Bill’s Best Bets – December 2016
The Great White Winter
by Bill Zacharkiw
Yes I get it. It’s cold outside. Boo hoo. Shouldn’t we all be opening up our biggest, high-alcohol, bad-ass red wines to warm us up? After all, Saint Bernard dogs bring brandy to the snowed-in. While they mean well, drinking alcohol might make you feel warmer by dilating your blood cells, but in reality it lowers your core body temperature.
I have always been perplexed by this idea that white wine is a summer-only drink. I can understand the concept of wanting to drink hot things when it’s cold out, but it’s not like 15C-18C, the temperature range a red wine should be served at, is that much more warming than 8C-12C, the temperature range for whites.
When choosing wines, I am influenced more by what I’m eating rather than what’s going on with the weather. And I probably eat more red meat in the summer. A steak is best when its surface is caramelized, and nothing does that better than a BBQ. My winter fare, so far, revolves around oysters, curries, soups, pastas, and while a red meat roast or braised dish still demands a red wine, as does a tomato sauce, mostly everything else is better, or just as good, with a white.
What does change for me, is that I tend to gravitate towards richer whites in the winter, but again, only if what I’m eating makes that the right choice. Recently a number of exceptional whites were released by the SAQ that are worthy of your drinking attention. So from oyster friendly lean and mineral wines, to more luxurious wines, here are some of my faves.
Let’s start with the lean and mineral which are perfect as I said for oysters, mussels and other seafood, and as an aperitif. One of my favourite wine styles is Muscadet and I have two, both biodynamically grown, that are spectacular. Landron’s 2015 Amphibolite is perhaps a bit more user friendly than the exceptional 2014, so this is a must. If you want an equally intense Muscadet, but with the capacity to age easily for a decade, the try Domaine de L’Ecu’s 2014 Orthogeniss.
If I’m eating mussels, shrimp or white fish, I like a little more texture. A chardonnay always does the trick, as long as it is grown in a cool enough place. Chablis is always great, as is Maligny’s 2015 Montee de Tonnerre. But if $30 is out of your price range, the try the 2015 chard from Chateau La Lieue, always one of the better all around chardonnays at the SAQ.
If you want something a little different, then try a sibling of chardonnay, auxerrois, from Alsace. New to the SAQ last year, Domaine Albert Mann’s 2014 vintage gives an interesting take on the classic chardonnay expression.
Moving onto richer wine styles, let’s start with a skin contact white wine, which offers up the complex aromatics and freshness of white, with a bit of the structural components of a red. From Sicily, Cos’ Rami finally re-appeared on the shelves. Open this up 18 hours before drinking and serve around 12C with pretty well anything. I drank it with a spaghetti carbonara and it was fantastic.
More classically styled, another of my perennial favourites is the Domaine de La Rectorie 2015 L’Argile in the southern appellation of Collioure. Made with 100% grenache gris, this offers up great minerality alongside a rich, sensual texture. In a similar vein, try the 2014 Faugeres from Domaine Fenouillet for a wine that will bring the fat, and at under $20, a great deal.
I’ll finish with three chenin blancs, one of my favourite grapes. These wines combine freshness and texture, ageability with immediate drinkability. Perfect for aperitifs, seafood, white meats and cheeses, they are also incredibly versatile. Try the Badenhorst Secateurs which is quickly becoming one of the better under-$20 whites at the SAQ.
A step up in complexity, the 2015 Anjou from Pithon-Paillé walks that line between freshness and texture with great agility. And finally, one of my references of Loire chenin is Domaine de la Belliviere’s Jasnieres, cuvée Rosiers. A hint off-dry, the wine shows beautiful aromatics combined with a nice balance between the minerality and its richer texture.
Happy holidays folks,
“There’s enjoyment to be had of a glass of wine without making it a fetish.” – Frank Prial
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