Sensational Whites For Summer Heat
Wednesday - September 09, 2009
Summer is supposed to be over, but it has still been pretty hot this week and I’ve had to cool down with some nice whites.
I have been very successful in finding some really great-value white wines recently. I found a pair from Spain and one from California that will cool your thirst but not hurt your credit card.
Spain has been a hotbed for great-value wines, especially in the past five years, and at the forefront of the white wines is the variety known as Albarino. It is grown primarily in the area of Rias Baixas in the northwest of Spain, also known as Galicia. This area is a river valley system, or rias, that flows almost 19 miles inland. There are several subzones of Rias Baixas, but they all share granite-based subsoil and a relatively cool, damp maritime climate. The grape Albarino also is known as Alvarinho in Portugal. With all apologies to Sherry, it is now Spain’s most famous dry white. It is extremely versatile and can be gloriously aromatic with similarities to Viognier. It has a lighter body, however, something akin to Pinot Grigio in my mind. The finished wine can range anywhere from 10 percent to 13 percent alcohol, which makes it a terrific candidate for chilling down on hot days. Food-wise it is terrific with shellfish, shrimp and ceviche. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that well with poke because of the limu/seaweed, which makes practically any wine bitter.
The 2008 Vionta Albarino ($18) from Rias Baixas is a great example of the lower alcohol version with plenty of flavor. It just rises from the glass with crisp pear and peach aromas. It dances lightly on your palate with citrus and pear flavors. It also brings a green kiwi and almost lemongrass taste in a second wave of flavor.
The other Albarino I have been enjoying is the 2008 Bodegas Montecillo “Verdemar” ($12). This is a new wine from an ancient estate in Rioja. Montecillo was founded in 1874 and is famous for its Rioja. It recently turned its attention to making Albarino - quite successfully. This version has a very flowery note in addition to the pear and lychee character. Again, it is as light as cotton candy and has a vibrant and refreshing core of grapefruit and Asian pear flavors. This is a “can’t miss for the money” wine.
Now from Spain to one of our closest neighbors, California, I would like to introduce you to the 2008 Big House White ($9). This super exotic blend of Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Marsanne, Malvasia Bianca, Orange Muscat and Muscat Canelli is simply fun and vivacious. Don’t worry, you won’t have to remember all of those grape names once you’ve tasted the wine. But when you smell it, you’ll see that it is just bursting with orange blossom, peaches, grape, spices, melons and citrus. The palate is naturally richer and more mouth-coating than the Albarino, but there is just the slightest suggestion of sweetness on the palate that makes it go down really smooooth. This is not for the wine geek but more for the wine drinker. It is playful and just a glass full of smiles.
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