WHAT BETTER WAY TO TOAST THE ONSET OF WARMER WEATHER THAN A PATIO SEAT IN THE SUN, AND A CRISP GLASS OF VIN BLANC IN YOUR HAND By David Neiman
With summer approaching faster than you can say “patio season” it is time to start thinking of all the delicious libations one enjoys in the warm weather. And while a frosty beer or frozen cocktail certainly hits the spot at times, there is really no better compliment to a gloriously warm and blue-skyed day than a perfectly chilled (read: not too cold) glass of elegant white wine.
Now, while you are most likely more than familiar with all the usual suspects of the vin blanc pantheon like Chardonnay (in all its many faces), Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, et al., variety is of course the spice of life. So, with that in mind let’s think outside the box and explore a few of the lesser known white varietals that don the shelves of your local liquor and wine store, starting with…
Greco di Tufo
This alluring and graceful wine hails from a region just a hop, skip and a jump away from Naples, Italy, off the shores of the Tyrrhenian Sea. So named after having been brought to Italy by ancient Greek settlers (Greco), and both the town of Tufo and the indigenous soils of the region (tuff, meaning volcanic ash). While many growing regions in the south of Italy enjoy long, balmy warm summers, the Campania region where Tufo lies is at a higher altitude, letting the grapes enjoy loads of sunshine but with cool nights. This results in a highly refined and elegant wine with bright acidity to match the ripeness of the flavours. Expect notes of citrus (lemon and lemon peel, in particular) with orchard fruit, and a pleasing minerality.
Now we head up toward one of the most northerly French wine regions, the Loire, and in particular the sub region of Sevre-et-Maine on the west coast. It is an area dedicated almost entirely to white wine production, and the wine it produces is widely considered to be the pinnacle for pairing with seafood, especially shellfish. Indeed, freshly shucked oysters or steamed mussels matched with Muscadet is one of life’s greatest pleasures. A brief word on the name: confusingly, the word “Muscadet” is sort of a nickname for Melon de Bourgogne, an expat from the Burgundy region roughly three centuries ago. What’s worse is the similarity in name to the grape Muscat, however make no mistake, Muscadet is as similar to Muscat as bananas are to celery. Instead of Muscat’s outrageously fragrant and fruity complexion, expect crisp acidity with notes of peppery spice and a vague saline undertone that betrays its coastal roots.
Lastly, we’ll escape the confines of Europe and head south and across the Atlantic to discover Argentina’s signature white offering: Torrontes. A relative of the aforementioned Muscat grape, this wine is anything but shy. Torrontes positively bursts with exuberance, and while typically dry in terms of actual sugar content it can be expected to offer sweet and heady flower and tropical fruit aromas. On its own you can expect perfumey notes of mandarin, ripe melon, anchored by a strong floral underpinning and medium acidity. That said, it’s perfect for spritzers or a white sangria recipe, and if it’s a hotter-than-hot kind of day and you want a super-chilled wine, this one is a great option.
All three of these wines usually offer tremendous value to boot, however as always it’s worth asking your local wine shop’s expert which one is your best bet.
So, prepare to sit back with a warm breeze in your hair, sunglasses firmly perched on your nose, and a glass of something interesting and new in your hand as you contemplate what, exactly, that cloud looks like.