Four European countries, five whites from seven different varieties, all with one thing in common: they’re made for summer. They’re not cheap but certainly cheerful and worth the asking price.
I came across them in various different ways: the Verdicchio had a certain fame that prompted me to take it to a blind tasting; the Albariño and Grüner Veltliner were brought to my attention by sommelier, blogger and closet Italian Raffaele Mastrovincenzo; and the Saint-Mont blend and Timorasso caught my eye at a tasting with a couple of Melbourne importers. They are Ludovic Deloche, whose Halle Aux Vins brings in some lovely French stuff, and Naz Fazio of Vinositá, who weaves similar magic from Italian materials.
La Colombera Derthona Timorasso 2011 Colli Tortonesi DOC, Italy
I almost went off it when I read in fab new mag Noble Rot that this was pretty much the house white for Coldplay. I’m sure they’re nice guys, but if their music were wine, I wouldn’t even cook with it. Of course, they’re millionaire rockstars who can afford to bathe in this stuff, so what do they care?
They’ve evidently got taste, though, because this Piedmont white is delicious. The grape is Timorasso, and up to two days of skin contact followed by weekly lees stirring for nine months lends it texture, freshness and complexity. It’s medium lemon in colour and smells of summer orchards, with lovely fresh stone fruits, pear and honey washing through a slightly unctuous, full-bodied palate. It finishes with a lovely evocation of pear tarte tatin with cream. Para, para, paradise. (Sorry.)
Costs $51 from City Wine Shop, Melbourne – Alcohol 13.5% – Tasted on 23/09/13
Domäne Wachau Grüner Veltliner Terrasen Federspiel 2011 Wachau DAC, Austria
Bear with me, because that name needs some picking apart. Grüner Veltliner is the variety and it’s Austria’s signature white, with Wachau an exemplary region. The grapes were grown on steep terraces (‘Terrasen’) and ‘Federspiel’ is the ripeness/style classification.
Where were we? Oh yes, wine. So it’s pale lemon in colour, with a nose of apple, pear, stone fruits, white pepper and musk. The dry, medium-bodied palate displays pear, ripe apple and dried apricots, with high acid and a marked minerality, finishing long with almond oil and stone fruits. A very good, expressive wine, which should develop nicely over the next few years.
Costs $25 (2012 vintage) at City Wine Shop, Melbourne – Alcohol 12.5% – Tasted on 02/09/13
Plaimont ‘Les Vignes Retrouvées’ Blanc 2011 AOC Saint-Mont, France
A blend of Gros Manseng, Petit Courbu and Arrufiac from a recently upgraded appellation in southwest France. The name means ‘rediscovered vines’, and Arrufiac in particular is something of an endangered species. From the foot of the French Pyrenees, it gives a slight herbal/citrus bitterness to the finish. This wine has a pronounced nose of white flowers, white peach, fresh apricot, tangerine, grapefruit, white pepper and fresh mint.
Fresh fruit spills forth on the palate, with fresh apricots, pear skin, grapefruit and kumquat. It’s medium bodied and quite viognierish in texture, with a fresh, herbal finish and an attractive length to it. That fresh-picked mint and herb, plus the racy acid, lends this wine real vibrancy. Apparently it develops a lovely mineral character with age. Whether it gets a chance to prove it is another matter.
RRP $26.50 at Blackhearts & Sparrows – Alcohol 13.5% – Tasted on 23/09/13
Umani Ronchi Casal di Serra Vecchie Vigne 2009 Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi DOC Classico Superiore
This old-vine Verdicchio hails from the grape’s spiritual home on Italy’s Adriatic coast, a place I’m yet to visit but where I gather locals gorge on seafood washed down with this stuff. Umani Ronchi releases this wine with a bit of age, initially in concrete tanks in contact with the native yeasts, then in bottle.
And what a wine it is. It’s pale lemon in colour, water white at the rim and smells of sea air, apple, pear, chamomile and sage. Almonds, brine and pear are all there on the medium-bodied palate, along with a touch of honey, beeswax and spice. It’s high in acid and finishes long with pear and brine. It’s a complex, intriguing wine that takes time to unfurl. And watching it do so over a shellfish feast would indeed be a delight.
Costs $40 from Boccaccio Cellars, Melbourne – Alcohol 13.5% – Tasted on 29/07/13
Con Un Par Albariño 2010 Rías Baixas DO, Spain
I got laughed at for calling it cute, but it is: trendy Galician Albariño in a sassy package. The name means ‘With a pair’, and white high heels adorn the eye-catching turquoise label.
It’s medium lemon in colour, with a fairly pronounced nose of orange blossom, stone fruits, honey and a yeasty creaminess. It’s a little more than medium bodied, a touch oily, smoky and steely. The mid palate is rich with ripe stone fruits and citrus, finishing smoky with apricot kernel and refreshing acidity. Not a dazzling wine but fun to be had here, and not just by the chicas.
Coss $19 at King & Godfree, Melbourne – Alcohol 13.5% – Tasted on 02/09/13