The practice of changing your preferred wine with the season, just as you change your wardrobe, still meets some resistance. Most of us tend to “like what we like” no matter what the weather or season. But drinking the same wine day in and day out puts us in a rut where we miss out. With warmer temperatures just around the corner, it’s time to look at trading in the heavy reds of winter for one of these unique, refreshing value priced bottles.
Some of the best surprises can be found in the unfamiliar grape varietals lining the retail shelves. Muscadet is one of those wines. Don’t confuse this wine with Italian Moscato or our indigenous muscadine of the South. Muscadet is a dry white wine from the Loire Valley of France made from Melon de Bourgogne grapes. Don’t expect a fruit bomb like many white wines — this wine is lean, green and you can usually pick up a salinelike quality to the taste. This saline quality comes from the muscadet vineyards’ proximity to the sea. Many muscadets are aged on the lees or the suspended dead yeast particles. This wine often appeals to beer drinkers as it can taste almost similar to a lager with a creamy texture and yeast flavor.
- 2017 Chateau de l’Oiseliniere Muscadet, France (about $14 retail)
Just as I have been a cheerleader for rosé in the past, my new mission is as a champion of Picpoul. Another unfamiliar grape to many wine drinkers, this wine will eventually become a staple to the table year-round. Don’t be deceived by the tall slim green bottle often associated with sweet German wine, this is a refreshing bone-dry white wine layered with grapefruit, floral, green apple, lemon and most importantly racing acidity. It’s this high acidity and citrus fruit notes that make this wine an all-around food pairing dream and chilled sipping sensation. This grape has an extensive past as an ancient Languedoc grape variety also known as piquepoul, literally meaning “lip stinger” signifying the high acidity of the wine. Picpoul is the grape variety but look for Picpoul de Pinet when buying. It is one of the named Crus of Coteaux de Languedoc made exclusively from this grape. Another reason this is one of my favorite white wines, the price of most bottles falls under $15 retail.
- 2017 HB Picpoul de Pinet, France (about $11 retail)
Another lesser known low-alcohol white wine is Vinho Verde from northern Portugal. This wine is produced to be consumed young and should not be aged. There is no need to memorize the grapes usually used (alvarinho, arinto, avesso, loureiro and trajudura) just focus on the refreshing taste and lively, zesty acidity. Traditionally producers bottled the wine early and young, giving it a slight detection of fermentation in the bottle. But in most modern versions, winemakers give the bottle a boost of carbon dioxide for the light bubbles. It’s this style of slight fizz, citrus fruit and easy drinking that has given Vinho verde the playful reputation in Europe as “soda pop for adults.”
- 2017 Broadbent Vinho Verde, Portugal (about $9 retail)