White wines stand up to fierce storms and hearty dishes
While we’re in the midst of a bunch of winter weather advisories, there’s no better time to consider some winter whites to help you through the storm.
But, that can be a hard sell.
“The last thing most people want to do is drink a cold glass of white wine when it is snowing outside,” says Kevin McGuire, DipWSET, a sommelier at the Wine House in Fairfax, Va.
The solution? Warm it (and yourself) up.
“One of my customers’ biggest misconceptions about drinking white wine in the winter is that it must be served at a much cooler temperature than red wines,” he says. “When wines are chilled down to 40 degrees or below, their aromas and flavors tend to shut down.” But warming them up a bit—45 to 50 degrees, depending on the variety but especially with richer whites like Verdejo or older Soave—will maximize their aroma and flavor profiles.
McGuire says look for dry white wines that are high in acidity or alcohol (or both): “They are best because they can stand up to heavier foods such as stews, ham, and pot roast.”
Jeff Harding, wine director at Manhattan’s Waverly Inn and creator of the wine education site, ThisIs.Wine, is also a fan of whites in the “off season,” saying, “For me, [they] are all about texture and depth of flavor, achieved either through grape skin contact, vine age, lees contact, or structure of the grape variety.”
He likens winter-white drinking to having a “shower beer”—a matter of food/body/drink physics.
“You have this intense voluptuous heat from the shower (or the cassoulet, if that’s what you’re eating); the acid and cold temperature are refreshing and the depth of flavor and bigger bodied texture does not have trouble competing with a hearty or fatty winter foods that are slow- or fire-cooked.”
Harding gives white Grenache or Sémillon from Bordeaux as illustrative examples or a powerful Riesling such as one from Trimbach, which “provides a refreshing complement with interesting, deep and complex flavors,” he says.
So, while you and your tastebuds hunker down for a few more weeks of stormy weather, consider some hearty whites, more redolent of warm, baked yellow apples in grandma’s kitchen than seaside snaps of saline. There are even a couple of Texan whites here, because you know, even they get snow sometimes.
Famille Vincent “Marie Antoinette” Pouilly Fuisse 2018. A tasty medium-bodied wine with yellow apple and juicy pear flavors, lemon curd, slightly botanic, a friendly player with soft cheeses, creamy pastas, sausage. $28
Herve Dubourdieu Chateau Graville Lacoste Graves 2016, Bordeaux. Driven by Sémillon, this is round and rich, mouth-filling with warm baked apple and uplifted with a citrus note. Sexy mineral, sulphur aspect. Classic example from the area. This can go a few ways: White bean cassoulet, roast game or sweet lobster meat on pasta. $19
Pascal et Chrystel Collotte Château Jean Faux “Sainte Radegonde” 2015, Bordeaux Blanc. A more oxidized/caramel style redolent of yellow apples ripening on the kitchen counter. In a beautiful vintage bowl. Round and juicy with hazelnut tones and a dry lemon twist, backed by good acid. A rounder style of 85% Sauvignon Blanc and 15% Sémillon. Certified organic. A good match with egg-based dishes. $20
Saget La Perrière “La Perrière” Sancerre 2019. White floral notes give way to a rich palate featuring tropical fruits, juicy ripe peaches, this classic Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire wants fish in buttery sauce or creamy poultry dishes. $39.99
Trimbach “Classic” Riesling 2018, Alsace. After 13 generations, the Trimbach family knows a thing or two about making wine. Known for terroir-driven wines of precision, this “Classic” Riesling is dry with bright acidity, snappy lemon and green apple notes. Few wines on earth are this food friendly: drink with classic Alsatian Choucroute Garnie (or any sausage dish), any kind of Asian dishes. $27.99
Heavier, richer varieties such as Verdejo are best when served between 45-50 degrees when “their aromatics are at their peak” McGuire explains.
