Hailing from Greece, Germany and France, these relatively unexplored wines are well worth looking into.
There is a class of automobiles and motorcycles that many call exotic. Those include the classic imports: Ferrari, Lamborghini, Aston Martin, Porsche, McLaren, Ducati, Aprilia and the like. The word exotic, itself, means: introduced from another country or not native; it also means: strikingly exciting, mysteriously different or unusual. In wine, there are hundreds of different varieties. Many of them are familiar to us, but there are hundreds of exotic white wines that perhaps you have not yet had an opportunity to take a spin with. Here, three thrilling examples of what you are missing.
Home to dozens of exotic grape varieties, Greece’s archipelago is ancient. Yet only recently has Greek wine enjoyed a fashionable comeback in the palates of wine lovers. The white grape leading this resurgence is called Moscofilero. It is pronounced just as it looks, with an emphasis on the “feel” syllable. It has a slightly pinkish hue when ripe on the vine. It has an amazingly intense, pungent aroma and flavor consisting of floral components, like jasmine, tea rose and chamomile tea, along with typical citrus: aromas that can beguile the senses. It holds acidity well, and should always have a crisp, not tart edge; it is almost always dry. The wine is a terrific match with almost anything that comes from the sea: Clams, mussels, grilled octopus and salads with feta are heavenly.
I also love the wine with complex, flavorful Turkish, Hungarian and Moroccan dishes: stews and slow-cooked meats. The lovely spiciness and aromatics of this wine go hand-in-hand with those types of flavors. My favorite example comes from Domaine Skouras, which is located in the Nemea of the Peloponnese. Owner and Dijon-trained winemaker George Skouras established the winery in 1986, and has augmented the quality of indigenous Greek varieties to another level. The 2012 Moschofilero is a shining example of the heady, hedonistic aromas this grape is so well known for, as well as crisp, balancing acidity that lends a mineral-laden, long aftertaste. Once you taste this wine, you will never forget it. Boutari also makes a fine example.
Germany is no newcomer to the white-wine scene. Riesling has held roots as one of the world’s greatest white wines for centuries. One of Riesling’s offspring happens to also be one of the great exotic whites of the world. Scheurebe (shoy-reh-ba) is hugely aromatic. It exhibits fresh orange, tangerine and grapefruit aromas, with riper examples adding orange-flower water, glace apricots and cured lemon peel to the mix. It can be made bone dry to lusciously sweet.
The best will always balance tastes, although some examples gain fattiness and richness. It is also grown in Austria, but it earns more notoriety for its German examples, particularly from the Pfalz. Th e 2012 Pfeffi ngen Dry Scheurebe is one of my favorites. I love this wine for its exuberant, luxurious flavors; quite simply, it is too easy to drink! Th ere are bright and perfectly ripe fruit aromatics, combined with an uncommon purity of flavor. Th is wine excels with raw ingredients. Can you say sushi and sashimi? Even a garlic and cream dressing-laced kale salad does well with this wine. MÃ¼ller-Catoir is another reliable address for top flight Scheurebe.
Burgundy is home to the world’s greatest Chardonnays. But few know that there is a small appellation around the village of Bouzeron that is home to a unique, exciting grape variety called AligotÃ© (uh-lee-go-tay). It is sometimes used in sparkling wine in other regions, but its greatest expression comes from this small pocket of vineyards in the south of Burgundy, known as the CÃ´te Chalonnaise. AligotÃ© is filled with bright acidity, almost Chablis-like, but the flavors are more akin to candy corn, grapefruit, sugar cane and pears. It is always light-bodied, and is a buoyant wine at the table.
It is wonderful with scallops, pea soup, salads with topped with baconâ€”yes, and I’ve had these together. It is a wonderful starter and cocktail wine as well. Perhaps the best example is that from Domaine A. & P. de Villaine. A. & P. stands for Aubert and Pamela de Villaine. Th is is their home estate in Bouzeron, which is now run by their nephew Pierre de Benoist. Th e grapes are grown organically, and the resulting wine is like a breath of fresh air: no oak, just perfectly ripe fruit with that typical, candy-corn flavor and touch of mineral. It finishes clean and long. Domaine Roulot also makes a terrific example, but from different vineyards, and is even harder to find.
Photos courtesy Weingut MÃ¼ller-Catoir