Three White Wines to Try Now
The diversity of the wine world is what makes it exciting and why I pursued it as a career. Sadly in our great American culture we've attempted to simplify white wine (and all wines but let's just look at whites) to the point that there are basically three options:
First, there's Chardonnay, which is beginning to break stereotypes of being a butter bomb (now largely untrue even if oaked), but still has a ways to go. Then there's the Pinot Grigio/Sauvignon Blanc crowd of clean citrusy dry whites. These are basically the same wine and most brands are bulk juice that is super predictable; the bud light of wine. Then there's Riesling which sadly is usually bulked in with garbage sweetened Moscato in the consumer's mind now even though both grapes are capable of making some of the best dry and sweet wines out there.
To break from those oversold and often mediocre experiences, try a wine from one of these three regions and find your new Chardonnay.
1. Etna Bianco
Etna continues to make huge strides as a world class region for both red and white wine. There is a lot going on here to make these wines stand out: the region sits around the summit of 11,000 foot Mount Etna, an active volcano on an island, and the grapes often literally are planted in prior lava flows. The vines are often very old and are found between around 1,600 to over 3,000 feet above the Mediterranean. The grape is Carricante with some other mixed plantings allowed. These wines retain amazing acidity while developing a mouth-coating texture - my favorite type of white wine to have with food. They also age for an eternity, but we don't really know how long yet as the Etna revival is still a relatively new phenomenon.
For the best of the best look for Benanti "Pietramarina" (around $75), the older the better. For a value wine seek out the Terre Nere Etna Bianco (around $25).
2. Eden Valley & Clare Valley Riesling
These two valleys sit near the west coast of South Australia to the north of Adelaide. Eden is a higher elevation extension of Barossa Valley, known for Shiraz, while Clare is a bit further north and isolated with a more extreme climate. Both make exceptional dry Riesling, and if I have any goal in life it's to force consumers to realize that dry Riesling is not an oxymoron. These wines have no sugar and tons of acidity; they can age forever and pair with anything.
For the best look for Grosset Riesling "Polish Hill" from Clare Valley (around $60), and for an easier to find value seek out Pewsey Vale Riesling from Eden Valley (around $20).
3. Greek Malagousia
In 2008 I was just getting into wine and attempting to make money from this passion. Back then my palate was feeble but I loved Viognier for its stunning aromatics. I still love smelling Viognier but often hate tasting it due to a lack of acidity (not talking Condrieu here). Malagousia brings those aromatics to a leaner more mineral driven palate and I almost always greatly enjoy the experience. These aren't commonly found and much like Viognier the grape had nearly gone extinct a few decades ago. Look for one from the north, not from and island, and not in a blend for the best experience.