Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Define a "Light" White Wine

"A clean, refreshing white wine with a hint of citrus, from lemon and grapefruit to key lime pie.  A seam of mineral, grass and green apple would be nice.  A wine that would go perfectly with appetizers and lighter fare, especially seafood."

For many people, the first stop on the Clean & Refreshing Express is Sauvignon Blanc, one of the most famous white wine varietals.  Try Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand and from Northern France (Loire and Pouilly-Fumé) if you like crisp, refreshing flavors of green apple and grass.  Many California Sauvignons are called “Fume Blanc”, but it’s the same grape.  But don't stop with here...

Many people think of Chardonnay as a rich, buttery white, but those adjectives describe warm-climate, California versions of the grape, often with a lot of oak.  For another take on Clean & Refreshing, check out Chardonnay from Northern France – Chablis, Burgundy and Pouilly-Fuissé, or from New Zealand.  But don't stop here either...

Pinot Grigio (AKA Pinot Gris) often offers characteristically refreshing, tart flavors of grapefruit and green apple.  Pinot Grigio is often a better deal than the better-known Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.

Other white wine grapes that occasionally hitch a ride on the Clean & Refreshing Express include Riesling  (clean, lemon and mineral flavors), and dry Semillon.

Caveats, provisos & blatant excuses:  Wine styles differ hugely.  Sauvignon Blanc can be made in styles that range from dry to off-dry, to unctuously sweet as a dessert wine.  The typical wines made from these grapes, in our experience, ride the Clean & Refreshing express, but there are cousins that... don't.

So while we're thinking about exceptions, here's another general category that's often clean and refreshing with mineral, citrus and bright fruit.  I'm talking, of course, about Rosé .  Forget sweetish White Zinfandel.  I'm talking about dry rose, a little-known pure pleasure that's produced everywhere, but is unfairly neglected.  One of my favorites is Rosé made from Grenache in the Rhone, with clean mineral and cherry flavors and a whiff of herbs that transport the unprepared to a café table in Aix-en-Provence.  Not bad for $10-15.

These are great wines for light foods and a hot summer day. 

Or any food on a cold, miserable March day that you wish was a hot summer day.

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