The Wines of Spring

by artfuldiner on April 23, 2018

in Artful Diner Mini Review, Opinion, Wine

Nicholas - Spring Wine TastingWith apologies to Alfred, Lord Tennyson… In the spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of – among other things – wine. Usually white wines. To be more precise, at least wines that are more suited to warm weather quaffing and lighter cuisine.

With the onslaught of spring and summer, we do begin to rethink our approach to wine. As the weather heats up, those big, bold and brazen Cabernets, Zinfandels and Bordeaux just don’t make it. Lightness and refreshing simplicity are the most important considerations in selecting spring/summer wines.

Listed below in ascending order – from least to most expensive and from light to fuller bodied –  are a number of recommendations that are well suited to warm weather quaffing…

Petit Chenin Blanc2017 Ken Forrester “Petit” Chenin Blanc (South Africa), $12.99: Chenin Blanc undoubtedly originated in the Anjou region of France before migrating to its better-known Loire and Rhone Valley locations. As of this writing, it is still the most widely planted varietal in South Africa, where it is also called “Steen.” Chenin Blanc is one of the most versatile of all wine grape varieties. Despite this marvelous versatility, however, it was better known for its blatant overproduction and bland, uninteresting vintages. Fortunately, this trend has recently started to reverse. The 2017 Ken Forrester “Petit” is one of the best – and reasonably priced – examples of what Chenin Blanc is capable of.  The wine is absolutely exhilarating, exhibiting refreshing hints of melon & grapefruit that continue to hold sway though to the lively finish. And don’t worry if you can’t find the 2017… the 2016 “Petit” is even bit its equal with a slightly crisper countenance.

2016 Acrobat Pinot Gris (Oregon), $14.00: In 2009 King Estate launched its Acrobat label, which was specifically designed to offer wine lovers quality wines at reasonable prices. And one sip of the 2016 Acrobat Pinot Gris will be enough to demonstrate why these wines have been such a huge success and so highly regarded. Recently garnering 89 points from the Wine Spectator, the 2016 is crisp, well-balanced, and marvelously refreshing… but, at the same time, downright luscious on the palate with a remarkable depth of flavor. As Wine & Spirits noted, this wine is surely “a steal at the price.” The 2016 Acrobat Pinot Gris is perfect for summertime quaffing and/or dining.

Elena Walch & Daughters2016 Elena Walch Chardonnay (Italy), $14.99: Elena Walch is a leading wine estate in the lto Adige region and is also considered one of the finest in Italy. The philosophy of her wine estate is dedicated to terroir – the idea that wines must be the individual expression of their soil, climate, and cultivation in the vineyard – and that this must be maintained according to principles of sustainability and passed on to the next generation. And the responsibility for the family business is now in the hands of her daughters, Julia and Karoline Walch, already the fifth generation. The 2016 Elena Walch Chardonnay demonstrates character, elegance, and great personality. The wine is delightfully fruity and light upon the palate with just a touch of oak. A remarkably delicious wine at an equally remarkable price point.

2015 Ridge Vineyards Estate Chardonnay (California), $55.00: As noted in my wine review of July 2017, if I were asked to name my favorite California wineries, Ridge Vineyards would most certainly be in the top five. Founded in the early 1960s, Ridge specializes in premium Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, and Chardonnay. Although more famous for its red wines, the 2015 Ridge Estate Chardonnay has quite a following of its own. The 2014 was highly rated; and the recently sampled 2015 is equally impressive. The wine is complex, intense, beautifully textured, and reminiscent of a fine white Burgundy. There’s a touch of oak here, but that quickly gives way to more interesting elements of fruit and spice. As one critic succinctly put: “As for the wine itself, well, it is fabulous.” I second the motion… And would add that it is worth every penny of its $55.00 price tag.

Meursault-Charmes 20112011 Thierry et Pascale Matrot Meursault-Charmes 1er Cru (France), $59.99: Domaine Matrot, owned by Thierry Matrot and his wife, Pascale, is one of the oldest estate bottlers in Burgundy and one of the largest and most important properties in the district of Meursault. The domaine’s vintages are widely represented on the wine lists of France’s greatest restaurants and have been distributed in the United States for over thirty years. The domaine farms about three-quarters of its 45 acres, which represent some of the finest vineyards in the heart of Burgundy. The 2011 Meursalt-Charmes is a rich, round and powerful wine with a delightfully creamy texture. Antonio Galloni’s Vinous Media bestowed a whopping 94 points and noted: “This is a drop-dead gorgeous Meursault from Matrot, not to mention a wine of immense pleasure.” Available online from various sources.


Of course, there is no reason to give up red wine entirely in warmer weather. Just skip the heavy-handed Cabernets and Syrahs and look for lighter-bodied reds… especially if you chill them to around 60 degrees. One French wine that responds quite well to chilling is Beaujolais. Forget the highly-hyped Beaujolais Nouveau, which is little more than aggressively marketed grape juice. However, the region’s more serious wines, labeled by the village in which they are produced (Brouilly, Morgon and Moulin-a-Vent), are light enough for fish dishes on a warm day, yet still interesting and complex.

Bourgone Rouge Pinot Noir 2015Another wine I recently discovered and highly recommend for warm weather quaffing is the 2015 Moissenet Bonnard Bourgogne Rouge, Cuvée de l’Oncle Paul, Pinot Noir (France), $24.99: This is a light-bodied red wine that is smooth and velvety on the palate… and it doesn’t require chilling to be at its best. This is an immensely food-friendly wine that goes with variety of spring-summer dishes or is perfectly enjoyable on its own. Readily available through Pennsylvania State Stores.



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