A number of weeks ago, your Rehoboth Foodie (who btw, is doing a true public service in promoting restaurants’ takeout business) asked if I wanted to write wine articles for his Chasing the Grape column. Since I love talking about wine, I of course said yes and immediately started working on an article. A lot has happened since then and the article I wrote before the current health crisis didn’t feel right anymore. So I gave it a bit more thought and tried to think of something that is right for this moment in time. It’s just wine and writing about it seemed so insignificant compared to the suffering and sacrifice all around us. Then it hit me, why not try to leverage my 30-plus years of studying, tasting and loving wine into maybe just a tiny diversion to help us pass a little time, since many of us have so much of that commodity right now.
So I decided to launch the Cuvée Ray Wine Lovers Facebook Group www.facebook.com/groups/CuveeRayWineLovers/ [visit by clicking the hyperlink at the end of this article]. This group is for us to exchange wine tips, suggestions, thoughts, jokes etc. To get the conversation started, I will be publishing content for the group, including these articles in the Rehoboth Foodie’s Chasing the Grape column. But by all means, don’t feel restricted to the topics of the articles … anything wine related is fair game at any time. I hope you will join me in this fun project. Now seems like the time to do so. OK, here goes!
To my fellow red wine drinkers, I ask you to please open your minds to white wine. I PROMISE that if you do, you will open up a whole new world of wine enjoyment. For over 25 years of my 35+ years of drinking, collecting, studying and loving wine, I was in your shoes. I almost exclusively drank red wine. Then, I tasted a white Chateauneuf-du-Pape and it was like a red veil covering my wine-drinking eyes had been lifted. From there, I started trying more and more white wines, and lo and behold, there is a whole other wine world out there that I am now enjoying. Red wine drinkers, please let me help you take this new wine journey.
A first step on this journey is to clear your mind from the white-wine experiences you have had, which I am betting have been primarily limited to trying your friend’s or partner’s Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio (which, btw, once you have come a bit down the new white wine path, you may actually come to appreciate).
OK, once you have cleared your mind of these mediocre, at best, experiences, you might want to start where I did: with the varietals of the Rhone Valley of France. Viognier, Marsanne, Roussanne and Grenache Blanc which, other than Viognier, are mostly blends. These grapes and blends have what red-wine drinkers love: medium to full body, a beautiful finish and perhaps most importantly, complexity. Warning! Some of these wines are considered to be among the best in the world, and they are priced accordingly (between $50 to well over $100 for a great Viognier from the Condrieu region of the Northern Rhone Valley, white Chateauneuf-du-Pape or Hermitage Blanc). So, if you have recently inherited a small fortune by all means try a Beaucastel Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc or a Guigal or Chapoutier White Hermitage, which I had the good fortune of tasting when visiting them in the Rhone Valley. It was among the top 10 wines I have ever tasted! Other much more reasonably priced alternatives include Perrin Cote du Rhone Blanc Reserve or Yalumba Viognier from Australia. For those willing to spend a bit more on their eye-opening white-wine journey, give Bonny Doon Le Cigare Blanc or Tablas Creek, Esprit Blanc a try.
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So if you have stayed with me this far into this article, perhaps you’re prepared to open your mind, your eyes and your palate to these white wines. Others that you may want to try include the amazing white wine from the Rias Baixas region in Northwest Spain, Albarino. This medium- to full-bodied varietal also delivers what the red-wine drinker is looking for with its complex mix of citrus and floral components, beautiful acidity and balance. One of my favorites is Paco & Lola Albarino. Try this with any seafood dish that you might serve with a slice of lemon and I guarantee you will be in for an amazing food/wine experience!
The other night I drank a Villa Sparina Gavi, a complex white with tart pineapple and tangerine overtones made from the Cortese grape grown in the Gavi region of Piedmont in northwest Italy. I had it with a garlic shrimp and basil dish and it was incredible. It was just the type of white wine and food combo that a red wine drinker might love.
If you want to get a bit more “out there” you might want to try a dry Gewürztraminer. I still remember tasting my first one in a restaurant in Los Angeles over 35 years ago at the suggestion of a colleague visiting from Belgium. It is one of a handful of white wines that I always have loved even back when my palate was mostly submerged in red wine. Talk about lush, complex, full bodied with flavors of lychee, assorted spices and flowers. Warning, you may perceive it as sweet even though it is usually dry, as the bursting fruit in this wine gives a perception of sweetness. This is my favorite wine to have with Asian or other cuisine that contains a bit of heat. My personal favorite Gewürztraminer is Trimbach from the Alsace region of France, which is the epicenter of the Gewürztraminer grape.
If you were able to deal with the thought of even the perception of sweetness in a dry wine, and if you are really getting into the white wine groove, you might want to try the unthinkable: a wine with an actual hint of sweetness. I know, this is a tough step for the red-wine drinker and one that some of us can’t fathom and maybe won’t even take. But trust me, a wine with a hint of sweetness, especially with the right food, can be downright breathtaking. If you dare, try a Vouvray (made from the Chenin Blanc grape in the Middle Loire Valley) or a high quality off-dry Riesling such as Freiherr von Heddesdorff, Fienherb from the famed Mosel region of Germany (the designation “Fienherb” means that it is off-dry).
Finally, coming back around to those white wines that you tasted and that turned you off of white wines, once you have sufficiently cleared your head, opened your mind and tasted how great some white wines can be, you should dip your toe back in the pool and try some great Chardonnays, the oft-maligned as nondescript. But they can actually can be delicious, Pinot Grigio (aka Pinot Gris) and Sauvignon Blanc. If you are put off by the grassiness of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, try one from the Loire Valley, such as Lionel Gosseaume, Climat N° 1.
Whew, that was a whirlwind of white wine suggestions for the red-wine drinker and for white wine drinkers who haven’t yet tried these wines! I hope you will try some and please do join me in sharing your wine experiences and thoughts in the Cuvée Ray Wine Lovers Facebook Group www.facebook.com/groups/CuveeRayWineLovers/ .
CLICK HERE to visit and join Ray's Wine Lovers' Facebook Group!