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Unusual Whites That Score Big PDF Print E-mail
Written by Bill Citara -- BT Contributor   
September 2013


VINO“Hit ’em where they ain’t,” as Wee Willie Keeler once said, is as good advice in wine buying as it is in baseball.

I know, baseball metaphors are as trite as chewing gum commercials -- America’s pastime, the boys of summer, a field of green -- but nowadays we take our clichés where we can get them.

And besides, in life as well as baseball, hitting the horsehide-covered spheroid to that vacuum-gloved third baseman with a .357 Magnum for an arm will leave you with a batting average lower than Sarah Palin’s IQ.

Anyway, Wee Willie’s point -- admittedly extrapolated halfway to Jupiter -- is that the best way to get the biggest bang for your bat, and buck, is to play ball in less-crowded territory. When it comes to finding interesting wines at an affordable price -- which, after all, is the reason for Vino’s existence -- that often means shopping outside the terminally jam-packed Cabernet-Chardonnay-Merlot-Pinot Noir aisles.

Since it’s still hotter than Hades in a blast furnace, with lobster season upon us and stone crab season coming up fast, it seemed a reasonable proposition that this month’s affordable wines be white. And we do have some good ones.

Two excellent examples are the 2012 Chateau Saint-Pierre de Mejans and the 2010 Domaine de Pellehaut. The Saint-Pierre comes from the Luberon region of Provence and is a blend of Grenache Blanc, Grenache Gris, and Ugni Blanc, the last being one of the chief grapes used in the production of cognac. It’s a quiet little party for your taste buds, rife with ripe apricot and green apple aromas and flavors, with an earthy edge and pronounced minerality from the region’s limestone-laced soils.

The Pellehaut is definitely something different. Made from six grapes, it fools you with a nose of ripe tropical fruit, only to smack you in the palate with crisp, citrus acidity. Think taking a bite of a ripe, juicy mango that tastes like a bracingly tart pineapple. It may be something of an acquired taste, but it certainly is unusual.

The 2012 Mont Gravet Côtes de Gascogne, on the other hand, is of much less elaborate pedigree, being 100-percent Colombard. Wine drinkers of a certain vintage may recall domestic “French Colombard” (which translates as “crap”), but this quite appealing wine is nothing like that. It’s got a peachy, almost floral character, with a bit of richness, some soft citrus acidity, and a hint of the diesel aroma exhibited by some Rieslings.

Sticking with France, we come to the 2011 Cave de Tain Marsanne, another 100-percent varietal, though this one from the northern Rhone Valley. It’s a classic Marsanne, teasing with a creamy, mouth-filling texture and hints of peach and pear, then satisfying with refreshing lemon-lime-mineral flavors that practically demand to be complemented with a fat mound of stone crab claws.

We’ve all read a lot about Greece lately, most of it not very complimentary. So here’s some good news: Boutari 2010 Kretikos. Composed of 70-percent Vilana and 30-percent other varietals even more unpronounceable than the French, it’s a simple, citrusy, mineral-y wine that’s perfect for sitting on some rustic taverna’s little seaside patio, enjoying a handful of olives and infinite views of brilliant-blue water. The Greeks may not be so hot with their finances, but they do know how to live.

Italy’s been in the news a lot, too, and much of it isn’t any happier than the word on Greece. So the hell with it. Pop the cork on a bottle of Ruffino’s 2011 Orvieto Classico and tell the world to go screw. It’s a simple wine -- a little citrusy, a little herbal, a little earthy, not particularly distinctive, but pleasant enough.

And finally, a wine from California with a French-sounding name: Ménage à Trois. And no, it has nothing to do with naughty sex. It’s a lush, fruity ménage of Chardonnay, Moscato, and Chenin Blanc, produced by Napa’s Folie à Deux and as charming as the wine country itself. Think floral and honeysuckle from the Moscato, some ripe pear and apricot from the Chardonnay, a touch of earthy acidity from the Chenin Blanc. Think about it over a platter piled high with stone crab claws or Florida lobster tail fresh off the grill.

That’s a homerun if ever there was one.

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