It is the perfect time for drinking fine, elegant, full flavored white wines. A long, mild spring evening – the sun is still shining now after 8 pm – and even though it’s (mostly) not quite warm enough to eat outdoors just yet, we can certainly admire the clear, pale blue skies and glorious light on the garden, balcony or even just the window boxes.
A few friends around, some nice home-cooked and seasonal food and we need to get out a decent bottle to suit the occasion, don’t we? So, put aside those refreshing little fridge door, after-work whites for a while and indulge yourself with some wines of substance and style.
So first to Burgundy, the home of gently oaked, medium to full-bodied whites which epitomize the kind of wines we are talking about here. The Macon Milly Lamartine Clos du Four Domaine Cordier 2017 from an excellent producer in the Maconnais region has a fresh, lemony edge to its creamy full-bodied flavors, which would make it a great match for scallops with fresh green pea puree, or a baked sea bass. Moving north to Chablis, an even more mineral, unoaked purity can be found in the Jean-Marc Brocard, Chablis Sainte-Claire 2017. This is another fantastic producer, and the wine goes with oysters or works as an aperitif, while admiring the garden, nibbling on some smoked salmon or salty anchovy toasts.
Elsewhere in France, the Loire is usually seen as a source of lighter, unoaked whites, but the Le Grand Mere Touraine Sauvignon Cuvee Prestige has a good deal more going on, with a weightier, creamier, almost savory edge to it, while retaining traditional grassy sauvignon character. I’d pair it with goats cheese, with swordfish or cod steaks with a spiced crust. And it’s an obvious choice if you are having asparagus, as you should this time of year.
So far, so fairly conventional European elegance… so here is something a bit odd, which would certainly intrigue your guests at this dinner party and take their minds off the fact that you haven’t yet tidied up the garden. Cabernet Sauvignon is, of course, one of those “international” grape varieties grown everywhere, but a white wine made from this classic red grape?
Well, if you keep the juice away from the skins and your fingers crossed, it can be done, as the fascinating Martin Pomfy Cabernet Sauvignon Blanc 2017 demonstrates with a Slovakian wine that will certainly intrigue your wine buff friends, who will savor its fullish, herbal flavors. Serve with any shellfish, fish stews or even charcuterie and lighter Middle Eastern mezze.
Another wine that defies easy classification is the Telmo Rodriguez Mountain Blanco, Malaga – a real gem from the hills north of Malaga in southeastern Spain. The muscatel grape is normally used for dessert wines but here, old bush vines have been coaxed into producing a richly flavored but dry wine, with ripe, tropical fruits. Poultry or lighter meats such as veal escalopes work with it, as well as robust fish tapas-style dishes.
Of course, if you want big ballsy whites, then the southern hemisphere is the place to look. The Mount Brown Estates Pinot Gris, 2016 from a revived estate in the Waipara Valley takes the Alsatian route on pinot gris, picking the grapes late for a lusher style but retaining that characteristic Kiwi freshness and minerality.
Full and rounded, this is for more elaborate fish dishes and would not be out of place with pork belly or big porchetta. Over in Australia, the Mount Horrocks Watervale Clare Valley Semillon, 2016 is a gorgeous take on a grape that can be a bit bland and fleshy for my tastes. This is both creamy, savoury and intense, but with plenty of balancing green apple and pear fruit flavours and a long dry finish. It’s an exceptional dinner party wine, again for fish, poultry or pork.
Finally, for similar purposes, a splendid modern chardonnay, avoiding the over-oaked style that made many turns away from Australian whites. The Bird in Hand Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2017 from 2015’s Wine of the Year Awards Australia is perfectly balanced between gentle citrus and apricot flavors, restrained oak, and an elegant, mouth-filling creamy texture. It’s a great reminder of what great Australian chardonnay is all about.