Welcome to part two of White Wines to Seek out in 2017, a series intended to inspire a little adventure in your wine drinking life. If you haven’t already, check out part one for additional suggestions. Here we go…
From Portugal, a place I am dying to visit one day, Vinho Verde translates to green wine; green in this case means young, as many of the wines are released just 3 to 6 months after the harvest. Vinho Verde is both the name of the wine and the name of the region, the largest in Portugal and one where white wine is dominant. The wines are often a blend of grapes, none of them very well-known other than Alvarinho (called Albariño in Spain) . These wines are vibrant, refreshing, low alcohol, often spritzy, and incredibly affordable. The value proposition is hard to beat (It is very easy to find a bottle of Vinho Verde under $10!), but I am also recommending this wine because it is one of the friendliest matches for foods that can be difficult to pair with wine such as asparagus, Indian and Mexican cuisines, vinaigrette, and so on. If you like to cook (or eat) Vinho Verde is an indispensable food companion. Or, just crack it on a hot day by the pool. That’s fun, too.
Try Quinta da Aveleda, a classic in the light, spritzy style that lends Vinho Verde such charm. It should run you less than $10 and is widely available.
Warning: I’m going into serious wine geek territory with this one.
I’m including this suggestion as much for myself as for you because Orange Wine is my blind spot; a category that I tend to avoid. So what is Orange Wine, exactly? In short, it is a white wine made like a red. In typical white wine production, after the grapes are crushed the grape skins are immediately discarded leaving the juice to ferment alone. In the case of Orange Wines, the skins are left in contact with the juice resulting in a darker color and also more weight, texture, and tannin. In reality, the color of these wines is not strictly orange, it ranges from golden to rosy to amber to copper depending on the grape variety and the length of skin contact. I’ve tasted many examples, and I’ll be honest I don’t really get them. Some are like sour beer meets funky cider, others have flavors like smoked apricots and sandalwood. They can be quite pungent. They all have some degree of tannin that expresses itself as a dry sensation down the sides of the tongue. To me they’ve always been more confusing than pleasurable. However, in an effort to broaden my horizons, I resolve to turn up the volume on my curiosity when I come into contact with Orange Wines this year, to approach them with an adventurous, rather than critical, spirit. And, I’m also going to seek out more opportunities to taste them with food, as that’s when the people I know who genuinely enjoy these wines think they really shine.
Georgia (the country, not the state) is the historic home of Orange Wines, having made them for centuries. I recommend seeking out a Georgian bottle or two – look for a producer called Pheasant’s Tears – to get a sense of what traditional Orange Wines are like. After that if you are still game, look to Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Spain, California, or New York for additional examples.
OK, this is the one I don’t want to tell you about because I want to keep to myself, but that I have to tell you about because it deserves to be known and you deserve to discover it. I know that you probably looked at the word Muscadet in the header and your brain jumped to Muscat or Moscato and then it jumped to sweet. Muscadet is not sweet. Ever. It has nothing to do with Muscat/o. It is the name of a region on the western edge of the Loire Valley in France. The grape variety is something few have heard of called Melon de Bourgogne. I’m convinced that the confusion over the region’s name and lack of recognizable grape variety have kept this wine under the radar, and because of that you can find excellent bottles around $15. Muscadet can accurately be described as crisp and fresh but that’s not all there is to it. It’s also has a creamy/silky texture you’d typically ascribe to full-bodied wines like Chardonnay. That’s why I love it so. It’s a seamless marriage of opposites. It’s everything in one modestly priced package. If you like oysters, this is the definitive oyster wine. If you don’t, it pairs beautifully with a wide range of foods from sushi to cheese to veggie pasta to pork barbecue. Muscadet is versatility in a bottle.
My all-time favorite producer is Domaine de la Pépière, which makes a number of different bottlings. The entry-level is around $17. If you can’t find it in your area, choose a bottle that is from the Sevre et Maine sub-region, which is where the best quality wines come from and is always clearly stated on the label. Important to note: do not drink Muscadet straight out of the fridge cold. Temperature matters. Take it out about 20 minutes before you pour yourself a glass or risk missing out on the true nature of this wine.
I hope you’ll try one or two of these and let me know what you think in the comments. Happy drinking!