In this season of predictions, I thought that today would be as good a time as any to make one regarding white wine: In 2010, we will see more people discovering, trying, and falling for whites that don’t fit the usual Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc mold.
Not that there’s anything wrong with those wines: Some of the world’s greats are produced using these two grapes, from Meursault to Bordeaux Blanc and a whole range of examples in between. But the white wine world is far larger than just its two most famous grape varieties, and the range of styles in which whites can be made extends well beyond these two examples.
The problem is that white wine still carries somewhat of a stigma. Indeed, I cannot count the number of times that I’ve heard otherwise sane people say that they really don’t like white wine all that much--which, it seems to me, is a statement predicated almost entirely on a pretty serious fallacy: That all white wine tastes alike. Which, of course, it doesn’t.
The problem is that, for a long time, the white wine world was dominated by the two grape varieties noted above. But these days--finally!--we’re not only seeing more unusual whites reaching these shores, but a slow shift in the way that consumers look at them and a greater willingness to try them.
Last night, for example, I attended the opening party for a highly anticipated, seriously beautiful new restaurant in Philadelphia. R2L, on the 37th floor of the city’s iconic Two Liberty Place tower, is the latest project of esteemed Chef Daniel Stern. His food has always combined a sense of comfort and whimsy with pitch-perfect technical proficiency and a laser-like attention to detail. And as in his previous restaurants, the drinks program here has been ingeniously created by Beverage Director and Sommelier Ryan Davis, whose tastes--and lists--encompass, seemingly, the entire world of wine and wine styles.
Last night’s complimentary white wine was probably the last thing that guests expected: The Domaine Lafage Cote Est, an aromatically complex, dangerously gulpable blend of Grenache Blanc, Chardonnay, and Marsanne from the still-relatively-unknown Cotes Catalanes in Southern France. This wine refused to fit neatly into any of the typical white wine categories: It wasn’t oaky, it wasn’t buttery; there was strain of minerality but it refused to fall into the realm of the flinty; the fruit was fresh and bright, sure, but not overtly sweet; and the texture remained light on its feet while still maintaining a sense of presence on the tongue. And it was fantastic with the food--sipped alongside delicate, hearty risotto arancini, for example, it was perfect.
In other words, this was exactly the kind of white wine that most people don’t drink. For that matter, it was exactly the kind of white wine that most people don’t even know exists.
But they will in the coming year. Because none of us can possibly stay engaged in and passionate about wine if we always drink the same thing. Luckily for us all, there are more options than ever , and they are absolutely worth exploring.
Even if you think you don’t love white wine.