Sips: Five Top White Wines for Summer

When I was asked to put together a summer wine segment and appear on WNBC’s New York Nonstop channel, I immediately thought of lighter whites that are easy to drink, match well with a variety of simply prepared foods and are good values. Beyond that, I wanted to introduce viewers to some wines they might not have heard about that are very much worth exploring. With that in mind, I chose five wines from five countries, each made from a different grape. What unifies them is that they are refreshing as both aperitif and food wines, especially with fish and simple chicken dishes, and are made without fermentation or aging in oak. Although I have nothing against chardonnay, I decided to keep chardonnay out of the mix this time around because it is so well known and popular. So, enjoy these five whites with your summer dining. I’ll have many more to share in coming weeks.

Channing Daughters 2010 Sauvignon Blanc “Mudd West Vineyard,” Long Island. $20. Light, delicate and elegant sauvignon from this Bridgehampton winery. The wine is made from grapes grown in a North Fork vineyard and shows subtle green apple, herb and citrus notes.

La Cala 2009 Vermentino di Sardegna, Sardinia, Italy. $12. A delicious example of this Mediterranean variety, this is an easy-to-drink yet interesting wine that will pair well with a variety of foods. Pear and apple notes and a good deal of minerality. A natural for linguine with white clam sauce. Imported by Palm Bay International, Boca Raton, Florida.

Domaine Félines Jourdan 2010 Picpoul de Pinet, Languedoc, France. $13. One of my favorite wines of the summer so far. Picpoul de Pinet is the name of the grape and it’s grown only in Languedoc very close to the Mediterranean Sea. The domaine, which I visited last month on a tour of Languedoc, overlooks oyster farms, and the wine, in fact, is just perfect with oysters. Very fresh with a little brininess, good acidity and lots of complexity. Notes of lemon, herbs, a little honey and vanilla and a good deal of minerality on the finish. Imported by Gabriella Importers, Bohemia, New York.

Viore 2010 Verdejo, Rueda, Spain. $9. I’ve been tasting a lot of verdejos in the last month or so and was newly impressed with this variety, which is the most important white grape in the Rueda region. This one is quite racy and almost jumps out of the glass. Complex with notes of apricot, tangerine, some herbs and smoke on the long finish. Imported by Vintage Wines, Staten Island, New York.

Trapiche 2010 Torrontés, Mendoza, Argentina. $8. Torrontes has become a new darling among fresh and lively white wines, and I saved this one for last on tonight’s TV segment because it’s the most aggressive of the five whites. The variety is highly aromatic and this one, beyond the flower notes, is like biting into an orange. It’s a warm-weather thirst quencher and a real bargain at just $8. Imported by Frederick Wildman and Sons, New York.


Sips: A rosé from California’s Clayhouse Wines

clayhouse It’s Father’s Day and a little rosé is in order this afternoon.  Clayhouse Wines 2010 Adobe Pink is a concentrated blend of roughly one-third each of mourvèdre, syrah and cabernet sauvignon from California’s Central Coast.  Almost copper in color, it shows cassis and herb notes with lime and the slightest bit of vanilla on the long finish. Bursting with flavor. Recommended for grilled herbed chicken and pork. The suggested price is $14. Received as a press sample.


Swirls: Wine alcohol levels, China's domestic wine growth, Italy overtakes France

The issue of alcohol levels in wine is getting a great deal of attention these days, much of it focused on California, where the high-alcohol wine “bubble” seems to be deflating a bit. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I generally prefer wines with more modest alcohol levels. Yes, I realize that is something of a blanket statement, but I usually find wines in the 13- 14-percent alcohol range a bit easier to drink than those at 14.5 percent or higher.  Dave McIntyre in the Washington Post has a good, balanced discussion of this.

Fascinating story on the growth of wine in China, not just the increasing appetite among wealthy Chinese for top Bordeaux and other “status” wine imports, but the explosion of China’s domestic wine industry, which has gone from 30,000 bottles three decades ago to six million bottles today, surpassing Australia’s production. Read the full story on Australia's ABC.

And in case you missed it, Italy has surpassed France to become the world’s biggest wine producer, according to data released by the European Commission. Italy churned out 4.96 liters of wine last year, compared with 4.62 billion liters for France. Spain is in third place and the U.S. is fourth. Read more here.


Swirls: Dear Wine Writer (Or How Not to Invite a Journalist to Your Event)

Here is the kind of invitation I loathe. It begins innocuously enough: “It’s going to be 98 degrees in NYC tomorrow! The perfect night to try our new Rosé and Sauvignon Blanc.” It’s even okay in paragraph two: “Please join us in celebrating the release of our two new wines Parlay Rosé of Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc at the Art Directors Club in New York City tomorrow Thursday, June 9th at 6:30 pm.”

But then comes the disturbing line: “If you would be interested in posting about Parlay Wine or this event on your site we would be happy to provide you with a complimentary ticket to the event.” I don’t know the folks at Parlay Wine – never heard of them until I received this invitation and read on their Web site that they are based in Brooklyn and put their label on a small line of California wines.

