is a literal translation: little rascal. This difficult to grow grape offers stone fruit characteristics within a dry presentation alongside overtones of pears. The low acidity puts the wine in a category of wines that are excellent to enjoy on their own, not really requiring the accompaniment of food, but if you insist, pasta with a garlic butter sauce is a good match.
Recently, some California vintners have been enjoying great success with Arneis. The results are a more fruit forward, riper expression from an old soul.
Much has been made over Argentina’s “hot” red wine, Malbec. It migrated from the Bordeaux region of France, and only now is emerging the true wine star made from that country’s native grape, Torrontes. This white grape may be an offshoot of the Mission grape, brought to the New World by Spanish explorers and conquerors, but it has taken full root and been embraced in this South American country.
Torrontes is highly aromatic with moderate acid structure. The “tell” on Torrontes are the stone fruit characters, peach and apricot, both on the nose and the palate. There are actually three different varietals of Torrontes, with Torrontes Riojano being the most available and often called only by its first name. This grape loves altitude and the expressions of Torrontes from above 6,000 feet in the Andes are remarkable.
Viognier is the only permitted wine grape in the French Rhone-area wine commune, Condrieu – where it displays its best result. It is also a white grape permitted for blending in the red wines of the area, particularly a little further south to the region of Chateauneuf du Pape, near Avignon.
Viognier makes for a seductive wine, bringing gobs of apricots and peaches, as well as pears and minerality to a wine that is distinctive. Coaxing these characteristics out of the grape is a delicate dance on the part of the winemaker. Just a little too much ripening or slightly improper fermentation can ruin the total experience. Australia, New Zealand, the United States and even South America have all tried their luck with Viognier, but the best expression remains in Condrieu, France. The other areas are not complete disasters but they tend to lack the elegance which is achievable almost singularly from the Rhone.
In the far northwest of Spain, the area is known as Galicia and the grape is Albariñho. In Portugal, the same grape is Alvarinho. The origin of the name gives clues to where the grape started: the white wine grape of the Rhine.
In wine parlance, Albariño offers a bouquet of “botanicals,” a blend of brush-style plants, sage, forest floor aspects and minerality. There are also stone fruit characters, similar to Viognier. In Portugal, Alvarinho is one of the grapes allowed to make vinho verde – the fresh, often slightly carbonic wine from the north of that country, around Oporto and the Douro River valley.
So, let’s agree about this: there are too many styles and too many grapes that make white wine and you should try more of them before closing the door on the many aromas, flavors and experiences. What would have been the outcome if all of mankind looked at an oyster and said, “I am not touching that thing?” That would have denied us all some amazing pleasures.
Oh, and by the way, every one of these wines pairs fantastically with fresh oysters.
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 at www.wgso.com.