Growing up in a large Catholic family, I noticed varying levels of participation in our religious observances. Yet certain traditions were non-negotiable. Following the (epic) fête of Mardi Gras, Ash Wednesday, the forty days of Lent, and Easter were relevant to everyone in our home and parish...
Growing up in a large Catholic family, I noticed varying levels of participation in our religious observances. Yet certain traditions were non-negotiable. Following the (epic) fête of Mardi Gras, Ash Wednesday, the forty days of Lent, and Easter were relevant to everyone in our home and parish. Not just time for personal reflection and atonement, but to share a more public devotion it seemed. As a kid, I didn't have a clue about what we were supposed to do, but I could wrap my mind around Friday night family dinners, and the no meat rule. I looked forward to the week's end- crawfish, redfish, shrimp and crab dishes- thinking all the while, I can't believe this is "self-denial".
Now as a grown up, and from a marketing perspective, I enjoy the attention that the Lenten season receives. It represents a time of transition from winter to spring, and offers chefs, sommeliers, foodies and wine enthusiasts the opportunity to be creative, to seek fresh new ingredients and flavors. The same rebirth happens in the wine shop.
The first releases of rosé start to roll in the door, every year arriving a week or two earlier. Our importers know that they've got to be first on the shelf, pushing their producers to finish the wines, bottle and ship as soon as possible.
Last fall, we considered that that Beaujolais Nouveau may be dead. Perhaps dry rosé is the new Nouveau? If that's true - as much as we adore pink - perhaps rosé makes our job too easy in some ways. Visually and aromatically, I'm predisposed to like them, and so are you. Sunshine in a glass, so to speak. And who couldn't use a little more sunshine these days?
(Easter Weekend Tasting at King Street, Thursday April 2, 5:30-7:30pm. Mark your calendar.)
The equally satisfying, and potentially more intellectually challenging buying decisions come with sourcing compelling white wines. Any one of us can stumble upon people-pleasing Northern Italian Pinot Grigio, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc or South American Chardonnay. What's thrilling is seeking the OTHER whites. I look for wines with character, representing their vigneron, region and climate with authenticity and charm. These are wines that make you think. You'll want to ask questions, share with friends, and pair with your Friday night Lenten meals. Think mussels, rockfish, or scallops.
Vanessa's recommended Friday night whites:
2013 Domaine de Villargeau Coteaux du Giennois, Loire $15.99
Stretching from the Massif Central to the Atlantic Ocean, the Loire valley is home to dozens of the best areas for value wine production in France. Often overshadowed by the likes of more prestigious regions like Vouvray and Sancerre, this large network of Loire subregions is a garden of inexpensive cool climate red and white wines that in many cases rival their more expensive neighbors. Coteaux du Giennois is one such region: a small AOC centered around the town Gien on the Loire's right bank just down river from Sancerre and Pouilly-sur-Loire. Domaine de Villargeau is a top producer in the Coteaux du Giennois owned by brothers Fernand and Jean-Francois Thibaut. Their 2013 Domaine de Villargeau blanc is 100% Sauvignon Blanc grown on flinty clay soils and fermented and aged in stainless steel. Fresh and crisp with delicate flavors of gunflint, citrus peel and nectarine, it is a perfect accompaniment to goat cheese, fresh fish or summer salads.
2013 Hatzidakis Assyrtiko Santorini, Greece $17.99
There are few wine growing regions as beautiful and singular as the Greek island of Santorini. One of the Cyclades islands off the southeastern coast of mainland Greece, Santorini has been growing wine grapes since antiquity and has unique volcanic soils that are naturally resistant to Phylloxera so the vines on the island are often very old. Combined with the island’s sunny Mediterranean climate, these old vines of local varietals produce concentrated, medium to full-bodied wines of consistently high quality. Hatzidakis is one of the top small producers on the island run by Haridimos and Kontsantia Hatzidakis who farm 10 hectares of organic vineyards in the small village of Pyrgos Kallistis. This 2013, with its lively acidity and expressive aromas is typical of the mineral driven white wines made from Santorini's most important whtie grape, Assyrtiko. Amazingly versatile with shellfish and oily fish like salmon and swordfish, it even holds up to trickier ingredients like tomato and asparagus.
2013 Casal de Arman Ribeiro Blanco, Spain $22.99
Founded in the late 1990's, Casal de Arman is the work of the Gonzalez Vazquez family in the Ribodavia area of Ribeiro in Galicia. There are 5 DO wine producing regions in Galicia of which the most important three are Rias Baixas, Ribeiro, and Ribeira Sacra. In all three of these regions, white wine is king. Ribeiro is greatly defined from its coastal neighbor of Rias Baixas and its mountainous neighbor, Ribeira Sacra, to the north. The most important grape variety in Ribeiro is the noble white grape Treixadura, which is often complimented by the weight of Godello and the aromatic liveliness of Albarino. This 2013 is 90% Treixadura, 5% Godello, and 5% Albariño grown on terraced vineyards of granitic sands and clay.