Spring Time is for White (Wine, That Is)
Lettie Teague did a great service for people who love to drink Gruner Veltliner in her recent Wall Street Journal article – including the team at Serious Foodie. It is a great Spring and Summer wine with “bright, lively acidity that pairs well with all kinds of spring food…” with “unusual flavors and aromas, which range from white pepper to citrus and herbs.” It is also the only wine we know which you can pair with asparagus.
While Gruner is one of our favorite white wines for spring food/wine pairing, we wanted to highlight four others that we love to pair with food and share with friends.
Ms. Teague highlighted 3 wines in her article, all under $25: Szigeti Gruner Veltliner nonvintage Brut ($20), Loimer Langenlois Gruner Veltliner Kamptal 2014 ($18), and Malat Gruner Veltliner Kremstal 2012 ($23). The Malat sounds particularly intriguing, “…boldly structured with a powerful acidity…” However, we love the Hermann Moser Karmeliterber Gruner Veltliner 2013 ($19). The Wine Advocate (91 points) says “It shows total citrus focus, linearity and precision, fringed by green pear peel and peppery leaves. Superior freshness and definite ageing potential show in the tingling, invigorating acidity. “
We called Vermentino “Mr. Versatile”, since it works with some mild flavored dishes as well as some strong flavors. We’ve used Vermentino with grilled oysters with spicy vinaigrette, Sicilian-styled Spanish mackerel and eggplant, seafood stew (cioppino), and mussels with a white wine garlic sauce. It even works with other ethnic foods, such as Mexican. While it might be a bit hard to find, we are seeing more and more of this special Italian varietal in larger stores. Our favorite Tuscan Vermentino is Vermentino Bolgheri Guado al Tasso 2014 ($25). Wine Spectator (88 pts.): “A fruity style, offering peach, apricot, melon and floral aromas and flavors. Picks up a hint of white pepper on the juicy finish.” Our go-to version is Costamolino from Argiolas 2014 ($14). You can’t go wrong with the price, and it has a rich, full-bodied balanced texture with flavors of lemon, ginger and nuts.
We love the crisp, refreshing acidity of Sauvignon Blanc in its many forms, even those from France that has some barrel age and sometimes blended with Semillon. Our favorite of the crisp versions tend to be from New Zealand because of the price and exotic fruit notes. One to hunt out is Saint Clair. We were surprised by the flowery, intense aroma that melded into wonderful crisp citrus flavors. This wine is excellent with salads and fish – it was perfect with our grilled salmon and red cabbage and fennel slaw, dressed with our Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette. This wine is always less than $20, and is now easier to find in the US. Other wines to try are Dog Point (one of our all-time favorites), Dashwood, Spy Valley, Craggy Range, and Cloudy Bay.
Tricky to pronounce, Viognier (pronounced “VEE-ohn-yay”) is a white Rhone varietal, found also in many other countries such as Australia, New Zealand, and the US. In the US, it is found in California, Virginia, Texas, Washington, Oregon, and even in the Niagara region. It is a difficult grape, and, unfortunately, there are many poor versions. At its best, it has an alluring aroma of honeysuckle, citrus, lychee, honeydew melon, freshly picked peaches and apricots, – that immediately gets your attention. The flavors are equally alluring. They tend to be lush wines, needed to be matched with stronger flavors. You can substitute medium to full bodied chardonnay wines with viognier wines. Look for the Domaine de Triennes (we like this a lot, especially at $17), or try Yalumba Eden Valley Viognier 2013 ($18; WS 90 pts).
Falanghina [FA-lan-GHEE-nah] is grown in south-central Italy, primarily in the region of Campania. It might be a bit tricky to find, but you will be rewarded. Falanghina has the body, structure, and acidity to hold up with a lot of foods and the tropical fruit notes make it delightful as an aperitif. You’ll find lots of aroma of honeysuckle, stone fruits, honey, with some sweet herbs such as mint. Cantina del Taburno Falanghina 2014 ($17; WS 89 pts) has a nice taste of white peaches, crisp green apples, and mint, but also has a nice mineral taste on a silky-textured frame. It is matches well with prosciutto and melon, caprese salad, and pasta salads with spring vegetables (even artichoke). Also try Mastroberardino ($21; WS 88 pts) and Feudi di San Gregorio ($16; WS 88 pts).