Wine — Presenting the wines of spring

Presenting the wines of spring

By Tim Protzman

There is a taste and type for every season

Besides food, wine is often matched with the weather. Certain wines taste better in cold or warm weather. As the air heats up and those wonderful clear spring days start to happen, it’s fun to explore white wines that go with the warm days and crisp nights of early spring.

Our favorite white wine is chardonnay. But most tend to be a little heavy — oaky, buttery and full of cream and vanilla. A springtime chardonnay should be lighter, thirst-quenching and have a grassy and floral nose. Three that fit the bill from least to most expensive are:

Clos du Bois North Coast Chardonnay, $13.99 — Light and rounded with some citrus that has been mellowed with cantaloupe and pineapple fruit notes. If you can find and afford the single vineyard “Flintwood” appellation, try it. Avoid the 2000 vintage.

Far Niente Napa Chardonnay, $33.99 — Deep and brooding with spring water mineral flavors and a custard finish with tiny oak hints. Great producer, you’ll pay a bit more for older (’97) and the excellent 2001 through 2003 vintages.

2002 Domaine Leflaive Puligny Montrachet, $49.99 — Prime cut Burgundy. Ancient producer, great terroir. Look for that European edge that exposes the flavors vertically, like rungs on a ladder. Lemon, hops, pear nectar and butterscotch taste notes.

Pinot grigio and pinot gris are a naturally mutated lighter version of pinot noir. It makes a light refreshing wine without much structure, but is so fresh that it makes up in flavor what it lacks in depth:

Barone Pinot Grigio del Veneto, $10.99 — A nice mid-range producer from Italy’s Northeast. Try it the rustico way and dip peaches, strawberries and melon right into your glass!

Zenato Pinot Grigio Veneto, $8.99 — Cheaper and a little harder to find but has a great mineral content. Think homemade lemonade made with Daggio Spring water.

Elk Cove Vineyards Pinot Gris, $15.99 — From Oregon. Oregon tends to make theirs a little sweeter and deeper than in Italy. Honeydew and Orange Creamsicle flavors.

Semillon is a French blending grape used in the white bordeaux of Graves and in sauternes. Most American vineyards growing semillon let it botrytis-ize, which lets the grape partially rot on the vine to concentrate the sweetness. It’s labor intensive and the price reflects it:

1997 Chalk Hill Estate Botrytised Semillon, $100 for a half bottle — It’s delicious, but a little sweet for New World palates. Try their chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and pinot gris, which is more affordable.

Since 1990, many Northwest and Australian vineyards are making semillon, usually blending it with chardonnay. Columbia Crest makes a chard/sem blend under their Two Vines label for $7.99. They also do a 100 percent semillon for the same price. A little more artisanal are:

L’ Ecole No. 41 “Seven Hills Vineyard” Semillon,$21.99 — from Washington state’s Walla Walla Valley is 100 percent Semillon. Sturdy and a bit quiet, it goes well with salad and shellfish.

Cape Mentelle Sauvignon Blanc Semillon, $14.49 — Spicy, like most Australians but with wonderful grass tones, and the floral smell of tulips. Juicy with tons of fruit and a sassy finish that says “Don’t forget about me.”

The sauvignon blanc grape is one we’re getting more and more comfortable with. It can be tannic and monstrous, but three countries have tamed the savage beast:

Monkey Bay New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, $8.99 — Hated the name and label, but loved the wine. Dry and floral with fruit and a perfect hint of sweetness that most New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs try for but miss.

Grgich Hills Fume Blanc, $22.50 — Fume Blanc is a name made up for marketing purposes to capitalize on Pouilly Fume, which is Sauvignon Blanc. Rich but with layers of herbs, minerals and fruit.

2002 Pascal Jolivet Pouilly-Fume, $26.99 — A superior vineyard producing a soft, velvety wine with pear and ripe apple fruit and a hint of newly mown hay.

Chenin blanc got a bad rap when Orson Welles hawked it on TV for Paul Masson. (He never stopped paying for “Citizen Kane”). In South Africa it’s called Steen and they’re real good at crafting wines with it. It’s a little acidic and high-strung. Young chenin blanc is fruity; older chenin blanc has a nice balance of fruit and structure.

Domaine Huet Le Mont Vouvray 2002 Demi-Sec, $29.99 — A sweetish wine with an affinity for cheese, bacon, eggs and light desserts.

Kanu Sauvignon Blanc, $11.99 — from South Africa, fruity with lots of apple, melon and pineapple flavors.

Tip of the Week:

Santa Ana Cabernet Sauvignon, $6.49 — From Mendoza, Argentina. This kicky little number surprised me with its lush fruit and overlapping structure. Easily better than most higher priced Cru Bourgeois or Bordeaux Superieur. Old World style from the land of the Pampas.

Find your bottle

The New Hampshire Liquor Commission can help you find your beverage with a click or two. Just go to type the name of your wine into the product locater and click “go.” The site’s search engine will come up with a list of stores that carry the bottle you seek.

- Tim Protzman

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