Bill’s Best Bets – June 2016
A Summer of Whites
by Bill Zacharkiw
It’s looking pretty solid in terms of temperature for the next week folks – nothing but sunshine and high 20’s in the forecast. While I am a year long white wine drinker, I know many of you keep the whiter shade of pale for times just like this. Fine.
So in the spirit of weather and wine pairing, I’ll use this opportunity to offer up an all-white newsletter this month. I have tasted a number of phenomenal white wines that should be included in any shopping list. Whether you are looking for light and fresh, or rich and mouthfilling, I have you covered. But first, a note on serving these wines.
The summer heat is cause for concern for all wines, especially if you are eating outside. Keep that ice bucket handy for dunking your whites, and especially your reds. Remember that when the ambient temperature is 30C, your wine will be as well. No red wine should be served over 18C – ever!
But this is not an excuse for serving your whites like they were lemonade. It was, in fact, a summer night that must have been close to 30C which turned me on to richer white wines. That night, my dinner companion and I, in the throes of some great post-dinner banter, simply forgot about the bottle of chardonnay that was sitting on the table. We had been drinking it straight from the ice bucket, and the wine was ok. When we finally got back to the bottle, and while I can’t tell you what was the exact temperature of the wine, to this day I can remember the rich, buttery texture. It had great length and exuberant aromas. It was perfect.
Since then I pay extra attention to my whites. Not every white should be served in the 10-16C range. The general rule is that the more you want acidity to show, the cooler the service temperature. If a wine contains residual sugar, it should also be served cool, and by that I mean 8-10C. Most sparkling wines as well fall into this category unless you are lucky enough to be drinking vintage champagne, in which case you can let them warm up a touch.
Here are a few suggestions of wines that I have tasted of late, starting with the freshies.
One of my favourite white wine styles is white Bordeaux though stylistically, depending on the percentage of semillion to sauvignon blanc in the blend, they can be quite different. An exceptional semillon dominated wine, the 2014 Graves from Château Graville Lacoste is my wine of the early summer. Complex fruit, minerality and superb freshness makes for an exceptional and versatile white.
If you prefer the citrusy notes of sauvignon blanc, the 2014 Touraine from Jean-Francois Meriau will do the trick. Fresh, grassy and crisp on the finish.
If you have yet to taste the greatness of Austrian whites, then the 2014 Grüner Veltliner, from Geyeroff is a great place to start. This Austrian winery is one of the references in the Kremstal region for both their grüner and riesling. Complexity, minerality and unique. Well deserving of its four stars.
Greece is home to assyrtiko, one of the world’s most noble white grapes. I am a huge fan, and for an inexpensive taste of greatness, try the 2015 Atlantis from Argyros. Vintage after vintage, this delivers. Fried calamari is a perfect accompaniment.
And I must indulge by mentioning a fino Sherry. If you love dry wines. If you love interesting flavours. If you love marinated fish and olives and need something to wash them back, then try the Manzanilla from Barbadillo.
While great white Burgundy is getting more expensive and harder to find, two styles remain accessible and fit into the fresh category. Chablis is unique and each terroir is so distinctive in terms of its minerality. If you love hard rock, then try the 2015 Montee de Tonnerre from Maligny. Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song in a glass. Try it with lobster while they are still inexpensive. It seems that there is a new found interest in aligote these days, and I welcome it. When done well, it can be a great wine. Usually made without any barrel, the 2014 Bourgogne Aligote from Jean-Claude Boisset proves that you can make it into a richer styled wine.
This style of aligote segues nicely into the richer wines. Roussanne, greanche and viognier are all richer grapes and you can find all three in the 2015 Costières de Nîmes from Château de Campuget. Stone fruits and spice and a rich texture. Also from the southern Rhone, the 2014 Côtes-du-Rhône from is easily one of the better regular listed whites at the SAQ. A blend of viognier with rousanne, marsanne and bourbelenc, it shows the richness that one expects alongside a wonderfully spicy finish.
The Jura can be quite divisive as many wines are slightly oxydised. But I have yet to meet anyone who doesn’t love the 2012 Chardonnay from Domaine Rijckaert. So complex, so interesting as well as incredibly finessed. On a similar vein of finesse and body, try the 2014 Cocalieres from Domaine Auphilac. Amazing complexity and wonderfully rich. One of my favourite whites at the SAQ under $30.
Enjoy the heat folks!
“There’s enjoyment to be had of a glass of wine without making it a fetish.” – Frank Prial
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