Saturday, April 24, 2010

The White Wine Chronicles - Part One

Those of you, okay both of you, who read this blog regularly will know that I very rarely drink white wine . There are a number of reasons for this including, but not limited to, the fact that I only drink wine with food and my culinary style is not suited to white wines. Recently however I have been attempting to include more fish in our family diet and as a result we have been experimenting with some "wines of a different colour".

Now I know that all the cool kids drink whatever colour wine with whatever food but honestly when I'm cooking hake, haddock or cod there is simply no way I'm going to drink red wines. Given the spiraling prices of salmon and tuna when I'm adding more fish to the diet it is going to be the less expensive alternatives that cry out for white wines.

The upshot of this whole thing is that we have recently sampled three new, to me, white wines . When picking white wines I find that I generally have to spend a bit more than my everyday $10-$12 range because cheap white wines tend to be, well, bad . Not bad in the sense that they have "gone bad" just in the sense that they are either lacking in any character, too sweet or too acidic .

My first foray was very fortunate, having decided to have whitefish for dinner I was faced with a time crunch for wine selection so I popped into a private store adjacent to the grocery store. I poked around for 10 minutes before daughter finally said "Daddy, what exactly are you looking for" in a tone that indicated that the "fun factor" of wine shopping had worn off for her. What I had been looking for was an Alsatian Riesling for under $20 but was having no luck, about to give in and grab an Aussie I spotted a cut-case display of New Zealand Viognier at a reduced price, $15.99 down from $19.99.

"Why not ?" I thought and grabbed a bottle of Longbush Viognier 2007, from the Gisborne region of the North Island in New Zealand, and I wish I'd grabbed more. The wine was delicious, rich but not over powering as Viognier should be with light notes of orange citrus, honey and smoke . The wine was much better than it's price point but further research indicates that the wine may no longer be available in BC. I'm trying to determine the status and when I hear more from the importer I'll let you know. If this wine is readily available for the summer I would advise case lot purchases.

Wine #2 was less successful and reminded me of all the reasons I don't generally purchase white wines at less than $15. The wine was Stork's Tower, Sauvignon Blanc - Verdejo 2008 CSPC#423723 $12.99, purchased at the mothership at 39th and Cambie this was a "staff recommendation". The wine was just indifferent, a little too sharp and short on the finish and just really not enjoyable. It did however work fine for deglazing the chicken later in the week .

Heading into week three we have a 50% success rate, not bad but not great either . With a pro D day on Monday I was once again accompanied by daughter on my wine hunt and once again came up a winner . Maybe I just need to ensure daughter's presence when shopping for white wines, could she be some sort of vin blanc savant ? . Anyway the third entry in the white wine chronicles is Spier Chenin Blanc 2009, this wine is from the Stellenbosch region of South Africa and while it is available at the BCLDB, CSPC#659037, $13.95, the availability is limited.

Chenin Blanc is the "worker bee" white grape in South Africa, when I was starting out in the wine trade it was known in SA as "Steen" . Chenin blanc is perhaps the most versatile wine grape there is, maybe even more so than Riesling, Chenin blanc has high acidity and rather neutral flavour notes so it can be adapted to everything from crisp acidic sparklers to rich dessert wines. The South African style generally emphasizes the tropical fruit accents, through cooler fermentation, and the Spier was no exception showing lovely pear and peineapple notes along with minerally green apple notes. The wine was a perfect compliment to hake panfried with butter, capers and lemon.

To summarize I can highly recommend the two "hard to find" wines: Spier Chenin Blanc 2009 and Longbush Viognier 2007 but I can't recommend the easily available Stork's Tower, Sauvignon Blanc - Verdejo 2008 .

I can also highly recommend bringing my daughter along when looking for white wine, rental rates can be obtained by contacting me directly.

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