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Seeking the ‘right’ White Wine

9 Mar
  • An entertainment industry associate reached out to me with a straightforward, basic wine question. She wrote:

    “I love your Jvb Uncorked! I’m learning more about wines. Can you tell me what’s the best white wine that is semi- sweet, but not too dry either? Something in the middle.” -WB

  • I responded:

    “Thanks for enjoying my blog! For white wine, there’s a huge amount out there.
    For future reference, some questions for you to help narrow the field might be:
    -Any specific grapes you prefer?
    -Any region or country of origin you prefer?
    -Have you found some grapes or wines that you know you don’t like?
    -Any price point/range to stay within?

    What fun we could have walking through a wine store and discussing pros and cons of various grapes and wines. Since that wasn’t possible, we’ll have to try it with simple response and a few web links.

    Obviously, I can be much more accurate if you have any specific answers to the above questions. I’ll happily take a stab without that information, but if you have any thoughts in response to that I’ll try again. Here you go:

    1) The white that first comes to mind in terms of your descriptors is one I keep on hand all the time for my wife Annette: a dry riesling, which is inexpensive, easy to drink on its own and pairs with just about anything. Her favorite brands are Clean Slate and Relax, both are German wines from Mosel and are easy, semi-sweet wines that are $9-11/bottle where I buy them.

    2) Next, a Loire Valley wine from France I’d suggest considering that matches your description is Vouvray (the grape is chenin blanc) and has the same flexibility as the dry riesling (having a touch of sweet and nice acidity to balance in the mouth). My favorite,  called Domaine de Vaufuget, is usually around $10/bottle and also easy to find.

    3) Now, this is too dry, but I think you might enjoy knowing about it. My personal favorite white wine to cellar and serve for special meals is sauvignon blanc over $30/bottle, so I don’t drink it often though I keep several bottle on hand and buy it direct from the California manufacturer: Modus Operandi’s Sauvignon Blanc. (Have I ever mentioned the delicious Napa cabernet sauvignon that had the essence of chocolate-covered strawberries on the finish?) This is from that same, amazing winemaker!) This sauv blanc reminds me of a great white bordeaux blend with the finest of California and New Zealand grapes. I raved about it here back in July.

    4) On the “high” end of the white wine spectrum, there are two wines I look to: White Bordeaux blends and White Burgundies. These can start in the under-$20 and head upwards from there, with some of my favorites being $60 and up (often limited to very small quantities!) They are subtle and complex, offering incredible structure in their delicacy.

    These are great wines to try, they usually have a lot of citrus, pear and apple but are not very sweet. Entry-level white burdgundies might include Laforet Chardonnay by Drouhin, or Les Charmes by Macon-Lugny. Both are in the $11-13/bottle range, a great entry to white burgundy. These are chardnnays that don’t have a lot of butter or oak, but are on the crisp side and are good by themselves or wonderful with vegetarian fare and fish dishes.

    The next grape in this category is called Aligote, which would be something nice to try if you like one of the less expensive white burgundies -that link will give you ten examples at one of NYC’s bigger stores, with prices from $11-28.

    5. For white bordeaux, there are two easy, entry-level white blends (just about every Bordeaux is a blend, so you get the best characteristics of several grapes, such as sauvingnon blanc, semillon, and the sweet muscadelle grape- to create a very flexible white table wine. Lamothe de Haux and Mouton Cadet Blanc are two white bordeaux in the $10-$12 range that are great entry level Bordeaux whites I trust very well. If you are ever looking for a higher end white Bordeaux for a special meal, there are great, subtle, well-structured wines like Chateau Corbonnieux , Blanc de Lynch-Bages, and Smith-Haut Lafitte, which are my three favorite white bordeaux wines hands-down, and I’d be remiss in not mentioning them.

    6. While it doesn’t have much sweetness, I’d be remiss to not even mention Pinot Grigio, which is Italy’s biggest export and the USA’s biggest wine import. Pinot Grigios are usually crisp and dry, and are very popular to drink at cocktail parties. Not much sweetness as I mentioned before, but worth tasting and considering if you like the grape in general and should consider it when you are pairing. The easiest to find Pinos (just about everywhere) are the Santa Margharita, about $20, Ruffino Lumina (about $13) and from California is Woodbridge Pinot Grigio that is a little more sweet and about $9/bottle.

    wine_store

    While it would be much more fun to peruse the aisles of a fine wine store together, pulling out several bottles for WB to review and choose from, I hoped my suggestions would be welcome and helpful in her selection of thoughts about what to buy.

