Tue 22 Apr 2008
I don’t know what the weather is like in your neck o’ the woods, but here in what’s called the Mid-South, the corner where Tennessee, Mississippi and Arkansas touch — well Tennessee and Arkansas don’t touch because this big-ass river flows between —
the weather is absolutely gorgeous (after inordinate rain), and I wish it would never get hotter, as vain a wish as humankind ever made, because by July here it will be insufferable.
Anyway, since the clime is mild and pleasant and enjoyable, I offer six white wines, ranging from about $9 to about $20, that will serve you well in this transitional season.
Let’s start with Twin Vines Vinho Verde 2007, from the sprawling Vinho Verde (“green wine”) region of northern Portugal, which, oddly, lies to the north (mainly the north) and south of the Douro river and intrudes between the port vineyards and the coastal town of Oporto that is the center of the port trade. So, after that little geography lesson, this Vinho Verde ’07, made by the Jose Maria da Fonseca winery, is exactly what you want in this wine; it’s notably clean and crisp, slightly effervescent, light, delicate and refreshing in its lemon-lime, grapefruit and limestone elements with a hint of talc and gunpowder. Yeah, it sort of tickles the nose. The grape varieties are loureiro 42%, trajadura 39%, pederna 19%. A simple and charming aperitif. Good+. About $9. Palm Bay Imports, Boca Raton, Florida.
The Vino dei Fratelli Pinot Grigio delle Venezia 2006 is as good as many examples at twice the price. It’s quite dry and crisp, weaving a dominant lemon character with a hint of lemon balm, with cloves, almond and almond blossom and a bit of dried thyme and tarragon. The texture is attractively silky, almost powdery, yet the wine displays crackling acid for backbone and a tide of limestone on the finish. Very Good, and at about $9, a Great Bargain. Imported by Quintessential, Napa, California.
Here’s an unusual blend of white grapes. Pillar Box White 2006, produced by Henry’s Drive in the Padthaway region of South Australia, combines 66% chardonnay with 20% sauvignon blanc and 14% of the Spanish verdelho variety. The result is a wine that feels pale gold and green in every respect, in color, of course, but also (trying to perform a feat of synesthesia by translating color into smell) in its jasmine and honeysuckle scents accented by roasted lemon, lime peel, pink grapefruit and pear. It’s pretty heady stuff. A few minutes in the glass bring in notes of almond and almond blossom, yellow plum, damp stone. Incredibly crisp and deftly balanced, the acid chimes like a gong though the wine’s texture is dense, almost lush. This was terrific with grilled swordfish marinated with soy sauce, lime juice and zest, garlic and freshly grated ginger. Very good+, and at about $12, it’s another Great Bargain. Imported by Quintessential, Napa, California.
There’s a hint of coyness about the label of the Clayhouse Adobe White 2007, Central Coast. If you add up the percentages of the blend of grapes listed on the label — chenin blanc 34%, chardonnay 17%, roussanne 16%, viognier 11% — the keen-eyed among you will notice that the figures come only to 78 percent. The missing 22 percent is made of princess grapes, a variety not sanctioned as legal for making wine by the federal TTB (Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau). Will the grape ever be permitted on the roster of “real” wine grapes; one’s reaction could be, “Oh, who cares?” but the princess grape certainly lends this spare, almost elegant wine interesting touches of spice and fresh flowers, a sort of amalgam of cloves, roses and jasmine. The wine also offers orange blossom and pear, a hint of lush peach balanced by the slight astringency of grapefruit and a cool mineral element. A little sweetness comes across as juicy ripeness. The roussanne is given a little oak; the rest of the wine was made in stainless steel. This goes down almost too easily; LL and I drank the bottle standing in the kitchen, eating manchego cheese and flatbread while trying to decide what to have for dinner after one of those long days at work. Um, I’m not sure what we ever decided. Very Good. About $15.
I’m an unabashed fan of the X Winery ES Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc from Lake County. For 2007, the wine is tremendously clean, fresh and crisp, boldly spicy and flavorful without resorting to the brash vegetal and herbal excesses with which sauvignon blancs from New Zealand can sometimes assault us. Not that the X Winery ES Sauvignon Blanc 2007 doesn’t just jump from the glass with sprightly notes of pear and melon, lime peel and jasmine, hints of mango and grapefruit, and not that it doesn’t practically vibrate in the glass, it’s so ringingly resonant, but that vibrancy and resonance derive from the purity and intensity of the grape and its minimal treatment in stainless steel, its shimmery luster of minerality. Almost too exciting to use as an aperitif, this would be great with grilled shrimp or mussels or with trout served with lemon-butter and capers. Very good+ About $17.
I served the Hugel et fils Riesling “Hugel” 2005, Alsace, with a pick-up pasta of penne with roasted chicken, roasted red pepper, green olives and chopped kale. This venerable firm’s “Hugel” wines are not estate-produced but are made from purchased grapes derived from long-term contracts, and there’s not a thing wrong with that procedure. This riesling is very dry, crisp and clean, and its tasty lemon and lemon balm flavors, infused with lime and grapefruit, are bolstered with bastions of damp limestone and chalk. The wine is quite spicy, and it displays a hint of the grape’s requisite “petrol” character with touches of pear and, less distinctly, peach. Well-made and attractive. Very good+. About $19 or $20 is the usual price, though on the Internet I have seen a range from $16.50 to $22. Imported by Frederick Wildman & Sons, New York.