The first thing for them to know is that I don’t “post” about events in isolation. I occasionally write about events in the context of wines that I think are noteworthy. Second, there is no way for me to know if I’d be interested in writing about the company or its wines until I taste them. Third, I never, ever make deals with wine companies or their representatives to write about their wines in exchange for “complimentary” tickets to events or samples or anything else. And fourth, I rarely attend events – dinners, lunches, new-release parties – on behalf of individual wine companies. (Think about it for a minute. What if I don’t like your wines and we’re sitting across from each other at lunch. Kind of awkward, wouldn’t you say?) I do, however, attend events sponsored by wine regions, which typically feature a range of wines from a number of producers.

So, how can you make me interested? If you’re Parlay Wine, for example, first tell me a little bit about your company, including your business model (what’s a Brooklyn company doing selling California wines?). Let me know that you’re holding an event that I might find interesting, showcasing your new releases, and that this would be an opportunity for me to taste them. Above all, avoid the word “if,” as in “if you would be interested in posting ... we would be happy to provide you with a complimentary ticket to the event.” For journalists, it is a dirty word, suggesting that coverage can be bought. Lastly, take a look at my site, and you’ll get a sense of the mix of content I am interested in and the tone I take. In just a few minutes, you’ll realize that a ticket to your event in exchange for a post is not something I would care to be involved in.


Sips: An under-$10 white goes down well with the heavy hitters at a charity event

When friends invited us to be their guests at a benefit dinner last week, we found ourselves in the fancy Pierre Hotel here in New York, mingling with men in suits and women in just the right dresses, which is to say people with the means and a desire to make a difference for a good cause, in this case Partnership with Children, which lends a big helping hand to thousands of underprivileged kDomaine-du-Tariquet-Classic-2009_FR-WB-0011-09pids in this city’s public schools. Food and wine were not the main concerns, of course. Raising money for the Partnership was, and this group of supporters – a couple hundred of them or so – was very good at it. At the start of the dinner, the Partnership raised more than $100,000 in less than 15 minutes  as guests, encouraged by an auctioneer, punched in substantial sums in their BidPals, little i-Phone-like devices  we were all given that let you contribute and bid from the privacy of the palm of your hand. It was a breathtaking display of generosity and was just one of the evening’s fundraising activities.

For me, the dinner also highlighted the fact that you don’t have to serve expensive wines to satisfy well-heeled folks at an event like this (all the more money to benefit the children), and one wine in particular stood out in this regard. Domaine du Tariquet’s 2009 “Classic” is an under-$10 white Vin de Pays from Gascony in southwest France, which is far better known for producing Armagnac. Indeed, Tariquet’s wine is made by blending two Armagnac grapes, ugni blanc and colombard, which results in a delightful and fruity wine that went down especially well during the pre-dinner reception. I've reviewed this wine before and was glad to have come across it again with its pleasing green apple and citrus notes. It's widely available, perfect for the warm weather and will fool your guests, if you so desire, into thinking it's a much more expensive wine, as I'm sure it did with more than a few those at the Pierre the other night. Imported by Robert Kacher Selections, New York.


Swirls: A modest proposal on writing about clients, samples and other wine-industry connections

As you may have noticed in this space in recent months, I am all about disclosure, disclosure and more disclosure when it comes to any connections I have with the wine industry (samples, press trips, speaking engagements) and believe it is incumbent on anyone claiming to be a credible wine reporter or reviewer to do so. As I’ve learned over several decades in journalism, mostly with national news organizations, integrity is just about everything, and I’ve tried to follow that principle in almost a decade of writing about wine.  If you’ve just tasted a “killer vouvray sauvignon blanc” and the winery is your client, I want to know that fact. Loved a rosé that you received as a press sample? Let me know that you acquired the wine that way. While most of us in the wine world know how the business works – it is driven largely by public relations and marketing – I’m not sure that the average wine lover who comes across this blog or that Twitter account knows enough to read between the lines and, as a result, may be caught off guard and influenced by conflicted information. By disclosing these relationships, you are telegraphing to your readers that you care about these principles, that you respect their right to know about your connections, and that you have a  sophisticated and  professional view of these things (I believe that those in the wine industry will have greater respect for you as well).

I was reminded about this issue the the other day by an item I came across on Twitter. John Gillespie, who runs an online research company called Wine Opinions and represents wine clients in their marketing efforts, posted the following Tweet:

John Gillespie

@WineOpinions John Gillespie

I never work for people whose wines I don't love, but I'm going to attach "#client" to every tasting note I offer on a client wine.

Gillespie is not the first to disclose a client connection on Twitter, but he is the first I have seen to do so in such a clear and direct way. With a single word, he is removing any ambiguity about his relationship with a wine. Ultimately, his followers will have to decide whether they “love” the wines he promotes as much as he does, but at least now they’ll have little doubt about where he’s coming from when he mentions them. This idea is so simple, taking just seven of 140 characters in a Tweet, that it should become standard practice for those who Tweet about their clients. Similarly, another seven-character tag -- #sample – should be used by wine journalists and critics when they write about wines sent to them as samples (this blog discloses that fact at the end of every post about wines received for review). So, from now on, when you see “#sample” at the end of a Tweet on @VinDeitch, you’ll know that this is how I obtained the wine. There is, after all, no downside to disclosure. What are your thoughts on this issue? Comments welcomed.