There is an old adage that says you cannot wear white after Labor Day. When, where, and how this was decided is a mystery to me. I live in North Texas. You will see people, myself included, wearing white year round. In fact, if there was ever a color of winter shouldn’t it be white? Most flora and fauna lies dormant under a blanket of snow in the winter. Even in North Texas we typically receive snow at some point each winter. White offers elegance, a clean, sophistication that brings light to the darkness of winter. The same can be true for wine.
Over the years I have heard some suggest they drink certain wines according to the season. No hearty reds in summer because it is too hot; no crisp white wines in winter because it is too cold. What? I am not sure what to make of it. I drink wines according to food pairings, mood, or occasion, but not the external temperature. If it is 100° F outside, a normal summer occurrence in North Texas, and I am eating smoked brisket I am drinking a hearty red wine. No question about it. The flip side is also true. If it is 30° F and snowing outside and I am enjoying a delicious roasted spatchcock chicken with potatoes and butternut squash I want a white wine in my glass to accompany but not overpower the meal. Furthermore, as winter tends to linger and the sun is nowhere to be seen, I begin to crave lighter cuisines and white wines. Seafood, light pasta, chicken chili, all call for a winter white.
So tell me, wine lovers, where do you fall in the winter white conversation? If you are open to some suggestions of whites to brighten up your winter you are in the right place! I have six whites to share with you that are sure to brighten a long, cold winter.
Albariño hails from the Rias Baixas region of Galicia, Spain. Thankfully the grape is gaining in popularity and consumer recognition. Albariño has been cultivated in Lodi for years. It is classically crisp and elegant with citrus, stone fruit, melon, tropical fruit, and floral notes. It tends to be medium in body with a racy acidity to brighten up the darkest winter nights. The 2016 Klinker Brick Albarino ($15) pairs well with Chicken Enchiladas or Chimichurri Chicken with Potatoes.
Grenache Blanc, aka Garnacha Blanca, is another wine whose popularity is on the rise. Originating in Southern France and/or Northern Spain, depending on who you ask, it is a food-friendly wine and a favorite of mine. The Terra Alta region of Spain is being recognizes as producing some of the highest quality Garnacha Blancas. These wines tend to have a firm mineral spine, topped with green notes of apple, pear, citrus, dried herbs, and floral notes. The 2016 clos Dalian Garnacha Blanca ($14) offers medium body and a touch of spice on the finish, perfect for pairing with Apricot Lamb Tangine or Chinese Five-Spice Chicken Wings.
Gewürztraminer is a highly aromatic white French grape. It is crafted in a variety of styles from dry to sweet. It is highly distinctive due to its signature aromas of tropical fruit, citrus, stone fruit, floral notes, and lychee. If you are not sure what lychee smells like, smell a Gewürztraminer and you will never forget. Because of its range in sweetness it pairs with a wide variety of foods. The 2016 Fetzer Shaly Loam Gewurztraminer ($11) falls in the medium sweet category, opening up a wide array of spicy cuisine pairings. Thai Curry Soup or Moraccan Meatballs in Spicy Tomato Sauce are ideal pairings for this wine.
Sauvignon Blanc offers a refreshment that is perfect any time of year. This green-skinned grape originates from the Bordeaux region in France; however, due to its adaptability to variety of climates, it is now grown throughout the world. Best known for its citrus, que grapefruit, and grassy notes, it is not just for warm weather enjoyment. The 2016 Scheid Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc ($20) brings the classic flavors you know and love, grapefruit, passion fruit, lemon zest, and grassy notes are wrapped in a fierce acidity for ultimate refreshment. Looking for a raw oyster pairing? This is your wine. Meyer Lemon Chicken is another slam dunk.
For something different, how about Savatiano? It may be unfamiliar but it is Greece’s most widely planted grape. If you are a lemon fan this is your wine. Savatiano offers notes of lemon curd, melon, apple, and citrus. An oaked version will be rich in body and weight similar to a Chardonnay. The 2016 Domaine Papagiannakos Old Vines Savatiano ($16.99) is unoaked for a crisp, elegant wine with loads of lemon and a mineral zest. This wine way over-delivers on its price and may become your new favorite white wine. Lobster Roll and Creamy Lemon Pasta with Chicken and Asparagus are ideal pairings with this wine.
Vermentino is a classic white Italian grape. It hails from Sardinia but can be found in Corsica and the South of France as Rolle. It produces light bodied wines that are complex and full of flavor. Classically it is known for its bright notes of white orchard and stone fruit, citrus, white floral notes, and almonds with a slightly waxy quality. The 2016 Troon Vineyard Red Vermentino ($15) falls into this classic category. It is light, crisp, and refreshing while maintaining its elegance and complexity. Pair Spice-Roasted Salmon with Roasted Cauliflower or Blackened Fish Tacos with Avocado Cilantro Sauce to awaken your winter palate.
Don’t let the season control your wine selection. Embrace white wines among the big reds this year for a crisp and refreshing change of pace. Cheers!