Wine editor MARY DOWEY favours ZESTY SPRING WHITES beginning with V this month …
After months and chilly months of drinking more red wine than white, I’m more than ready to redress the balance. Spring and summer are the time to experiment with lively white wines partly because they’re refreshing but also because they help the flavours of the lighter foods we tend to choose from now on to shine.
The word in the wine trade is that younger consumers are becoming more adventurous in their choices – encouraging news given that so many off-the-mainstream grape varieties make deliciously enticing wines. In the white department a bunch of the most worthwhile happen to begin with the letter V, making them easy to pick off the shelf. Here’s what to expect of my favourite half dozen:
This easy-to-find Spanish grape is like Sauvignon Blanc on steroids. It has the same tangy verve with more intense flavours – green fruits like apples, melon, lime with a pronounced herbaceous streak. A versatile food partner, particularly good with green things – salads, herb omelette, fish with chive butter sauce, Thai green curry.
Global warming has given this Sardinian speciality fashion status and a wider reach. High acidity helps it to produce refreshing, lemony whites in hot parts of Languedoc-Roussillon, Provence (where it’s known as Rolle) and Australia. Great with oily fish like sardines as well as many light starters. NB, cheap versions can be watery nonentities.
Old white grape variety of north-east Italy, especially Friuli, undergoing a modest revival because it’s ancient and different. Makes sweet wines and dry ones, the latter with an attractively pithy, pear/apple character. Like most Italian wines it needs food to set it off, e.g. parma ham or prawn and pea risotto.
The version mainly seen here is the light-to-medium-bodied Tuscan white Vernaccia di San Gimignano. Although it may seem to lack character at first sip, its appeal often builds over time, thanks to a palate-refreshing hint of bitter almond. Versatile, too. Try with fried fish, seafood pasta and fish stew.
A little rounder and richer than Vernaccia, the classic example is Verdicchio di Castelli di Jesi from the Marche in central Italy close to the Adriatic. Smooth and lemony, this too has a subtle bitter almond bite. Suits mains like chicken salad, fish pie or fish and chips as well as many first courses.
VIOGNIER Admittedly Viognier isn’t always vibrant: examples from hot regions can be flabby and sweet. But the Viognier-based whites of the Northern Rhône remain a thrilling template, balancing notes of apricot and peach with lemon-edged acidity. Match with crab, scallops, pork or creamy chicken curry.
Right, promise me the next time you go wine shopping you’ll bypass the boring Sauvignons and bland Pinot Grigios and seize on one of these styles instead? You may pay a little more, but those few extra euro will reward you with distinctively different, invigorating flavours. In terms of sheer verve, V can stand for value too.
Three wines to try
JOSÉ PARIENTE VERDEJO, RUEDA 2016. A bold extrovert that I’ve enjoyed across quite a few vintages. I love its vigour and freshness draped around a lemon-and-lime core. A perfect match for herb-and-lemon-marinated chicken as well as the suggestions above. Alcohol: 13%. www.winesdirect.ie, €18.
JEAN-MICHEL GERIN VIOGNIER LA CHAMPINE 2015. First encountered in Belfast’s brilliant restaurant Ox, this Viognier from a Northern Rhône grower still strikes me as one of the best under €20, exuding delicate, peachy charm. Pan-seared scallops make it extra-special. Alcohol 13%. www.jnwine.com, €19.99.
I CLIVI VERDUZZO COLLI ORIENTALI, FRIULI DOC 2015. With terrific depth and thrust, this organic Verduzzo should win new converts to an old grape. A bone-dry finish demands food (see above). Alcohol: 13%. From Fallon & Byrne, Dublin 2 & 6; Green Man Wines, Dublin 6W; 64 Wine, Glasthule, about €26.
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