In recent weeks, I haven’t crossed paths with a single person who hasn’t been thrilled to embrace the better times (and weather!) ahead as we wave goodbye to the frozen despair of winter.
And with longer days and warm, generous splashes of sunshine, now seemed like the perfect time to celebrate a collection of clean, fresh and deliciously succulent white wines; refreshing picks that offer up a mouthful of springtime in each glass.
And it should really come as no surprise that these bright spring wine picks are also perfect choices to have on-hand for both enjoyment on the patio as sipping wines – or to be served alongside nature’s early bounty, if you plan to enjoy amazing farm fresh asparagus, leeks, sweet peas and greens.
So, here it is – our list of 5 white wines you should embrace with same enthusiasm and vigour we’re all sharing around the arrival of spring!
From absolutely bone dry with mouth-watering acidity, to richest, thickest most unctuous sweet wines on the planet, to vibrant effervescent sparkling wines, it’s possible that Riesling produces a wider range of styles than other wine grape on earth. With that said, it’s the drier half of the spectrum we’re talking about here. A touch of sweetness – or what the Germans call a “Kabinett” style – combines a slightly lower level of alcohol with juicy lemon, lime and grapefruit flavours to produce a perfect patio style sipping wine. German Rieslings (here’s a can’t miss pick!) can be some of the most confusing and difficult wines for anglos to relate to – but, as a general rule, look for Rieslings that include the word Kabinett on the label at or around $17-$22 per bottle and you’ll be in for a treat.
Spanish wine sales are booming – now leading the world as the #1 exporter of wine. And we wine lovers have barely scratched the surface of what Spain has to offer with several indigenous Spanish grapes still languishing in relative obscurity, but ready to explode onto to the world wine consciousness. Exhibit A? Meet Verdejo: Spain’s answer to Sauvignon Blanc. This white grape hails from Rueda in northwestern Spain, where higher altitude vineyards and cooler climates conspire to produce ideal, if somewhat unexpected, conditions for growing light, refreshing and aromatic white wines. If you like Kiwi or Cali Sauvignon Blanc’s, you’re gonna love this juice. It’s killer next to fish tacos – vibrant citrus, gooseberry and herbaceous notes in the wine play perfectly off flavours like cilantro, jalapeno and lime. The best part? Totally credible and delicious expressions of Verdejo can be had for $12 to $15 per bottle.
3.) Chenin Blanc
Pineapple, passion fruit, mango, peach, mandarin orange, apple blossom, ginger and a characteristic dose of honey. If it sounds to you like there’s a lot happening here – you’re right! Chenin Blanc is an incredibly aromatic, complex and delicious glass full of tropical fruit and flowers. How this white has remained as relatively underappreciated at it is today is something of a mystery unto itself. This wine is grown all over the world – from France to South Africa, from South America to South Australia – and is quite simply one of the best food wines going. From lighter Asian fare to spring salads and lighter cheeses, there may be no better wine for springtime on the patio than this one. While loftier, more expensive examples have the potential to age for decades (I’m speaking at a tasting this week which includes at 1947 bottling of Chenin Blanc from a very fine French producer), young, refreshing and un-oaked editions are top of mind for this spring list. Look for dry or just slightly off-dry bottlings and aim to spend at least $14-$18 if you want to get a real sense of what this grape is all about.
Haven’t heard of Perallada before? That’s ok – because you may well have heard of the most famous use of this under-the-radar white grape, in the production of Spain’s sparkling wines called Cava. As one of a handful of different grapes used in better Cavas, Perallada hasn’t received the attention or acclaim that comes with being bottled as a single varietal wine. In recent years, a small number of producers have begun to appreciate the potential of this grape, and new varietal bottlings from in and around Penedes are popping up. Think of this wine as Spain’s answer to Chablis – a lemony fresh wine with yeasty, biscuit notes and notable minerality. Perallada seems most at home next to mild spring veggies, like asparagus, sweet peas or a selection of your favourite lightly dressed greens. Because it’s a bit of a novelty, you’ll have to spend a bit more to get a real sense of what this grape is all about – but if you spot one at or around $20-$30 per bottle, snap it up ASAP. You won’t be disappointed.
Sure, Pinot Grigio can be a safe bet as it’s the usually the kind of wine that won’t offend anyone, and in that sense, Gewurztraminer could be looked upon as Pinot Grigio’s evil twin – a wine with no shortage of personality; a wine that will make your palate dance, rather than yawn. With this in mind, it’s impossible to talk about springtime fare without giving a nod to Gewurztraminer. From the bone dry and oily rich style of great bottles from Alsace, to leaner and more restrained examples from Germany, New Zealand or British Columbia, this spring I’ll be drinking Gewurz til it hurts. This is an intensely aromatic white with floral, perfumed notes that meet up with deep sweet fruit like yellow apples, papaya and pineapple. Now we’re into a white that’s got the stuff to strut proudly next to white meat, fuller flavoured fish and seafood, either Thai or Indian curry – or sunny afternoons.