Vibrant Whites from Spain
Sizzling summer temperatures create unique wine choices for those of us who are not beer lovers. A classic warm weather white, Sauvignon Blanc, has become more varied in style depending upon where it is made. While they almost all share light-bodied weight (remember skim milk), the aromas and flavors differ greatly. If grassy, racy, and herbal characteristics are what you love, the Marlborough region of New Zealand is what you want. If you want a more minerally expression with less of the New Zealand citrus and fruit, Sancerre or Pouilly Fume from the Loire Valley in France is the ticket. If you want a style of Sauvignon Blanc that is somewhere in the middle of the style of these two regions, try the wines from Casablanca Valley in Chile. Riesling from Germany is fantastic, but be aware of the differences in regions. The lighter, elegant Rieslings come from the Mosel and Rheingau; richer and rounder styled Rieslings are from Phalz. If the New World, more fruit forward style is what you like, explore the wines of Columbia Valley in Washington or Adelaide in Australia.
While I love Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling, I have been really enjoying white wines of Spain the last few years. Albarino, Verdejo and Godello from Galicia located in the northwest part of Spain. These wines have great acidity, minerality and subtle fruit, with no one attribute dominating. The alcohol levels are moderate and complexity is outstanding. In addition to a citrus and melon notes, these wines always have a very subtle nuttiness that adds a wonderful nuance to the wine. I was recently in Oklahoma City selecting wines for an event for 100 people. When I made my selection of Martin Codax Albarino, the merchant told me he has never received a request for Albarino for a party, let alone for 2 cases. I would venture to say that this would have been a similar response in most states on the east and west coasts, not just in the midwest. As it turns out, the Albarino was the most popular of four wines being offered (by the way, the second most popular was a Washington State Riesling, Kung Fu Girl from Charles Smith). Spanish whites may not be on your radar now but I strongly urge you to explore them.
Here is something to think about as you entertain this summer. When selecting wine, specifically white wine for a group of people, there are several different attributes in a wine that I look for. Firstly, the wine must have intensity of flavor. We all want flavor intensity in a wine that is pleasing to the palette without being overwhelmed. Secondly, balance in the wines’ components. Are the fruit, acid, tannin and alcohol all complimenting each other without one overwhelming another? This is especially important as a balanced wine, especially one with good acidity, will always pair well with a variety of different foods. Also in regards to balance, Spanish wines are made with a judicial amount of oak or sometimes not at all (stainless steel fermented), so the elegance and fruit in the wine shows through without weighing down your palette. Lastly, the wine must possess value. Does the enjoyment of the wine match or exceed my expectation vs the price I paid? I have rarely been disappointed in this regard with Spanish whites. Whatever the factor is for you in making your white wine decision this summer… flavor, balance, lighter style, price, food pairing ability, warm temperatures, Spanish whites will pleasantly please and keep you coming back.
I am offering 3 Summer Wine Classes in Flemington on July 31, August 7 and August 21 (all the details are at http://theeducatedgrape.com). Class 3 on August 21 will focus on the wines of Spain and white wines will certainly be highlighted. It will be a great opportunity to learn more and taste for yourself how wonderful they are, especially when paired with food. I look forward to seeing you there.
White wine recommendations under $20:
La Cana Albarino, Rias Baixas 2011
Martin Codax Albarino, Rias Baixas 2011
Vina Godeval Godello, Valdeorras 2010
Shaya Verdejo, Rueda 2010
Wine recommendation for $30:
Avanthia Godello, Valdeorras 2011. It possesses all the great attributes but is barrel fermented so it has more richness and complexity. This fuller flavor and texture is woven in nicely without being overwhelming. A wine for those who have to have something more full bodied.