Comfort Wine: White Grapes To Enjoy This Winter
We commence our “Wine Wednesday – Winter White” series through the month of January with essential tips and pairings on white wine grapes, as recommended by Morton’s Certified Sommelier and Beverage Manager, Sara Fasolino. Drink well and enjoy responsibly!
So far this winter has been mild for most of us but that is soon to change. As the temperatures dip down many of us may choose to stick to red wines to keep warm but keep in mind that there are many “Winter Whites” that can be a perfect companion to enjoy inside as it snows and blows outside!
In choosing a winter white, consider the weight of the wine. Typically for summer we are drinking wines that have the same mouth feel as say…water…or green tea…or skim milk. These wines rely more on acidity to be refreshing than they do on creaminess for warmth.
For winter we want to step that up a bit. The mouth feel should be more like 2% milk – you should be able to feel the weight of it on your tongue. This weight comes from certain processes in wine making like malolactic fermentation where the harsh, tart malic acid is transformed into the softer (weightier) lactic acid. There are other processes that increase this molecular weight like Battonage (stirring the lees which are dead yeast cells) that cover the acidity in a creamy cloak.
Chenin Blanc is another great winter white story. The versions from Old World…say France and New World….say California can be very different in flavor but both will be sure to warm you up. Champalou, Vouvray is made from the Chenin Blanc grape with layers of green apples, earthy minerality and a lingering caress of creaminess.
Chappellet from Napa Valley makes a Chenin Blanc worthy of an encore. If you had joined me on the Napa VIP flight last year, you tasted it in the winery – everyone in the group loved it. This wine is more tropical in flavor with less minerality – with bursts of bananas, guava and pineapple. Perfect as aperitfs and pairs wonderfully with fish and chicken dishes.
Torrontés from Argentina is also a perfect winter sipper. It can be reminiscent of Gewürztraminer – it’s floral and a little spicy and has a heady quality that makes it perfect for cold temperatures and warm hearty soup….think French onion or beer cheese soups. Susana Balbo Winery makes one called “Crios” that is simply amazing.
Viognier is another over looked winter white that deserves to be quaffed. Think honeysuckle, apricots, peaches all of which that are ripe and juicy with low acidity and great richness. I once heard this grape described as a “1980′s prom queen”…..perhaps they just meant it’s very floral and pretty.
French and American white versions of these can be very different. The Condrieu region of Rhone, France produces some of the finest – and rarest – versions in the world. Several California versions worth a good look are Araujo, Caymus and Qupe.
Viognier pairs very well with lighter meats, chicken, shrimp, lobster and even pork in rich, creamy sauces. Enjoy!