One of the most irritating questions I hear when tasting/drinking/purchasing wine is "Do you like whites or reds?" They might as well be asking "Do you like smart men or funny men?" The question is loaded, and my answer always makes them wish they hadn't asked...
It's all about context. I pair wines with my mood, not my food, which makes it impossible to say whether I like whites or reds. IT DEPENDS on the mood, the occassion, the company, and - most importantly - my stress level and how quickly I want that fermented grape juice in my bloodstream!!
So, Mr. Bartender, I'm not ordering Gewurztraminer because I'm a whimpy girl who only likes whites. I'm acclimating. There's a whole wine list to work my way through. Geesh, cut me some slack.
The brilliant Oscar Wilde once said, "the secret to being a bore is to tell everything", and I think it's a great quote to apply to wines. Too much of anything is indeed boring. I like my wines like I like my friends...mysterious and complex, not flaunting all their best qualities for you from the start, but slowing revealing further glimpses into their personality moment by moment, or sip by sip. Just like us humans, wines have been on a journey and each step of this journey - on the vine, off the vine, in the bottle, and beyond - shapes their personality, making them anything from shallow and dull, to provocative or boisterous. In fact, I believe that wines have genders, too, but that's for another post.
And that's the beauty of drinking the RIGHT WHITE. They can put on quite a show, stripping down to reveal layer after layer of flavor. Tropical fruits, spice, toasted nuts, petrol, cement. And the show goes on... The bad news is, you'll have to cough up more than $10 for a ticket to the white show. Most cheap whites will give you a quick peep of one-dimensional flavor and have nothing more to do with you. That's their job. But, if you're willing to step up your vino budget just a tad, you won't be sorry.
Here's some of my favorite, personality-packed whites, all under $20 and worth every penny!
2005 Bonterra Viognier (Mendocino County) - rich, creamy vanilla overlaps vibrant layers of peach, honeysuckle and orange blossom. A perfect balance of fruit and oak. Light enough for a pre-dinner cocktail, and strong enough to take to the table.
2008 Banyan Gewurtraminer (Monterey County) - zesty and refreshing, this Gerwurz is a vacation for the palette. "It's like biting into a guava", says a fellow vino vulure. Very smooth, slightly sweet, with just a trace of acidity. Delivers mouthfuls of tropical fruit and just enough sugar to balance the delightfully peppery first impression.
2006 Marc Kreydenweiss Pinot Blanc (Alsace) - Pinot Blancs are hard to find, but worth the search. Alsace makes some of the best. This one has a yummy nose of kiwi and honey, then comes a fresh symphony of granny smith apple, juicy peach and pear, with a satinny smooth finish. Opt for PB instead of an un-oaked Chardonnay next time you get your hands on a good wine list.
Marc Bredif Vouvray Chenin Blanc (France) - the nose hits you like a gust of sweet perfume...slightly grassy but lush with fig and peach aromas. Surprisingly rich body, generous with baked apple/pear flavors. French Chenin Blancs are a bit more minerally, giving this wine beautiful balance.