I have been drinking some delicious Old World wines lately, or specifically wine from France, Italy, Spain, Germany and Portugal. The beauty of Old World wine is the heritage, tradition and dedication to the grapes and terroir driven wines vintners and wine makers have had for centuries. It is similar to acknowledging the significance of classic French cuisine, we wouldn’t be where we are today without the solid roots of what has been in place for decades. Another bonus, many stellar wines from throughout Europe are very reasonably priced, giving you a great bang for your buck bottle of wine you are happy to serve at a dinner party. Some regions and varietals are still relatively unknown to wine drinkers throughout the United States, making Old World wine sometimes difficult to understand, however with a little bit of insight and research you will uncover a delicious bottle with ease. Here are a few Old World wine wine suggestions to try. I will follow up with red suggestions in the next few days. A few selections were sent for editorial consideration, some have simply caught my eye on the shelf at my local wine shop or that was on special at Central Market during their French extravaganza.
I helped host a charity dinner the other evening with a hope to introduce guests to a few wine selections that they may not try on their own, a common goal I have when hosting, first pouring the very reasonably priced Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Cava, surprising guests that a $10 bottle of bubbles could taste so good.
Next I poured a French white I picked up at Central Market that their in-store specialist suggested, an unusual combination of varietals you don’t see very often – Ugni Blanc and Colombard from Domaine du Tariquet. Ugni Blanc (or Trebbiano when made in Italy) and Colombard are both better known for their use in Cognac, but blended together create a light, crisp and floral wine with balanced acidity and good fruit, pairing well with a salad made with Spicer greens, Asian pear and crushed walnuts from Chef Mark Wootton of Garden Cafe.
Gruner Veltiner has gained popularity recently as we continue to look for white varietals that go beyond our normal Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc options. The Austrian white is known for being food-friendly, often with spicy, peppery and floral notes and flavors of stone fruit and citrus. The Gruner Veltliner Federspiel Terrassen from Domane Wachau, in the Wachau region of Austria, displays these characteristics beautifully with a white filled with elegance, freshness and character.
For those looking for something to sip while enjoying the sun Ricossa Moscato d’Asti will satisfy without making you too woosy as the alcohol on this light, refreshing sparkler is only 5.5%. From the Piedmont region of Italy the sparkler balances its sweetness with good acidity, filling the palate with stone fruit and honey flavors. This is a wine that can be enjoyed as easily on its own or with summer salads, Asian food and spicy cuisine.
There are probably as many grape varietals as historic monuments in Italy, and their white wines reinforce this idea with every vintage. Santa Christina, the Tuscan winery started in the 1940’s by the Antinori family, proves this with their recently released to the U.S. market Bianco, a blend of Grechetto and Procanico from the Umbria region of Italy. Grechetto is of Greek origins, Procanico is simply what Trebbiano is called in this regions. Blended together they create a lively wine filled with orange blossom, citrus fruit and spice. Stainless steel fermented and bottled young, the wine should be enjoyed shortly after bottling when it is still fresh and youthful.
Though not necessarily in the “affordable” catergory, but definitely in the delicious one is the dry white wine made by the winery many would say produces the best Sauternes in the world, Chateau d’Yquem, Chateau d’Yquem Y. 50% Sauvignon Blanc, 50% Semillon, only 23 vintages of this special wine have been produced since 1959 when d’Yquem winemakers decided to pick the Sauvignon Blanc grapes early and the Semillon late, allowing for the creation of a drier white wine with creamy texture, bold stone fruit flavors and minerality. The wine is aged on the lees in 1/3 new oak barrels for at least 12 months helping create creaminess in the wine while maintaining balanced acidity. A beautiful and special wine.