Let’s see a show of hands: Are we tired of winter yet? It’s that time of year when spring starts teasing us. The days get noticeably longer, temperatures here in the Northeast start flirting with readings above frigid and, best of all for me, the wines of spring start making their first appearances (I’ll ignore the fact that it started snowing as I write this).
I also realized the other day that for the last month or so, clearly in winter mode, I had written only about red wines, which is all the more reason to lighten things up with a selection of whites (and one rosé) that will remind you that a new season is, indeed, around the corner.
If I had just one white wine to drink, it would probably be sauvignon blanc for its freshness and versatility. They’re produced just about everywhere and you can find excellent sauvignons in a range of prices.
Here are three new releases to look for: Angove Family Winemakers’ 2008 “Vineyard Select” Sauvignon Blanc from the Adelaide Hills in South Australia is elegant and balanced, with notes of grapefruit, orange, a touch of strawberry and a slightly creamy note that holds through a long finish. It’s $14.
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From California, St. Supéry Vineyards 2008 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc, at $21,is a repeat favorite with its considerable complexity, including notes of pink grapefruit, vanilla, rosemary and a slightly peppery finish.
I was also impressed bya new offering from New Zealand, Long Boat Winery’s 2008 Sauvignon Blanc, made from fruit sourced from high-elevation vineyards in Marlborough’s Awatere and Waihopai Valleys. This precise and textured $20 wine is very dry with white peach, passion fruit, lime rind, a touch of cut grass and pronounced minerality.
All three of these sauvignons are made without oak, which gives them freshness and vitality. Alcohol levels are modest, ranging from 12.5 to 13.3 percent. They’re great aperitif wines and will match well with a range of foods, from goat cheeses to all kinds of fish and shellfish and herbed chicken dishes.
From Argentina, I discovered an excellent example of torrontes, the country’s most widely planted white grape that’s getting more (and well-deserved) attention here these days. This one is the 2008 Crios de Susana Balbo Torrontes,made from grapes from Cafayate inthenorthern province of Salta, where some of the best-quality grapes are grown.
This delicious, intensely floral $15 wine is balanced by a core of pear and citrus, especially lemon and grapefruit, and a touch of vanilla that combine to fill the mouth with flavor. It’s also made without oak and, as the label aptly puts it, combines the floral qualities of viognier with the dry crispness of sauvignon blanc. It’s another wine for lighter foods.
Within a month or so, the annual flood of rosés from Europe and California will be released. But right now there's a delightful early arrival to enjoy from South Africa, the 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé from Mulderbosch Vineyards, a well-known estate in Stellenbosch. This impressive $12 wine with bright cherry and herb notes was a hit with a range of appetizers at a dinner not long ago, reinforcing the fact that rosés are often excellent food wines and can be enjoyed throughout the year.
And so, as we enter the homestretch of winter, it’s a great time to enjoy these early tastes of spring in white and pink.
Edward Deitch is the recipient of the 2007 James Beard Foundation Journalism Award for Best Multimedia Writing. He welcomes comments from readers. Write to him at email@example.com
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