All White Now
There’s a sort of unwritten truism that “seasoned” or “sophisticated” wine lovers naturally gravitate towards red wines. The assumption being, I suppose, is that the darker colour, achieved through fermentation with the grape’s skin in contact with its juice, promises additional complexity and intensity.
On paper, this isn’t a bad theory. Recently, though, at least two of my friends – both of whom have what I would call “developed” palates – have admitted their preference for whites wines over red. There may be something seasonal to it, in that we tend to drift to wines that are a bit lighter and that can be served with a decent chill on them when the clime gets scorching. Thing is, the summer so far hasn’t really been all that hot.
My own observations suggest that within a certain price range (namely, sub-$20, ie., the price that people in my snack bracket can afford to drink fairly regularly…okay, maybe sub-$15), white wines seem a tad more interesting and individual. It could also be the case that red wines in this range suffer more from the kind of global homogeneity that makes reds from one place taste pretty much like those made in other places.
Whatever the reason for the move to white, a few affordable examples have washed over my palate recently that are worth checking out now that summer is more or less finally here.
Fetzer Valley Oaks Pinot Grigio 2012 (750mL, 12.5% ABV, $12.00,)
A bit more interesting than many of the Grigios out there (you know the ones I’m talking about; the ones that taste more like tap water than anything grape-related), in fact, it’s a bit more Gris, than Grigio, stylistically speaking. Ripe melon, baked apple, peach and a hint of clove on the nose with flavours to match. A crowd-pleaser.
Fetzer Sundial Chardonnay 2012 (750mL, 13% ABV, $12.00)
Sweet pear, tropical fruit, vanilla and baking spice aromas with some slightly toasty notes. Round, smooth, and well-balanced with flavours suggesting tropical fruit and ripe apple. Quite elegant and not dominated by oak.
Fetzer Shaly Loam Gewurztraminer 2012 (750mL, 12% ABV, $12.00)
I used to drink this by the bucketful as a university student. Tasting it again much (much) later, I can see why. Simply put, it’s a lot of fun. Characteristic “Gewurz” aromas of lychee, rose petal, and apricot give way to an off-dry, intensely fruity palate gushing with honeyed apricot, lychee syrup, and ginger. Chill well and enjoy on its own or with mildly spicy dishes.
Gewurztraminer Reserve 2012 (Cave de Beblenheim, 750mL, 13% ABV, $17.00)
Alsace is generally considered to be the region where the Gewurztraminer grape shows its best. Like the Fetzer version above, this French example shows the expected aromas of lychee, rose petal, and mild spice, with some flower blossom and anise thrown in. Quite full and rich, drier than the Fetzer but not bone-dry. Lots of lychee, orange peel, fennel, and dash of spice. Long on the finish and well-balanced.
Chardonnay “Reserva Especial” 2013 (Cono Sur, 750mL, 13.5% ABV, $13.00)
Chile’s Cono Sur winery has always been a “go-to” when looking for wines that typically punch above their weight when in come to deliverables for the dollar. It’s reserve Chardonnay carries on the tradition. Pineapple, mango, honeydew melon, lime and some toasty oak notes interweave in the aroma. It’s mid-weight on the palate with nice integration of the fruit and oak components. Melon, citrus and some toasty/vanilla flavours are enlivened by zesty acidity and a nice mineral kick on the finish.