Wines of the week: 8 white wines for spring
April, then. Spring equinox already done, clocks gone forward, lighter evenings, blokes in inappropriate shorts, gorgeous blossom everywhere and time, therefore, for some spring white wines. Which is probably a cue for rain, ice or snow this weekend.
What do we need from white wines at this time of year? First of all they must be food friendly for glorious sweet green vegetables, spring lamb and seasonal shellfish and they must be refreshing, but still have some substance and body, for those evenings when there is still a bit of a nip in the air, which will rule out eating in the garden for a few weeks yet. So we are looking for wines that have minerality and zestiness as well as body but invested with a bit of vim and vigour as the sap rises, the trees turn green and the bloody dawn chorus wakes us at 4am.
Firstly, then to the pristine, bone dry whites of central France which can only mean Chablis, where normally creamy chardonnay takes on a precise, citrus-inflected mineral character because of the chalky soils. You can, justifiably, pay an awful lot for a Chablis Grand or Premier Cru, so some of the best value can be found in wines which just have the Chablis appellation, based on grapes drawn from the wide area. A relatively new arrival on the scene is the Domaine de L’Enclos Chablis 2017 (£22 winetrust100.co.uk; various independents) but the creation of a long established Chablis family, most of whose vineyards are now organically maintained, which is intense, concentrated, vibrant and wonderfully mineral. A great wine for oysters, crab or lobster for a spring dinner party. Nipping across to the Loire, the Domaine Seguin Pouilly Fume 2017 (£14.50 thewinesociety.com; £17.75 leaandsandeman.co.uk) is similarly and eminently suitable for shellfish and dinner parties, but the sauvignon blanc grapes give a good bit more verve and flintiness, coupled with some grapefruit and a hint of tropical fruits.
Staying in sauvignon blanc territory, but in its outpost on the other side of the world, the Yealands Estate Awatere Valley Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2018 (£12.95 greatwesternwine.co.uk) won gold in the New Zealand Wine of The Year Awards last year and hails from an excellent and highly rated producer and exceptional vintage; as with all Kiwi sauvignon, it is spilling over with tropical fruits, gooseberry and citrus flavours. The very essence of spring and one to drink when the first English asparagus arrives in the shops in a couple of weeks on St George’s Day.
Staying in New Zealand and another take on a European staple, although here, the difference between hemispheres is less marked: the Te Awa Left Field Gisbourne Albarino 2018 (£12.99 nzhouseofwine.co.uk; £14.90 thenewzealandcellar.co.uk) has that distinctive tangy, limey, citrus aromatic qualities found in its Spanish home, but substantially more body and richness, with some melon and peach notes; so one for weightier fish dishes, pork and chicken. Back in the Rias Baixis in Galicia in northwest Spain, the Caixas Albarino 2017 (£9.99; or £8.99 if bought as part of a six-bottle purchase at majestic.co.uk) is a great everyday zesty white, full of fresh, youth full citrus and stone fruit flavours and one for goats cheese salads, mussels and grilled fish.
We do not see a lot of Italy’s fiano grape in this country, which fell out of favour but is now enjoying something of a revival, which has slightly richer fruit flavours than a lot of Italian whites, but cut through with an appealing freshness that is just right for a spring evening. The Carlomagno Fiano Puglia 2017 (£8.60 tanners-wines.co,uk) is another excellent every day wine from the southern heel of Italy which has bags of tropical and grapefruit flavours. But the best expression of fiano is in the Avellino area of Campania, inland from Naples, where the volcanic soils give both vibrancy and a distinct whiff of ash to the wines, such as the Feudi Di San Gregorio Pietracalda Fiano Di Avellino DOCG 2016 (£20.65 winebuyers.com; £20.85 winepoole.co.uk) which has spice, floral aromas, fresh citrus fruits and a full bodied mouthfeel. An elegant, complex wine for prime fish like turbot and sea bass. Staying in Italy, but nipping over to Sardinia, where they produce excellent whites not enough of which find their way here. Poderi Parpinello Ala Blanca Vermentino di Sardegna 2017 (£13.26 corkingwines.co.uk; strictlywine.co.uk) has hints of almonds, spice, citrus and ripe tropical fruits. It may not be quite the weather yet to sit outside in the garden, drinking this with a big fish stew, but hey, it can’t be too long….