Raising A Glass To Light Wines

Roberto Viernes
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Wednesday - May 16, 2007
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OK, I’m going to say it. I like light wines. To some writers and critics just saying a wine is light is like damning it into oblivion.

Have you seen how many light or ethereal wines garner the same attention as their heftier, steroid-like driven counterparts?

What’s wrong with light wines? Is there no place for them anymore in the big wine world?

I’m not talking about the insipid, vapid wraith-like liquids that mimic wine. Yes, there are those wines that have no substance, no soul and no flavor. These are not the wines I write of. Those wines should be left behind on the shelf, undisturbed in their bottle so as not to offend the next palate they hit.

I’m talking about wines that sing with great intensity and flavor, but without the weight, alcohol, oak and fat that is today’s icon. These wines can pierce the most jaded palate like a ray of sunshine on a cloud-filled day. Like a pretty, wispy cloud that floats effortlessly in the sky but forms shapes that our imagination plays with in our minds - that is the light wine that I search out and enjoy.

A heavy, alcohol-laden wine can be too harsh on my palate for a lunch, especially with warm weather. Oaky wine is too loud at times with all its vanillin, cedary spice and tannin. It can be particularly off-putting when overdone, like sucking on a wooden tea bag. Sometimes those mammoth wines are completely undrinkable to me. I find no enjoyment in them. They are like caricatures of what I think wine should be.

Alas our society is jaded. We look for the biggest bang for our buck. Our palates have become more like a sports highlight reel. We want to drink every home run, slam dunk, ace and knock out that we can get into our glasses. We love things with impact. We are hedonists.

Light wines with intellect and beauty without the impact are seen as simple and pedestrian. It is sad to me that these light wines with all the soul and expression they can exude are passed over for the loud, gaudy and boisterous ones.

I like these light wines because they are like a naturally beautiful lady who needs no makeup versus the woman who packs it on and gets enhanced in more ways than one.

Yes, there is beauty without impact, if you take enough time to let your senses feel and taste it. Quite often the second and third sip or glass is better than the first. A light wine can build and open and welcome you into a softer, quieter world, but filled with satisfaction and gratification.

Wines made of Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio and Riesling are just a tip of the iceberg. Vermentino, Arneis, Cortese, Verdelho, Ugni Blanc, Trebbiano, Verdejo and Airen all have beautiful expressions that are light and airy but filled with flavor. Even Chardonnay plays in this key on occasion.

Where has the wine world gone when producers of lighter wines are relegated to second-class status?

Have we lost sight of beauty, are we not looking for it any more even in the lightest and softest of libations?

I for one need a glass of light wine to remind me that there is beauty in even the smallest and lightest of things in the world.

2005 JJ Christoffel Urziger Wurzgarten Riesling Kabinett $16. This wine is effortless in its beauty. I drank almost the whole bottle before my main course arrived. Citrus, pear and silk sheet texture belie its intensity and length.

2005 Domaine du Rochoy Sancerre $18. This is a prototypical Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc with a mineral edge and beautiful complexity, not to be missed for those who find beauty in the clouds.

Roberto Viernes is a master sommelier. E-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
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