Grape varieties (like our clothes) fall in and out of style.
The changing seasons certainly help to determine what we sip (and wear). After all, winter reds pair well with savory slow-cooked foods, and crisp whites are a refreshing break from the summer heat. But large-scale changes in wine buying are not as easy to explain or predict.
Whether we are influenced by culinary trends, Hollywood films or clever advertising, one thing is for sure: Today’s wine drinker is much more willing to experiment with new grape varieties and wine styles.
In the case of summer whites, the sugar-laden wines of the 1950s and 1960s have given way to today’s drier styles, which means aromatic whites with plenty of crisp acidity to excite the palate.
Popular, easy to say and fairly predictable, Chardonnay is a fine example of a crisp, refreshing white. Not a bad choice, but the same could be said for your favorite pair of jeans.
Trendier whites are out there and easy to find if you know a few key varieties. GrÃ¼ner Veltliner from Austria, Sauvignon Blanc from France’s Loire Valley and Portugal’s Vinho Verde make great aperitif wines. Light in body and high in acid, they make your mouth water and get the gastric juices flowing.
New Zealand’s Pinot Gris and Viognier from France’s RhÃ´ne Valley are a bit softer in acid with more body and pair famously with the Mediterranean flavors of summer. To balance spice, it is hard to go wrong with a Kabinett-level (the lowest of the six levels of Germany’s highest-quality wine), off-dry Riesling.
Enjoying new flavors is fun. And unlike big reds, youthful whites are moderately priced, making the prospect of trying on something new a bit more savory.
When exploring whites, understand that high-acid wines are crafted to go with food. Sipped alone, these wines can become uncomfortable to the palate and leave you feeling like you sucked on a lemon. So set out a plate of goat cheese and crusty bread, invite a few friends over and pop the corks of some fashionably unfamiliar whites. It’s hip, conversational and might make a better summertime match for your next patio party. And no, that new white does not make you look fat.
Marianne Frantz, CWE and founder of the Cleveland Wine School, was joined by the Cleveland NEOenophiles in selecting and sampling wines for this month’s Cellar Notes.
2003 Nobilo Pinot Gris “Icon Estates,” Marlborough, New Zealand ($18): Medium-gold color with ripe apple, pear, nutty aromas. Medium acidity and a long, creamy finish make this wine great with food or as a treat on its own.
2003 ChÃ¢teau de Montfort Vouvray, Loire Valley, France ($18): Fresh pear, white blossom, honey and lime make this a great wine for summertime sipping; balanced with medium alcohol, soft acidity and lingering finish.
2004 E. Guigal Condrieu, Northern RhÃ´ne Valley, France ($40): Green-gold color with lots of lemon curd, tropical fruit and floral aromas. Medium body with an oily texture makes the wine an exotic meal in a glass.
2003 HÃ¶pler GrÃ¼ner Veltliner, Burgenland, Austria ($16): Light bodied with lively acidity and lots of floral, citrus and apricot aromas. The crisp, dry finish has a hint of mineral, making it a great summertime starter.
2004 Les Belles Vignes Sancerre, Loire Valley, France ($20): Pale straw yellow, medium bodied, crisp acidity with citrus, orange and lemon zest aromas. The flinty finish balances herbaceous notes and medium alcohol.
2004 Avery Lane Riesling, Columbia Valley, Washington ($9): Off-dry, medium-light body and mouthwatering acidity is balanced by aromas of spice, lychee nut and citrus blossom; perfect partner with spicy foods from the grill.