Warm sunshine past 4 o’clock in the afternoon, the thermometer inching slightly upward – and wait – did I just hear a bird singing? I have lived in Minnesota long enough that these signs of spring do not surprise me, but they always do. Don’t get me wrong, I love winter, but there is something about spring that makes me feel adventurous and rather optimistic. And while I don’t subscribe to the hard and fast wine rule of drinking whites in warm weather and reds in cold, it just so happens that the meals I enjoy are directly related to the outdoor temperature.
Because of this, I fall (willing) victim of these cliched pairing rules. So when the temps rise and the birds begin to chirp, the food I crave becomes lighter and brighter. And another sure sign of spring’s arrival appears – my cravings for white wine.
I have a great love of Sauvignon Blanc, particularly from Bordeaux. I enjoy Chardonnay from California’s Russian River Valley. And to say that I am fond of Riesling from Germany is an incredible understatement. I drink them with great regularity and find a sense of comfort in doing so. I am by no means alone. These are mainstream varietals, universally-loved, go-to choices for white wine drinkers everywhere. I am certain we could all happily spend our wine drinking lives staying in those comfortable “wine lanes.” But ask yourself, when was the last time you were surprised by a white wine?
Quite possibly my greatest joy as wine buyer comes from introducing our customers to something new, exciting, and completely off the radar. I have found wines that sit on our shelves but I guarantee many of you have never tried them. It is not due to their price; these are all affordable bottles. I believe it is simply due to lack of introduction. People aren’t going to beat down the door asking for varietals named Furmint, Silvaner, Muller-Thurgau and Gros Manseng unless they have some context and a trusted voice to help bring them to light. (It wasn’t too long ago that I considered obscure white such as Torrontes and Gruner Veltliner as wine only enjoyed by the sommelier set.)
In the spirit of spring, I ask you to meet these interesting whites and consider taking one, two, or all four home to see if they surprise you like I suspect they will.
– Andy Hall, Wine Buyer
Wines to Try:
Maison Legrand Gros Manseng 2014
(Cotes de Gascogne, France) This zesty, dry white displays notes of green apple, Asian pear, and lemon rind. Light and refreshing. Plenty of personality and perfect with grilled shrimp.
Andriano Muller-Thurgau 2014
(Alto Adige, Italy)A german sounding grape from Northern Italy? No wonder folks are confused. Soft tropical fruit and floral aromatics lead into a palate of clean citrus and a bright finish. A salad with poached chicken would be a great match.
Verus Furmint 2015
(Stajerska, Slovenia) This sustainably farmed Furmint comes from Eastern Slovenia near the Croatian border. Extremely fragrant nose of apple, peach, and green herb. Bright acidity and a snappy, mouthwatering finish make this a classic pairing for fish in all its forms.
Gysler Silvaner Halbtrocken 2014
(Rheinhessen, Germany) Frequently overshadowed by the famous Riesling, Silvaners are something to seek out. Often a blending grape, pure Silvaners show notes of bright citrus with a light body and intense minerality. Dry and zesty with a super clean finish. Works magic with the heady spice of Indian cuisine.