Terry Kirby is stepping away from the go-to whites and instead drinking full-bodied whites from Europe, Australia and the US which are not served best ice cold
How many of us go back to the same white wines week in, week out? The tried and trusted names of sauvignon blanc or chardonnay, where, when it comes to the New World at least, we mostly expect to find inside the bottle what it says on the outside. Or when did we look beyond the great European whites – the muscadets, pinot grigios and the albarinos – if we are seeking something traditional and dependable?
Well, come on a global journey to discover some exciting new wines, new flavours and styles, assisted by careful ageing and judicious use of oak, that tantalise our taste buds and challenge our perceptions of what a white wine can be.
And – the first wine perhaps being the exception – these are full-bodied wines that, on a cool autumnal evening, should not be drunk icily cold, so get them out of the fridge a bit before you need to drink them, to let the flavours develop.
So, first of all to Portugal, where big red wines normally reign supreme, to discover an elegant, dinner table white from an obscure grape, the Quinta do Carvalhais Encruzado 2015 (£19.95 halifaxwinecompany.com). Made in the Dao from the native encruzado grape, this shows how far modern Portugese winemaking has come from the meaty reds and ports of the Douro – a lovely combination of citrus and melon flavours, a vibrant acidity and yet balanced with plenty of weight on the palate and a light, spicy underpinning from some French oak. Drink with substantial fish and shellfish dishes; some grilled prawns would be ideal.
Now to Eastern Europe and ratcheting up the spicy index a good bit is Chateau Mukhrani 2015, (£10 marksandspencer.com) made from the native rkatsiteli grape in Georgia, one of the oldes winemaking regions in the world but now most associated with slightly sweet or heavy reds. This is quite rich and complex yet very dry, with flavours of ripe peaches, apricots and a frisson of honey. It definitely needs time to warm up from the fridge before drinking, perhaps with lightly spiced Asian dishes or a smoked fish pie.
Think you know your sauvignon blanc? Its grassy, citric and tropical fruit flavours are always – to my mind at least – best suited to spring and summer, so some fans might be a little bewildered by the autumnal tone of the Lismore Barrel Fermented Sauvignon Blanc 2014 (£14.59 strictlywine.co.uk; £16.90 corkingwines.co.uk) from the very tip of South Africa, where the stringent acidity of most New World SB’s is tempered by some ageing in old oak barrels. Yes, that customary citric freshness is still present but there is much more going on: some underlying smoky, savoury, nutty notes, a real fullness of texture and flavour, with a long complex finish.
Moving over to the United States, the Wente Riverbank Reisling 2014, (£12.99 farehamwinecellar.co.uk; £14.82 richardgrangerwines.co.uk) is made in Monterey, northern California by winemakers of German origins, so this is an unusual combination of the fuller bodied, medium dry whites of their home country, balanced beautifully with New World style tropical fruit flavours, all kept clean and fresh from cold fermentation in stainless steel tanks. A real food white and wonderful with pork belly, grilled goats cheese or autumn puddings.
And finally, something very different indeed. From McLaren Vale in south Australia, the Alpha Box & Dice Golden Mullet Fury Semillon Viognier 2014 (£14.69 allaboutwine.co.uk; £14.95 ndjohn.co.uk) is as wacky as its name: an orange wine, ie made like a red wine from white grapes, in this case semillon picked after losing its green, vegetal flavours and viognier, picked before it develops its characteristic apricot and honey notes and all aged in oak. The result is a riot of complex, oily, nutty, spicy and rich fruit flavours that linger long on the palate, almost like a lighter dry oloroso sherry. Strong flavours are needed here: hard and blue cheeses, charcuterie, lighter roast meats. Utterly distinctive and possibly addictive....