Keep an open mind when trying these atypical white wines
It is so easy to just buy sauvignon blanc, chardonnay or pinot grigio, but trying the lesser-known varietals can result in happy surprises and enhanced meals.
For instance, I would suggest you match the grillo grape with wahoo, rockfish, or vegetable dishes. A bottle of 2018 Donnafugata Sur Sur Grillo from Sicily represents this ancient indigenous grape at its best as I find everything that this winery produces is quite wonderful. Sur Sur (a small cricket-like insect) is brilliant straw yellow with notes of peach and cantaloupe and scents of wildflowers and mint. Goat cheese would also accompany it well.
Wine Enthusiast placed it on their list of the top 100 wines for 2019 and wrote: “Loaded with fragrance, flavour and finesse, this savoury white pushes all the right buttons, starting with inviting aromas of tropical fruit, citrus and white spring flowers. The fresh, medium-bodied palate doles out honeydew, Meyer lemon and Mediterranean herb alongside crisp acidity and a hint of saline.” $25.60 (Stock #8764).
I know that dry (trocken) rieslings are a large part of this market today, but I still prefer a good old-fashioned, slightly sweet, lower-alcohol German one in a style developed a thousand years ago, such as 2020 Dr. Loosen L Riesling. There is no lack of matchups – mild curries and Thai dishes, sushi, fish, pork or ham.
Cheese-wise, serve Parmesan or a well-aged Gouda. This wine embodies the delicate and racy style that is characteristic of riesling grown in the slate-soil vineyards of the Mosel Valley by a family that has done so for over 200 years. Best of all, it delivers this uniquely delicious and invigorating taste at a very affordable price for everyday enjoyment. It is a bright, refreshing, fruit-driven wine with a juicy mid-palate and a crisp, drying finish.
Wine.com rates it 90/100 and says the 2020 Loosen Dr. L Riesling is "classic, delicious and a smooth experience. It offers alluring aromas and flavours of delicate flowers, ripe apple, green apple, and a hint of mineral notes”. $19.85 (Stock #8577).
Viognier (vee-ohn-yea) is on a similar path as riesling when food pairings are being sought and one my standbys is 2018 Chapoutier Domaine des Granges Mirabel Viognier from a very respected biodynamic producer in the Rhone Valley of France. Viognier is known for its viscosity and in my mind you can almost “feel its thickness” as it is poured. This one displays fine aromas of pear and apricot with a slight hint of marmalade. The palate is wonderfully balanced with crisp acidity complementing the roundness of the wine, flavours of ripe stone fruit lead to an elegant mineral finish. $24.55 (Stock #9454).
I would not be surprised if you found the 2020 Gerard Bertrand Picpoul de Pinet the best example of this grape that you have had recently – or ever. If you have never tried it, here is the scoop: it was planted before the reign of Louis XIV and in 1618 a well-known botanist described it in his book as one of the most renowned grape varieties in the Languedoc region of France.
In order to minimise the risk of oxidation, the grapes are harvested by Bertrand at the time of day when the temperatures are coolest (night and early morning) and taken to the cellar as quickly as possible. The bunches are immediately pressed in a pneumatic press. The must is then put into fermentation, which takes place at low temperatures (16C and 18C) to preserve the aromas as much as possible. The wine is matured in stainless steel tanks on fine lees before being bottled in the spring.
It is a pale-yellow colour with hints of green. On the nose there are citrus and hawthorn aromas. It is deliciously fresh on the palate with beautiful lemony notes and an invigorating finish that pair wonderfully with shellfish or fish. $24.90 (Stock #7256).
I will finish up with a wine to cover most bases, in fact this is what the winery suggests for pairing with their gewurztraminer: foie gras, exotic cuisine, strong cheeses, milk chocolate desserts, fruit salads, lamb with quince, honey and ginger, prawns with mango, pineapple curry, peach crumble, chocolate and finally, strawberry carpaccio.
This is such a delicious grape that I feel that its main enemy is a lack of understanding of its correct pronunciation and therefore a hesitancy to ask for it. Let us put an end to that right now and say “guh-vurt-struh-mee-ner”. This may not sound very French, but I understand that the allegiance of this Alsace area of France has switched from time to time, depending on who won which battle. The German influence on which grapes are planted there is considerable. The name means “spicy traminer” but, as you may know, the German language does have a tendency to join words together. The ultimate wine example of that is their rare and wonderful dessert wine called trockenbeerenauslese; just one word for what we would say in English: “individually selected, dried, late picked, berries”.
Our 2018 Charles Sparr Intuition Gewurztraminer is yellow gold with exotic fruits, passion fruit, lychee, and powerful, rich rose and cardamom aromas. For me it is the number one choice to have with curry dishes of all types. $32 (Stock #7616).
If you take a journey into the unknown with any or all of these wines, please just keep an open mind for experiences that you may not be familiar with as they should be most rewarding.
This column is an advertorial for Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. Contact Michael Robinson at firstname.lastname@example.org. Burrows Lightbourn have stores in Hamilton (Front Street East, 295-1554) and Paget (Harbour Road, 236-0355). Visit www.wineonline.bm