    I got an note back with thanks from WB:

    “Jim, this excellent information! I tend to go towards a riesling most of the time and I’ve tried Pinot Grigio but felt it was a little dry. I’ll have to try the California one you suggested. This info is really great and I thank you for sharing.”

    You’re quite welcome, WB! I’m always happy to be of service, and thanks for reaching out!

    If you have a question or topic you’d like me to address, you can DM me at JvbUnCorked on Twitter, or email me privately at jvbuncorked@gmail.com.

    à votre santé!

From JvB’s Cellar (Bin #1): Thanksgiving Wines (11-23-10)

23 Nov

I started writing about wine on facebook, after several people inquired what wine to serve at Thanksgiving.

I published my first wine-focused ‘note’ with the intent of spreading the word. After more than a year of being pestered to start a wine blog, I’m finally taking the plunge- and I have my 60+ entires of historic wine notes to include.

So…welcome to The Cellar! For ‘historic’ notes, I’ll include the header From JvB’s Cellar and include the date so you can quickly decide to read, browse, or ignore any of the submissions you might recall, or wish to re-visit. Please let me know with your comments if it’s working out for you- as an established writer I want the writer-reader relationship to be beneficial, and I’m trying to figure out how to make a blog worth your time. Fair enough?

—————Thanksgiving Wines  (originally posted 11-23-10) ——————

This has been requested by a half-dozen different people, so I’m making it a note.

Here’s my $0.02 on Thanksgiving wine, and I’ll try to stay on the inexpensive side of wines, 9-15/bottle, for large groups like this. At Thanksgiving I tend to serve several wines: A main white, a second white (Reisling for the reluctant drinker), a gentle red, and a serious red.

1) I always serve a dry white (either a Bordeaux like Lamothe de Haux ’09, Chateneuf Herzog, or a white Burgundy like the Latour Macon-Lugny Les Genievres, each @ $10/bottle). It helps get people to the table, great to drink while cooking or chatting, and a good dinner wine for people who don’t (or can’t) drink red, want something to clear their palate, don’t really like to drink wine much but want a glass at the table, or similar reasons.

2) I also always have a bottle of a dry Reisling on hand. Some people can’t digest the tannins of reds and the whites are often too mineral-tasting or too dry without food, and a demi-dry white or a dry Reisling is my secret weapon. At about $9/bottle, I have found my wife and mom both love bottles like Mosel Germany’s Clean Slate ’08 and Relax ’07, which are unpretentious, tasty, and fun to drink without being too sweet, while being a decent food complement for those non-wine drinkers who just want a little something in their glass to enjoy. They are often screw-cap, which makes them easy to serve & save.

3) For reds, in the last three years I have turned from my traditional “too-heavy” cabernets to the balanced and more appropriate Pino Noir for Thanksgiving red. I serve either the Joseph Drouhim Nourgogne Pinot “Laforet” ’07, the Chamarre’ Grande Reserve Pinot Noir ’07, or Louis Latour Pinot Noir Bourgogne, all in the $9-$12 bottle range. If I have guests who are Californian wine drinkers, the Ramsay North Coast ’08 Pinot, which is big and bold, is a great choice around $14/bottle.

4. Lastly, I always keep a serious red on hand, just in case I have a serious red drinker. It also is great as the meal progresses or if you have a red meat course or a flavor that is looking for a big wine to complement it. On the low end of the price scale, I adore Los Vascos ’06 Cabernet Sauvignon which is a Rothschild (Lafite) grape grown in Chile, and is an outstanding value at 9/bottle. There are also always a lot of great Bordeaux out there in the 10-15 range, Chateau de Costis, Chateau du Pin, Chateau Greysac (Medoc) ’06, Chateau Lascaux ’05, all solid choices. If I want to step that up a notch, there are some excellent choices in the 18-25/bottle range, such as Lafite Reserve Speciale (Medoc) ’06, Chateneuf-du-Pape and Margaux which will largely vary on the vintner and year depending on where you buy wine.

Happy Holidays!

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