When it comes to the Gold & Silver of Wines by the Glass, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc are once and always podium sovereigns, with Pinot Grigio sneaking onto the podium for the Bronze.
We’re enormous fans of the Olympics and we’re sorry to see festivities in Rio draw to a close, if only because we made pairing wines with an event an Olympic sport unto itself. A briny Albariño or Muscadet made a fine pairing while cheering on the aquatic exploits of the US Swim Team, for example.
We extolled the virtues of Chardonnay in our last blog post, but life cannot be lived drinking just one varietal, so let’s take a look at data aggregated from BinWise and talk about the unsung, but equally magesterial heroes of the white wine list. After analyzing sales of wines by the glass over the past year, Riesling, Viognier, Grüner Veltliner, Chenin Blanc, and White Blends may not exactly be medal contenders, but they certainly do a yeoman’s job of pairing with myriad dishes and being downright delicious. Let’s take a look at some of our favorites.
RIESLING: One of the most popular white wines in the world, this aromatic grape, which is seldom oaked, originated in Germany. Riesling can evoke a phenomenal sense of place and depending on the terroir of its origin, flavor profiles can vary wildly from the crystalline sweetness of a Mosel Kabinett, to the flinty warmth evoked by an Alsatian version, to the lime-blossom showers of Aussie Rieslings.
On the palate, Riesling is lithe and light on it’s feet, tart and a touch sweet. The acid backbone and lack of oak allows it to pair up well with Asian foods (sweet and sour pork or a pad thai), and it’s sweeter versions can be a brilliant foil for spicy cuisine. Because of it’s all-around agility, it’s little wonder Riesling is featured across so many winelists and cuisine types. Pair with: 2013 Grosset Hill Riesling and Gymnastics all-around gold.
CHENIN BLANC originated in the “Garden of France”, the Loire Valley. As a varietal, it’s been taken up by a host of other nations, including South Africa, which is currently the world’s largest producer with it’s ideal growing conditions for the versatile grape. The small, yellow distinct clusters produce a plethora of styles – from fruity to crisp, oaked or unoaked, sweet, blends or sparkling. In it’s simplest form, Chenin can be a great bargain and play wonderfully well with a cedar planked salmon, dotted with lemon slices and grilled on the BBQ—the perfect summertime dinner. We personally prefer the classic Loire Valley version, with its rapier acidity and mouthfeel that’s both voluptuous and deceptively trim at once. Paired with seared halibut atop noodles in a dashi-broth and the precision of Synchronized Swimming, and you’ve got yourself an evening packed with delicious entertainment.
Burg-hounds may wax poetic the merits of single-varietal wines, but some of the greatest experiences come from a mélange of elements: teams of varietals working together, whose delicious sum is more than its parts. WHITE BLENDS are more than the sum of parts, but something beautiful and refreshing unto themselves. White Bordeaux, perhaps the longest lived of the blends, is comprised of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc—a distinctly unflashy, but complex and refined dowager of a wine that improves with years in the bottle. My favorite wine of all time was a 35 year old Haut Brion Blanc that told one fascinating tale after another as the night unfolded.
Rhone varietals (Viognier, Roussanne and Marsanne) comprise their own category of delightful blends that grace many a restaurant list. With Viognier in the mix, these wines can be dominated by stunning scents of orange-blossom and honeysuckle, evoking memories of warm summer nights. While these blends were born in the Rhone, they’ve since migrated and brilliant versions (with equally brilliant regional tweaks) are being produced domestically, particularly from the Central Coast. Pair with: 2013 Sanguis “Beekeeper” with crab puffs, and in the spirit teamwork, gold-medal match soccer.
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