The minute I began writing this piece, the weather turned. The morning was bright, sunny and almost balmy but by lunchtime the rain had arrived, and once the sun disappeared, it was bitterly cold too. I should not have tempted fate. Yet the last few days of sun and light had lifted my spirits; I started thinking about white wines in a serious way for the first time in about well six months actually. Cold weather of any kind seems to draw me inexorably to red wine. I hope that by the time you read this article, temperatures will have risen a little. Just in case, I include an inexpensive warming red.
Light white wine doesn’t have to mean cheap. There are those who think that any serous white must be rich and full-bodied, a sort of more-bangs-per-buck theory that doesn’t wash with me. With the increased demand for lower alcohol wines, we now have an excellent choice of high-quality light white wines that are packed full of flavour. These are nuanced wines that seek to slowly seduce rather than grab you from the outset, but they certainly don’t lack concentration or complexity. As ever, it means paying a little more, so this week’s wines are all over €20.
The first summer wine that comes to mind is German Riesling. I am also a huge fan of Hunter Valley Semillon, one of the greatest light white wines of the world. But this week we turn to a few other possibilities. The wines of the Loire Valley are tailor-made for drinking in good weather. The reds are light and summery, the rosés thirst-quenching and the white wines low in alcohol, crisp and always refreshing. All go really well with salads and cold meats, as well as white meats and fish.
There is something inherently spring-like about Muscadet. It is one of the lightest wines, and perfect for summer drinking. Decent inexpensive versions abound, but there are some brilliant single-vineyard wines too. The Pouilly-Fumé, from one of the best producers, is perfect spring/summer drinking. Friuli-Venezia-Giulia is not very well-known over here, but the wines have long been revered in Italy as the country’s greatest white wines, possibly because there wasn’t much competition in the past. There are 17 permitted grape varieties and no fewer than 14 sub-regions. All this in a relatively small piece of land curling around the Adriatic, bordering Slovenia, Austria and the Veneto. In the past, many serious producers offered very rich textured wines often heavily influenced by oak. More recently Gravner and Radikon pioneered the skin contact and orange wine movement. I generally prefer the delicate, lighter wines made from local grape varieties such as the Ribolla below. The Friuli charmed me completely at a recent tasting.
Pouilly-Fumé 2015, André Dezat
Beautifully elegant and refined Sauvignon Blanc, perfumed and light with crisp green fruits.
Citrus peel, herbs and almonds in a compelling and utterly delicious light dry wine.
Stockists: 64wine; Kellys, Clontarf; Listons; Green Man Wines.
Lifted floral aromas, precise rich concentrated pear fruits and a delightful cleansing minerality.
Stockists: 64 Wine; Jus de Vine; Fallon & Byrne; Searsons.