Bodega Gonzalez, Beronia 2019 Rueda Verdejo DOC. Bright, pale yellow, this medium-bodied wine pops with pear and orchard fruit, quince, a bit of lime. Clean, refreshing acid, great with roast chicken and artichoke ravioli tossed with EVOO and garlic. $12
Matarromera “Granza” Medina del Campo, Rueda Verdejo DOC. This starts with a shy nose that carries over on the palate. White flowers somewhat honeyed and tropical with pineapple notes, slight nut-skin note on the finish. Not complex, but it’s not meant to be: pleasant on its own and with composed winter salads. $12
Esporão “Monte Velho” 2020, Alentejo. A blend of indigenous white grapes, this is an affordable and reliable performer—approachable and round with apple, yellow plum and quince flavors, easy and modern; plays well with many dishes and by itself. $12
Herdade do Rocim Olho de Mocho Reserva Branco 2016, Alentejo. Made from 100% Antao Vãz, an indigenous Portuguese grape, this is a slightly oxidized style with yellow apple, quince and tart plum skin; a round, creamy aspect, texture from skin tannins, savory and vegetal. Drink with quiche, soft-baked cheese. $20+/-
Quinta dos Carvalhais Encruzado 2019, Dão DOC. Smelling this wine takes me back to the farm with its honeyed sweet hay and yellow apples on the ground aromas, and it has the same happy fullness in taste. Full bodied, mouth-watering acid, this calls for roasted parsnips and grilled sausage. Cool back label features graphics indicating complexity, body, fruit, oak treatment and suggested food pairings. $20
Alois Lageder “Terra Alpina” 2019, Pinot Bianco, Vigneti delle Dolomiti. From the foothills of the Dolomite mountains, this is one in a gateway line from a well-known producer. Aromas of white pear and flowers are followed on the palate by more pear, yellow apple, honey tones and an almond nut-skin finish. Round, medium-bodied and waxy in a Chenin Blanc kind of way. Delicious with the Austrian-inflected cuisine that is typical of the region. $15
From the same producer (but not the Terra Alpina line), the 2016 “Porer” Pinot Grigio is not your auntie’s PG: Slightly pink tinged with a pretty white flower aroma, this biodynamic version is rich and full, round and textured with ripe stone fruit. Delicious and substantial. I liked this as a starter with soft cheeses, and after with roasted shrimp and grits ($26). Lageder’s sister “Forra” wine (2017) is made from from low-yielding high-altitude old Manzoni Bianco vines. Yellow, clear and sparkly, this is a ripe-yellow-apple-in-the-bowl-on-the-counter wine (yes, that is a category I’m going to trademark). This is a slightly oxidized style with elevated herbal notes: I keep thinking mountain laurel. And I think you’ll like this with sausage and roasted broccoli rabe (a great wine for pairing with a cranky green vegetable) pasta or roasted parsnips. $31.
Tasca Tenuta Regaleali Grillo, Cavallo delle Fate, 2018 Sicilia DOC. Grillo is an ancient variety, usually used for Marsala production, but that’s become fashionable of late. It’s also a good ambassador for Sicilian lifestyle: a sunny-lemon yellow wine with honeycomb and white flower aromas, saline and a stony minerality underneath the fresh white peach and pineapple layers; an earthy bitterness has a nice bite. $20
Chateau Ste Michelle Eroica Riesling 2018, Columbia Valley, Washington. Always a reliable performer, this balanced wine is off dry in style, featuring a twist of lime, ripe peach and apples. This was tops with Thai green curry. $20
Duchman Family Winery Vermentino “Bingham Family Vineyards” 2018, Texas High Plains. This medium-bodied wine is more textured than its Italian cousin, with oak hints on the palate. Floral, fresh lime blossoms, zesty acid, tart green apple. Good alternative to Sauvignon Blanc and a good player with cream-, egg- or pastry-based dishes, $26 (order online)
Duchman Family Winery Viognier “Bingham Family Vineyards” 2018, Texas High Plains. Round and textured, yellow orchard fruit, apples, botanic savoriness. Waxy like Chenin. Not the Viognier you’d expect but the one you’ll love. Beautiful seductive smoky nose, stellar with smoked pumpkin chowder (you are having that, aren’t you?) $25 (order online)