Unsurprisingly, my friends always expect me to bring a decent bottle of wine whenever I come to stay, but they don’t generally specify what colour it should be. The other week, however, one pal pleaded plaintively: “Pleeease could you bring some white – we always seem to be running out.”
That’s a situation in which I, too, frequently find myself, especially at this time of year, when I’m not quite into full rosé mode, but am eating fresher, lighter food than I was just a month ago. The trouble is that white wine is more Marmite than red: people will tell you they hate chardonnay, they’re bored with sauvignon blanc and/or that they find riesling too sweet – and, of course, that natural wines are too weird.
Grape varieties are not uniform, though. Your chardonnay-hater, for instance, may well like chablis and your sauvignon-sceptic sancerre (though they may not be able to afford it these days), while riesling can be dry as well as sweet (and is particularly good with spicier food such as Thai).
Also, some whites are less divisive than others – I rarely come across anyone who dislikes albariño or picpoul, say. And if you feel that pinot grigio is a bit of a cop-out, you’ll probably get away with a verdicchio dei castelli di Jesi (Morrisons has a decent one in its The Best range), and for much the same price. Rueda, meanwhile, might strike your hosts as cooler than sauvignon blanc, but in fact isn’t that dissimilar in character, and many bottles from the region include it: rioja producer Beronia makes a good one that’s currently on offer at Waitrose for £6.99, and that would work really well with in-season asparagus.
Now is also the perfect time of year for English white wines, which tend to be light and low in alcohol, making them ideal with young goat or sheep cheeses, leafy salads and herbs such as tarragon and chervil. And if you have friends who are into wine, you’ll get extra brownie points for bringing along bottles featuring more unusual grape varieties such as Sicily’s carricante or from lesser-known wine-producing regions such as the Savoie white in today’s pick, which is made from the rare jacquère.
Do bear in mind, too, that white wine generally benefits from being drunk young – most cheaper wines are already on to the 2021 vintage, though 2020s should still be tasting fresh, especially if they’re bottled under screw-cap. And remember that, while they should be served cold, they shouldn’t be over-chilled, or you’ll dumb down the flavour.
Four fresh whites to give friends
Specially Selected Picpoul de Pinet 2021 £6.49 Aldi, 12.5%. Picpoul’s been creeping up in price lately, but this latest Aldi vintage is a bargain.
Eidos de Padriñán Albariño 2020 £15.95 (or £13.95 as part of a mixed case) Lea & Sandeman, 13%. Really gorgeous: crisp, fresh and saline. Perfect for seafood.
The Society’s English White 2021 £8.50 The Wine Society, 12%. There’s no better time of year to drink English wine, and this is an unusually well-priced example. Try it with a crab sandwich.
Domaine de L’Idylle Cruet Vieilles Vignes 2021 £14.90 Yapp Brothers, 11.5%. A delicate, crisp, alpine white from under-the-radar Savoie. Would be perfect with oysters, or with cheese.
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