There is a certain point in spring where we all start to adjust what we are buying in the grocery store. For me, the two products that get rediscovered every April are Asparagus and Peas. Where days ago I was looking for hearty and wholesome textures from my vegetables, I now search for herbaceousness and crisp textures. Likewise, I need wines that are not designed for an evening near the hearth, but rather a dinner with fresh local produce under the new evening sunlight created by daylight savings and the relative warmth of spring that comes along with it. This year, I feel like staying away from the expected brands like Santa Margherita that are waiting for me to pounce on white fever. Essentially the exact same bottles on the shelf that were there at the end of summer 2010 are still there, now with a bonus layer of dust. I prefer my wine dust as a subtle tasting note.
Two alternatives to Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon blance come to mind immediately, and they both have the ability to soften the blow between the bold excesses of winter red wines and the playful astringencies of summer whites. Albarino and Torrentes offer the aroma to stir the imagination of the thoughtful spring chef, but have significant body to carry the burden of an evening spent discussing deep thoughts by a fire when the weather turns cold outside in the evening.
Torrontes is the more trendy of the two, coming from the land of Malbec in Argentina, and bringing along a whole party of pungent floral nuances and citrus overtones that make it so appealing to a variety of palates. Torrontes tends to be commercially viable, bringing smooth fruity flavours to the party along with the smooth subtle spice of the varietal. Wines like Crios and Michel Torino bring the intense character of Torrontes at a low price point and in a widely available product.
Albarino is the old world standard bearer in this category, and can be compared to more recognizable brands like Gewurzrtraminer and Viognier. It is furiously fragrant in almost all of its styles and caries a lot of weight and peachiness to its flavours, but because of a lot of traditional wine making in the Portuguese and Spanish vineyards where it is made tend to carry some herbal and mineral profiles in its wines Albarino(or Alvarinho) as a whole can be seen as a more traditional product. Rias Baixas is a good place to start for Albarino varietal character from Spain.
Certainly other white wines deserve some mention, as Arneis. Moschafilero, and Chenin Blanc among others can provide much pleasure in the chilled wine category. The bottom line is it’s time to start drinking wines at a temperature below 15 celcius, and the better if they are white and a little off the beaten track.