WHITE WINE WITH EVERTHING-ALMOST
Yes, it’s hot out there even with the regular rain showers we experience this time of year. On the plus side it makes ordering a cold beer to go with that burger or steak an easy decision but poses a bit of a dilemma for those who prefer wine. The answer is forget the outdated “red wine with red meat” rule and enjoy a fully chilled chardonnay from Burgundy’s Corton-Charlemagne or Napa’s Grgich Hills. Both are big bodied oak aged wines with balance and flavors that harmonize beautifully with quality beef. A side benefit here is that dining companions choosing chicken or selected seafood entrees will also enjoy the wine.
Of course not all white wines are suitable for major red meat dishes but in case anyone makes light of your chardonnay choices it may be appropriate to remind them that for centuries past those living in the fertile plains of the Danube and Rhine rivers were drinking Rieslings with everything from wild boar and venison to whatever fish grabbed a hook. The panoply of white wines that do enhance the enjoyment of nearly everything that swims and most of those that take wing is sizeable and does, for the most part, give credence to adage “white wines with lighter or white meat.”
Sauvignon blanc with its moderately high acidity and distinctive grassy or gooseberry flavors might complement some veal entrees, but is the wine of choice for a plate of fresh shucked oysters, shrimp and dozens of fish. Try New Zealand’s readily available Cloudy Bay or several French gems from Sancerre.
Chenin blanc in all its iterations, i.e. Vouvray from Loire Valley in France, is a versatile medium bodied white with subtle citrus and melon flavors that suit a wide range of fish, fowl and salads. The easily found dry to semi-dry versions from S. Africa, U.S., France and even Thailand are often said to go with everything and even find favor with those who say they don’t care for wine. Thailand’s gradually expanding wine industry has had considerable success growing chenin blanc grapes in semi-tropical conditions. Chenins from Village Farm, Silver Lake and GranMonte wineries are well worth trying, the latter having won multiple international awards. These are wines that gracefully harmonize with many Thai and other Asian style dishes. Viognier, pronounced vee-oh-NYAY, is becoming more popular in recent years due to its full body and aromatic character evincing tropical fruit flavors of lychee and mango. Precision balance lends it well to S.E. Asian foods as well as lobster and grilled fish. Australia’s Yalumba viognier is available locally as is an excellent example from GranMonte.
As noted above riesling grapes yield wines suited for everything from the most robust of red meats to delicate denizens of rivers and the sea. While the vast majority of riesling is dry or semi-dry, labeled kabinet or spatlese from Germany and Austria, its sweetest format, known as trockenbeerenauslese in German, rivals the great Sauternes of France. Riesling in all its styles has pronounced acidity with distinct citrus, mineral and often vanilla flavors, lighter body in the dry versions which end in a clean crisp finish. Kabinet and spatlese versions are superb with menus ranging from cracked crab, scallops, roasted chicken, grilled pork kebabs and many Thai specialties. Australia’s rieslings tend to be bigger bodied than their European counterparts but still complement a broad range of dishes from sea to barnyard. The French Alsace region is also a major producer of quality rieslings. In Bangkok look for brands from Trimbach and Hugel from France; Yalumba and Wolf Blass from Australia; Chateau St. Michelle and Trefethen from U.S.
Serve all white wines chilled to between 10C and 12C which means cold to begin with and ice bucket at hand throughout. With exception of the sweetest versions which can age beautifully, the vast majority of white wines are meant to be consumed within three or four years of release though with carefully controlled storage most will last longer. Enjoy!