I stop stop my tasting at sparkling wines and reds. I threw in some whites. In fact, I tended toward the whites over the reds because trying reds without food is really hard. It’s drying and tannic. But whites are fruitier, lighter. And dessert wines are…well, they’re dessert. Sweet, satisfying, rich, and luscious. All on their own. If you can imagine a cheese plate or a pavlova or a piece of Christophe Morel rare origin Madagascar dark chocolate while you’re eating it, all the better.
But I’m here to recommend some whites for gifts, so I better get on with it. As before, some are more affordable than others. Unless you’ve got some cash kicking around, you probably won’t be drinking these every day. Except the muscats…those I would drink every day if I drank everyday.
I first went to the Bonterra booth because these are mostly available at liquor stores in Canada, and they’re organic and they’re pretty well respected. So I figured I’d better try the whole line. Fortunately, that was just three whites that day. And the highlight was:
Bonterra Viognier 2009 ($21.20 at the SAQ; only the Zinfandel and Cabernet are available in Newfoundland)
Viognier is a weird one. Basically I only think that because most people end up tasting a lot more sauvignon blancs and chardonnays. Maybe a chenin blanc or a pinot grigio.
Stuff you probably don’t need to know: Viognier is really common in the Rhone Valley in France, but this wine comes from California, so I wanted to see what the other side of the world could do with it. It needs food, it turns out. It has really low yields and generally needs to be picked by hand. They probably exist, but I haven’t yet found a Viognier (I’ve only maybe tried ten or so in my life) that I would drink all on its own.
Stuff you maybe do need to know: It has some fruit in the smell, but the taste is a lot leaner than you expect. Peachy in the nose, but grassy in the mouth. So it’s good with pure food – fresh, seasonal vegetables. Throw in some puff pastry or a cream sauce and you’re good to go. I’d maybe even have it with spicy food, but nothing too powerful. Some cayennes diced on olive oil-doused pasta or haddock, or hake. Maybe mackerel, but I think an oily fish couldn’t hold its weight in the struggle for flavour domination and/or balance.
Le Clos Chateau Isenbourg Gewurztraminer Les Terrasses Vieilles Vignes 2007
Not officially organic or natural as far as wines go, this Gewurz isn’t the sweet Hugel-style Alsatian you might expect. It has that incredible aroma of lychees I swoon over, but is a lot dryer on the tongue. Which is great! All the depth, no sugar headache.
Stuff you probably don’t need to know: It comes from a micro-climate so you don’t get a lot of these wines anywhere in the world, and not even a lot from this producer or this area. Uber-terroir.
Stuff you maybe do need to know: It won a bunch of contests and it’s hard to find, but if you do find it in a restaurant, scoop it up! Or order 12 from an importer. This one’s pretty unique. Peaches and lychees, and perfect with anything from calamari or an olive oil-dressed salad, or quinoa, or couscous, to Indian or African or Caribbean food. It’s not as acidic as a lot of Gewurztraminers, but it can cut through the heat pretty well. Rich tomato or meat sauces might overwhelm it, but give it a chance. It could hold its own. Ooh! Coconut milk-based Thai or Malaysian curries! Yes! Green curry would be best. The sweeter, hotter, but smoother one. Red, sure, but it’s not as elegant with the wine. Kind of like they’re off to a ball and the wine’s in a gown and the food’s in jeans and sneakers.
Cazes Muscat de Rivesaltes 2007 ($24.80 at the SAQ; not available in Newfoundland)
God I love muscat. I wasn’t planning any dessert wines when I got to this booth, but I couldn’t help myself. In fact, someone else helped me. A lovely Cazes representative. Who says good help is hard to find? Not I. See that cute little quartet gift box next to the Muscat? That’s the collection of sweet wines Cazes has on offer. It’s the PERFECT gift. Only problem is it’s not for sale anywhere in this country, apparently! Only straight from the estate. That’s Roussillon, France. Sounds like a great vacation, but slightly inconvenient when you’ve got 15 minutes before the liquor store closes on this side of the lake.
Stuff you maybe don’t need to know: It’s a “vin doux naturel” – a natural sweet wine. Which to me means it’s heaven. It’s very sweet, with lots of residual sugars, but what you taste is what’s coming from the ground in Roussillon. No junk added.
Stuff you probably do need to know: Mango, citrus, peach, smooth, golden nectar. Why buy sweet wines from France when Quebec makes such stellar ice ciders? For variety. Because every wine tastes different and this one is wonderful. Because if you can rationalize buying a Bordeaux for that special guest who will be impressed by the fact that you bought a Bordeaux, then they’ll probably be more impressed by this than something less expensive from Quebec. Or Ontario, for that matter. With dessert. Or not. Personally, I say it is dessert.
Cazes Rivesaltes 1978 ($100 at the SAQ; not available in Newfoundland)
What a difference a few years can make. Well, 29 to be precise. Drinkable sweetness turns to thick, unctuous almost syrup. It also adds about $75 to the price tag. $2.50 per year. I bet most people wish they had that good a return on their net worth annually…
Stuff you probably don’t need to know: The same thing as above – natural, fruit that’s been by now buried in alcohol, but not too much alcohol as to turn it boozy. It’d perfect right now. A heavy hit of flavour and fruit without knocking you out for the rest of the evening.
Stuff you maybe do need to know: On its own, or with simple vanilla cake or custard. I was going to say caramel but it’s got the caramel side covered. Light white cake. No bread pudding. Nothing dense. God forbid fruitcake. Chocolate, yes. It can stand up to it like a good scotch, but lighter, slightly. Almond macarons, chantilly cream, éclairs. Banana napoleans…I think I should stop now.