The weather is getting warmer, the days are getting longer – spring is in the air and Shavuot is almost here! The warm weather and dairy Shavuot meals provide the perfect excuse to pop the corks on the newest vintage of white and rosé wines.
Aside from some oak-aged white wines, most white and rosé wines should be consumed young, while they are fresh and crisp. Which means that when selecting a white or rosé this Shavuot, try to buy wine from a recent vintage (such as 2007). Also remember to serve these wines chilled, but not too cold – this can mask some of their aromas. Try removing them from the fridge about 10 minutes prior to drinking.
With its refreshing citrus flavors and lip smacking acidity, Sauvignon Blanc is the perfect pairing for a festive, dairy meal. And some of the best examples of Sauvignon Blanc are coming out of New Zealand, where the Goose Bay winery is producing terrific wines. The 2007 Goose Bay Sauvignon Blanc has a bright acidity that is sure to make your mouth water. Tart berry and green grass aromas, together with the aforementioned acidity make this versatile food wine an ideal pairing for a salad, sushi or spicy Asian cuisine.
Chardonnay has for years been the go-to white wine for many people. But like Merlot, whose mass produced and dull (but easily palatable) California style ultimately led to a Merlot backlash, oaky Chardonnay is losing its fanfare. This highly aromatic grape is too often being aged in new oak barrels and undergoing a secondary fermentation process (known as malolactic fermentation) that leads to a wine whose fruity aromas become masked by aromas of toast (from the barrels) and butter (from the secondary fermentation). Recognizing this trend, we are seeing wineries producing Chardonnays that are made in a lighter style that allows the grape’s fruity characteristics to shine through.
The 2007 Efrat “Israeli” Chardonnay does have a hint of oak, but not from barrels. Rather, this stainless steel made wine is aged together in the tanks with oak staves. These staves impart a pleasant hint of spice while allowing the tropical and stone fruit aromas and flavors to shine through. This wine would complete a light lunch of lemon sole and olive couscous.
Though light, crisp and refreshing works best in warmer weather, a white wine with more body (think heavy cream vs. skim milk) pairs favorably with Shavuot classics such as creamy pastas, blintzes or quiche. Viognier is an up and coming white varietal that is often aged in oak and generally made from very ripe grapes – something intentionally done to enable the wines to showcase their pretty floral and tropical aromas.
The 2007 Dalton “Wild Yeast Fermentation” Viognier is an elegant and natural wine (fermented without the addition of foreign yeast strains) with sweet floral aromas and rich creamy flavors. White flowers and hints of honeydew make this wine a terrific pairing for sweet potato soufflé, fettuccini alfredo or parmesan crusted flounder.
Another great (and more colorful) option for warm weather drinking is rosé. While red wines get their color from extended contact with the grape skins, rosé gets its color from minimal contact with the skins. Many rosé wines are actually made from familiar red varietals such as Cabernet Franc, Sangiovese and even Cabernet Sauvignon.
From Israel, the Binyamina winery makes a rosé under its Yogev label. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel, this reddish-pink wine has tart berry aromas and is a nice option on a warm summer day. Though not traditional Shavuot fare, this wine makes me crave a summer BBQ and a juicy burger with all the fixings.
Another rosé, this one made in France, is the 2007 Rothschild Rosé de Clarke. This pinkish-orange tinged wine has fresh strawberry aromas and elegant mineral and fruit flavors. A pleasant and long finish makes this lovely rosé a worthy companion for those special salmon or tuna steaks.
Wine compliments food and completes a meal. Save the grape juice for the kids and indulge in a refreshing glass of wine this yom tov. But remember that whether white, rosé or a robust red, the most important factor when choosing a wine is finding one that you enjoy.
Gary Landsman, a.k.a. the “Wine Tasting Guy,” makes, sells, writes about and of course tastes wine. You can read more of his writings at www.winetastingguy.com or contact him with any wine related questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.