No, the topic this time are all those crazy white grapes you’ve probably never heard of, let alone tasted, and the wondrous, eye-opening wines that are made from them. Given the fact that there are literally hundreds (if not thousands) of white wine grapes vinified around the world we’ll have to limit our discussion to a manageable number, which by sheer chance happens to coincide with some of the charming white wines we have in stock at Bin 94 wines. Imagine that.
The world’s favorite wine is Chardonnay, and the chardonnay grape is fabulously adaptive. It’s grown pretty much wherever wine grapes are planted, and at last count there were over 440,000 acres of chardonnay growing around the globe. The product of those vines is both revered and reviled, but unless you make me squeal like a pig we’re not here to talk about Chardonnay.
So, strap on your life vest, grab your paddle and kiss the kids goodbye, because we’re launching our canoe into the river of strange and exotic white wine.
Our first stop will be Sicily, that football shaped (okay, I have a vivid imagination) island off the toe of Italy’s boot. We are here to meet Grillo. Contrary to popular belief, Grillo is not the long-lost Marx brother with a fetish for barbeque. Grillo, the wine grape, is also known a Riddu, and historically was used to make Marsala, a fortified wine from the western Sicilian seaport city of the same name, but more and more we’re seeing table wines made from Grillo. One of the interesting things about Grillo is that it thrives under the high heat and dry conditions found in Sicily. Hey, California, have I got a grape for you.
Bin94wines has a 2013 Tenuta Rapitalà Grillo that is a distinctly dry wine with flavors of Mediterranean herbs, a bit of almond nuttiness and a tangy, citrusy finish. It’s the prefect shipmate for shellfish and seafood, and only $11.99
Our next port of call, just to the north of Naples in Campania, is where we encounter the ancient and fragrant grape known as Falanghina. Like many Italian grapes Falanghina has a dozen other names, but it’s thought, regardless of what it was called at the time, that this was the grape used for Falerian wine, drunk by Julius Caesar after his conquest of Spain. Now I don’t know about you, but I always like a nice dry white after subjugating another country.
The 2014 Sorrentino Falanghina is made from grapes grown on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius, and the rich volcanic soils impart a hint of minerality to the otherwise crisp, lemony flavors of the wine. This is another great seafood wine, and can be had for $13.99 with or without invading gladiators.
Okay, stash the canoe because we’re heading inland to seek out that classic central Italian grape called Verdicchio. Verdicchio has been around since the 14th Century, and the name derives from “verde” meaning “green,” which goes a long way to explaining the wine’s greenish tint.
Our selection is a Verdicchio di Matelica. Most Verdicchio’s are from the coastal areas of the Marché, but ours is from the higher elevations near the Umbrian border, and the wines from Matelica (not to be confused with the whines from Metallica) tend to have more body and richness than their lowland kin. Accattoli, the producer of our Verdicchio, has created a complex, citrusy wine with a high natural acidity, hint of bitter almond and a dry, satisfying finish that would be a great accompaniment to poultry, pasta and lighter pork dishes. Yours for just $12.99.
Now we’re traveling to the deep south – of France, that is, where the hillbillies smoke Gauloises and the pigs squeal when they find truffles and there’s a grape called Picpoul blanc. Picpoul can literally mean “lip-smacking,” and indeed the wines made from it are cracklingly dry. Our HB Picpoul de Pinet is richly scented and tastes of tart green apples and white peaches. This pale wine is medium to full-bodied, terrific on its own, with fruit and cheese or as the base of a super white sangria. It’s also just $12.99.
Next, we’re off to the northwest of Spain to sample a Verdejo. Originally from North Africa, Verdejo arrived in Spain in the 11th Century. The vines have a distinctive blue-green bloom, and are very aromatic, reminiscent of laurel or bay leaves. Verdejo grapes are usually harvested at night because the lower temperatures make for less chance of oxidation. Plus it’s more fun to be in the vineyard in the dark. Boo!
The Arrumaco Verdejo at Bin94 is rich and floral with peach and lemon notes. It’s crisp and delicious with a mouth coating finish. It’s also a real find at $12.99.
There are still umpteen white varietals we haven’t mentioned like the Grüner Veltliner, Cortese and Chasselas, but I think I just heard a banjo playing. I’m outta here.
‘Til next time.