Light Dry Whites

Refreshing wines for the season

Picture this: You just came home from a day at the beach or playing sports, and you know you are going to have dinner with some friends. You’re hot, and you take a shower. When you get out, your core temperature is still on high.

What is the first wine you want to drink?

The first thing you want to drink is a refreshing, cold, light white wine. Light white wines don’t often get the huge accolades that a big red does. If you do a search for a 100 point light white wine, you probably won’t find one. Yet light white wines often are the perfect wine.

They are perfect when we are not eating red meat. Salads, especially with acidic dressings such as vinaigrettes, are best with light whites. Saut̩ed vegetables with fish and shellfish are a natural pair. Sushi, sashimi and poke are of the same ilk and benefit most from a dry light white. And even soft and semi-soft cheeses Рthink Chevre or mozzarella di bufala Рwill scream for one.

Food pairings are obvious. But the other reason why we love light dry whites is because our palates demand refreshment. That cool blast of citrus flavors and zesty acidity prickles your palate to life. It is akin to the refreshment of ice-cold beer or even lemon-lime soda. I dare say that a 100 point, 15 percent alcohol red wine with enough tannin to cut with a knife does not provide the same satisfaction.

You know what is the “icing on the cake?” Nine times out of 10, light dry whites (LDWs) are less expensive than all other wines. How many Sauvignon Blancs, Rieslings, Gruner Veltliners, Chenin Blancs and Pinot Grigios can you think of that cost more than $50 on a retail shelf? There are not that many. In addition, there are so many other “cool” varietals you probably haven’t had a chance to try. Chilled and served in copious amounts, any of these wines will delight your senses and refresh your palate.

One of my all-time favorite “unknown” wines is the Bourgogne Aligote de Bouzeron. It is made from the Aligote grape in Southern Burgundy, a 25-minute drive from Montrachet, the greatest of all Char-donnay vineyards. And without a doubt, its greatest producer is A&P de Villaine. If you recognize the name, it is with good reason. Aubert de Villaine is co-owner and co-director of the Domaine de la Romanee Conti, Burgundy’s greatest Domaine. This is Aubert and his wife Pamela’s personal estate, where the Aligote is farmed organically. The 2008 vintage is filled with a gorgeous scent of green and yellow citrus zest, along with a candy corn note. It is light and vivacious with a penetratingly long finish. This is a wine you will not soon forget once it has passed your lips.

Albarino is perhaps the trendiest white wine since Pinot Grigio, and for me, the 2008 Pazo de Barrantes from Rias Baixas in Spain is a superb example. The estate is owned by the venerable Marques de Murrietta, who has been making wines since 1852. This ultra-aromatic wine reminds me of honeydew melons, kaffir lime, freshly cut grass and days at the beach. It is zingy and light, with a hint of strawberry lilikoi on the aftertaste. Simply delectable.

California’s superstar LDW is Sauvignon Blanc. And my newest find is the 2008 Illumination from Napa Valley. This gem is grown mostly on the Quintessa estate in alluvial soils, combined with some grapes from cool-temperature sites in Rutherford and around the valley. It has a melodious aroma of sweet grapefruit and passionfruit with a mineral edge. It fills the palate with a hedonistic amount of flavor, but with a counterbalance of acidity and citrus. This is top-notch Sauvignon Blanc.

tagged in Sauvignon Blanc

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