Some of us order the same wine every time because it’s what we are familiar with and we like it. Why go off the beaten path when there is no certainty you will find anything better? While there is nothing wrong with having a favorite, venturing off your course may actually lead you to a new favorite. That surprise element makes me chronically greedy with fascination. For National Wine Wine Day, let’s raise a glass to new things, particularly white wines for summer (and all year). Here are some wines that have been on the list and on shelves all this time, just waiting for you to try.
The chenin blanc grape is one of the most widely planted grapes in the Loire Valley in France that is capable of producing a wide range of wines. The main appellation for chenin blanc is Vouvray. Chenin blancs are mostly medium-bodied with some sweetness, imparting characters of apple, pear, citrus and tropical fruits. South Africa also makes chenin blanc, where historically it has been a major grape and is often called steen. Currently, chenin blanc from South Africa is enjoying a moment of rejuvenation and reintroduction to the world, proving itself to be a varietal capable of producing world-class wines. Fresh and fruity chenin blanc goes great with vegetable-driven dishes and salads; oaked versions pair with richer meals such as fish or cream-based protein dishes; and sweet chenin blanc naturally matches desserts and can serve as a balancing counterpart to rich, pungent cheeses.
Riesling is considered by many wine experts to be one of the most noble and unique white varieties in the world. But the sweetness in wine tends to scare many would-be drinkers away. It can be a true joy when properly balanced by acidity. Traditionally, rieslings are on the sweeter end of the spectrum, but there is also a representation of dry (not as sweet) rieslings for a leaner tasting wine. Nonetheless, a great riesling is soaring with acidity, making it a very versatile wine. Think Indian, Thai and spice-driven cuisines. It has a sense of vividness and purity and grace on the palate, making it, shall we say, dangerously easy to drink. It also smells like flowers and tastes like fruits, particularly peaches and apricots. Occasionally, you may come across an aroma with petroleum-esque quality. While some might find it strange to discover a wine that smells like something you’d put in your gas tank, the complexity of the aromas is highly prized by producers and consumers. When shopping for Riesling, look for wines from Germany’s Mosel region, Washington’s Columbia Valley or Australia’s Clare Valley, and discover the uniqueness of each.
Next we head to Argentina to try Torrontés, a beautifully aromatic white wine that is slightly viscous and a great choice for beginning courses and sushi, among many other dishes! Look for Torrontés grown in the ridiculously high-elevation vineyards of Salta with flavors of grapefruit and Meyer lemon. That’s not to say you can’t get a quality Torrontés from the Mendoza region where the taste reflects the warmer climate with ripe peaches and guava flavors. Torrontés is another spectacular warm-weather wine.
Finally, we can’t forget to mention bubbles. We know and love Champagne. We know prosecco. But, have we tried Franciacorta? A DOCG zone in Lombardy, Italy, Franciacorta is the only true rival to France’s Champagne. Made in the same traditional manner as Champagne (secondary fermentation taking place in the bottle), Franciacorta’s sparkling wines are made from chardonnay and pinot noir (pino nero) and pinot blanc (pino bianco). Like Champagne, these sparklers spend some time on the yeast lees, from 18 months to 60 months for riserva. The zone’s recent origins can be traced to an influx of entrepreneurial spirit, such as Maurizio Zanella’s Ca’Del Bosco, whose prestige cuvée Annamaria Clementi is on par with Champagne’s more serious offerings. The Cuvée Prestige is a label that is readily found in Las Vegas and what I call “joyful bubbles” for its taste, quality and value. Another notable producer is Vittorio Moretti’s Bellavista, who showcases a distinctive house style with elegant and creamy mouthfeel. Like Champagne, Franciacorta goes with virtually anything on the table.