by Karina Roe, wine staff
We’ve had a grand total of 4 days without rain so far in October, which is surprising to me because it feels like we’ve been in one long rainstorm since Labor Day. The gloom and drear have started to settle into my bones, I find myself hitting the snooze button more and more often in the dark-gray mornings, and all I crave is soup, chunky sweaters, and big white wines.
That’s no typo. I’m as much of a seasonal drinker as the next person, but the truth is that I drink white wines year-round—in fact, the ratio is probably upwards of 2:1 in favor of my white wine to red wine consumption. As the temperatures dip and the wind whips sharper, I don’t necessarily grab a bottle of red—I just drink heavier whites.
I’ve contemplated why this might be. I love wine for its food-pairing abilities, its complex nature, and also for its purely pleasurable qualities. And somehow over the years, I’ve gently leaned into white wines in seeking out all three of these components. It could be postulated that you can generally spend less money on a great bottle of white wine than would require for a great bottle of red, but of course that’s subjective. I like to be refreshed by the wines I drink, but I’m also looking for new tastes, aromas, and experiences. And for some reason, I’ve found these things to be present in more white wines I try than reds. White wines generally have less to hide behind: no skin contact and therefore no extracted color or flavor compounds found in the skins, less oak-aging, generally less long-term development. They reveal their true colors up-front, and their complexities and nuances (when they’re there) are more apparent right out of the gate.
So if you’re like me and just not quite ready to delve into the heavy flavors and unctuous textures of big red wines, take a small step back and warm up with some white(ish) wines of a broad, warming character while still chock-full of flavor, aroma, personality, and deeply gratifying freshness.
Fausse Piste Viognier – $24.99 Jesse Skiles, Madman of Oregon, makes a curiously-classic Viognier from the neighboring Yakima Valley in Washington. Intense scents of lychee and jasmine meld into creamy fresh pear, zippy citrus, crushed stone, white pepper, and a buoyant fresh finish. It’s a juxtaposition of opposites – so much silky textured fresh fruit alongside a plunge into a mineral stream.
Francois Chidaine Clos du Breuil Montlouis-sur-Loire – $24.99 Really, if you told me that I could choose just one white wine to drink for the rest of my life, I would not hesitate in answering “Chenin Blanc.” Chidaine’s Clos du Breuil from the little appellation of Montlouis in France’s Loire Valley has everything that’s adored about Chenin Blanc: fresh beaches and golden apples, citrus flowers, mineral notes, hazelnut and baked honey—all wrapped up into a warm hug in a glass.
Domaine Lafage Centenaire Blanc – $15.99 This is the wine you want if you’re a fruity Chardonnay lover but looking to expand your horizons. A ripe-fruited blend of Grenache Blanc and Roussanne, this southern-French white has beautiful minerality, stone fruits, saltiness and citrus blossom combined into a medium-full body and a pure finish. It’s a year in, year out, spectacular value that should not be missed.
Longridge Chenin Blanc – $19.99 Winemaker Jasper Raats is a master at South African Chenin Blanc. I’ve only just realized that I put two Chenin Blancs in this list, but that’s simply further evidence of my high regard for this wine and that there’s no better time to drink Chenin Blanc than during the wettest, coldest days in October. The Longridge Chenin Blanc seems to make the yellows and oranges of the autumn trees shine a little brighter with its luscious pear and apple notes, hints of toasted almond and whispers of nutmeg and clove on the rich, long finish.
Field Recordings Skins – $19.99 For the cool and hip (or those just curious), here’s an “orange wine” you should strongly consider. Named for the fact that this blend of Chenin Blanc (there it is again), Pinot Gris and Verdelho sits on the grape skins for an extended amount of time, this wine is grippy, intriguing, and absolutely delicious. Funky, cidery aromas come through on an expressive nose, while an herbal, savory note makes an appearance on the palate. Round body, racy acidity, and a long finish complete the package. Even though this is a white wine, don’t serve it too cold or you’ll lose out on the aromatics.