If this week is any indication of impending summer heat, we might be in trouble.
Whether you are locking yourself away in your air-conditioned cave or braving the heat poolside, you will need something to survive the kids being home from school. I’m assuming that “something” will have a percentage of abv associated with it.
I admit to loving an ice-cold beer by the pool or while I’m manning the grill, but that can be short-lived in this Death Valley heat. One too many beers can lead to that bubble-guts, bloated feeling that we all dread, a situation I refer to as “beered out.”
For this reason, my light, crisp white wine consumption becomes embarrassingly frequent and borderline excessive.
The mention of Bordeaux causes most consumers to envision a red wine, but white wines made from Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillion, Muscadelle and to a lesser degree Ugni Blanc, Colombard, Sauvignon Gris, Merlot Blanc, Ondenc and Mauzac account for 10 percent of the total production.
The fact that these white grapes are used in sweet, dry and sparkling production remains a testament to their versatility. Most of these white wines, like their red counterparts, are a blend of varieties taking into account winemaking styles, appellation typicity and local regulations.
Although there are some examples with a hefty price tag, mostly the dessert wines, much of the white wine production drinks above its retail price point. This bargain pricing, although multifactorial, largely comes from the lack of popularity in our domestic markets. So the next time you go to reach for your New Zealand or California Sauvignon Blanc, give some white Bordeaux a try.
Pinot Blanc (aka Pinot Bianco, Weißburgunder, Klevner), the white berried mutation to Pinot Noir, has had little following in the marketplace for decades. Varietal wines are produced, but due to uncontrolled yields, the outcome remains rather lackluster.
Shamefully, most wine-growing countries relegate this grape to a work-horse “filler” used ideally for blending, especially in sparkling. With historical roots in Burgundy and even once as an accepted blending partner for Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Pinot Blanc has fallen on hard times.
A few regions, however, continue to give more respect to Pinot Blanc with lower, controlled yields and use of wine-making techniques that enhance its smoky perfumed attributes. Germany, Austria and Alsace have continued to demonstrate worthwhile examples. With slightly less aromatics and less body versus Pinot Gris, this variety continues to struggle for market attention but provides great value and a crowd-pleasing feature for the novice as well as discerning wine ponce.
Sometimes you want a wine that is light, refreshing and not overly cerebral. These elements perfectly describe the wines of Vinho Verde, Portugal. A denomination in the northwestern part of Portugal, Vinho Verde’s green connotation refers to the youthfulness of its wines, not the color. Although there are some varietal examples, most wines are a blend of different allowed grape varieties: Alvarinho (Albariño), Arinto, Avesso, Azal, Loureiro and Trajadura.
There are some slight variations in wines due to grapes used and climate and soil variations between the nine subregions. Most regional whites, however, are light, crisp, petillant, and lower in alcohol (9 percent to 11 percent abv). So for the temperance-minded consumer, you can swig these down with almost blatant disregard. They also make a good starting point for any wine-based cocktails that you want to serve poolside.
Remember to keep those wines cold as you sip in this intense heat. There are many products such as wine sleeves and chillers, but I find a metal bucket, ice, water and salt make the easiest and longest-lasting example.
And just to nauseate the wine snobs out there, out of desperation, I have put some ice in my white wine to keep it cold … in a red solo cup. The latter comment mainly comes from my inability to have glass by the pool, but that’s another story.
Château Roc Meynard Bordeaux Blanc Sec, 2016
Bordeaux, France, $18.99
This wine blends 50 percent Sauvignon Blanc and 50 percent Sémillion, allowing the two to come together over six months of stainless steel aging. The nose has evident tropical fruit, especially citrus with a slight floral/blossom note. The palate is dry, as the term “sec” on the label indicates, with bright mineral-laden acidity, medium-plus body (likely from the weightier Sémillion variety), well-in-check alcohol, and flavors mirror the nose. The wine finishes with a palate-cleansing tart citric acid quality. This has the texture to stand up to grilled seafood, the elegance to have with raw oysters or clams and the price to just chill it down and sip by the pool.
Selbach-Oster Pinot Blanc, 2016
Mosel, Germany, $21.99
Don’t let the pale color fool you; this wine is packed with aromatics and flavor. The nose has aromas of tropical fruit (kiwi), rich orchard fruit (pear, peach) and a sweet blossom note. Although the label states dry, I have a slight off-dry perception with crisp malic acid apple-like acidity. The body is medium but with an interesting, viscous-like fat mouth-feel. Flavors of orchard fruit (apple, pear), slight lemon curd and a hint of slate-driven minerality fill the palate along with a brine-like finish. Pair this with salty soft pretzels, stinky soft cheeses and evening boat rides.
Encostas do Lima, 2016
Vinho Verde DO, Portugal, $11.99
This 80 percent Loureiro and 20 percent Trajadura wine comes from the Lima subregion of Vinho Verde. The wine stays true to expectations with aromas of lime, citrus blossom, orchard fruit (apple, pear) and wet stone. The palate has a slight off-dry element that hides behind a bright palate-cleansing acidity. Flavors of tropical citrus and orchard fruit meld into a tangy mineral finish. I’d pair this wine with creamy cheeses, ceviche and beach/pool therapy.