With summer on the way I've been writing more about white wines, and in particular fresh, crisp whites. Sauvignon Blanc has lead the way, asI expect it often does with consumers; if for no other reason than it is associated with that willowy summer style, is obviously familiar and widely available throughout the marketplace. At the same time though my thoughts have turned to other whites that may be less familiar to consumers but fill the summer wine bill as well, if not better than Sauvignon Blanc.
I'm not knocking Sauvignon Blanc. I love a nice crisp style, but I also like variety and would opt for a Sauvy every other week over the summer if I could fill the interim weeks with something interesting, and affordable. Fortunately, as we all know, that's a really simple proposition. I'm interested in exploring Picpoul, Albarino, and some of the great white wines of Portugal, which all fit the bill nicely.
This is only the tip of the iceberg of course, but each wine offers up something unique for both consumers and myself. In the case of Picpoul and Albarino, the so-called 'new' breed of California winemaker has brought some examples of these varieties to market, receiving mucho positive press and praise as these things generally do. They're some fabulous wines of course, but being fabulous is never enough to get the press head of steam up. Being different and fabulous, and capturing a little of that rebel spirit, well that has gone a long way into catapulting these varieties into the media's eyes. Consider me guilty as well.
So here's a question for you all. What wines are finding to be really intriguing this year? I'd love to share your thoughts with my readers, as I've begun to do with both submissions by wine writers, as can be seen here in Seven Super Syrahs , as well as those submitted by wine retailers as shown here in April's Most Exciting Wines.
You may have seen these article featured recently in Snooth's daily newsletter as well. It's an effort on the part of all of us here at Snooth to further the connections between consumers and those whose opinions they should know and value. Please let me know if you'd like to participate with future articles, and in any event let me know what you're fascinating whites wines are this year! Here are mine.
From France of course though there are some exciting experiments on the west coast in both Washington and California going on that are very promising. For the moment though I am talking about Picpoul de Pinet. What a value wine. Much like Muscadet in many ways, though in my tastings with consumers they tend to prefer the added richness and fruitiness of a fine Picpoul as opposed the tension and minerality that we love so much in our Muscadet. The fact that the wines are really well priced makes these an absolute no brainer.
Now we're in Spain, but increasing also in the New World with some lovely examples emerging from regions like Lodi (Surprise!) and Oregon. Albarino tends to be a bit more expensive than Picpoul, though not by much, and is somewhere between Picpoul and Muscadet in style, though with a broader range of possible flavor profiles than either of those varieties. Albarino can be lean and minerally or ,when very ripe, quite tropical in flavor. Not surprisingly I prefer the former, which tends to be a bit more expensive.
And finally the white wines of Portugal, and in particular the wines from indigenous varieties. Portugal is a largely unexplored wine region for both consumers and trade alike. That's not surprising given the spotty record many of the wines have had and the even spottier distribution. Things however are changing. Portuguese wines continue to improve by leaps and bounds, and the prices have generally lagged behind the quality, though Vinho verde has arguably become appropriately priced after years of being available at rock bottom pricing. Even with the price increases a good bottle of Vinho Verde, undoubtedly the champion refresher value out there, still can had for well under $10 a bottle. A steal. But Portugal is much more than just Vinho Verde and varieties like Encurzado, Fernão-Pires, and dry Muscats are really making a positive impression on me.