| Booze |

Four luscious white wines to savor now

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Last week, we introduced you to four uniquely delicious red wines that seemed as though they were destined for autumnal consumption from the day they were bottled. And while it's true that our seasonal wine cravings generally give the edge to reds over whites, there are a multitude of compelling reasons to drink white wines now -- the trick is in knowing that these are not just "any" white wines -- and in understanding that there are all kinds of fall dishes just clamoring to be paired with bottles that are a lighter shade of pale.

As with our picks for fall-ready reds, we're just as particular about the quality and style of the white wines we deem most lovable as the days grow shorter. Delicate bottles of pinot grigio or sauvignon blanc need not apply; for a white wine to qualify as fall-worthy, it's gotta have more body than Gisele Bündchen. Cooler weather whites must make up for what they lack in pigment by offering layers of stone fruit flavors, tongue-tingling (read: food friendly) acidity or region-specific minerality -- or even better, all of the above. Finally, let's not forget there's an even more straightforward argument to be made for falling for whites at this time of year: You (or your friends) are simply not into reds. Crazy though this may sound to you, it's more of a truism than you might imagine. Think white wines aren't worthy of your affection this fall? Think again.

Muse Brut Cava NV ($14): Out of the four seasons, fall seems to be when the majority of the year's dinner party invitations show up. And there simply is no better beverage than bubbly to pour as guests arrive (or frankly, throughout the meal if that's how you roll). So we were particularly thrilled to sample this flirtatious Spanish sparkler with a hometown connection -- it's brought to us by recent Denver transplant, eat + drink! owner (and bad-ass butcheress) Pollyanna Forster. The wine is light and refreshing in the best way -- it races across the palate in a cascade of frisky bubbles, blazing a trail of crisp apple and slightly spicy ginger notes along the way. Particularly lovely with pre-dinner snacks like gougères and goat-cheese stuffed piquillo peppers, this bubbly can also stand up to heartier first courses like roasted corn soup or a salad made with the season's last few heirloom tomatoes.

Arnaldo-Caprai 'Grecante' Grechetto dei Colli Martani 2009 ($20): Do not, under any circumstances, let its slightly intimidating name prevent you from driving directly to your nearest wine merchant and demanding several bottles of this ridiculously good wine. The polar opposite of the mostly one-dimensional pinot grigios that make it to this country, grechetto (from Umbria, in central Italy) is a grape that truly intrigues. It's non è un modo, which translates from Italian to "not one way:" First, you'll get a little lemon-lime action, which suddenly morphs into ripe pear. Then comes the slightly briny (imagine tasting the spray from an ocean wave) finish -- which if you hadn't been heading in this direction already, is what really makes this wine the perfect companion to seafood and shellfish. Now that we're well into the months that end in "er," we're thinking oysters for sure, but we'd also suck this down with pesto-crusted sea bass or roasted monkfish topped with citrus butter. Not only is it picture-perfect for fall, it's a contender for the best white wine we tasted all damn year.

Weingut Knoll Loibner Federspiel Riesling 2009 ($24): Last week, we introduced you to a lesser-known Austrian red variety -- a stunning blaufränkish. Now meet one of our fave Austrian whites -- a riesling, which is a grape you've most certainly heard of, but likely tend to associate with Germany, Austria's neighbor to the north. The biggest difference between wines from these two regions comes down to place: Germany enjoys a maritime climate; Austria, a drier, Continental climate with distinctly volcanic mineral-laced soil. The resulting rieslings are nearly always drier than those from Germany and this bottle is no exception; with its ABV clocking in at 12 percent, take our word for it when we tell you this is most assuredly not sweet. But what this wine lacks in residual sugar, it more than delivers in flavor: Luscious white peach and a tart-yet-creamy element that will remind you of Greek yogurt and will make your mouth water like nobody's business. Sip this savory white with classic fall fare like roasted chicken stuffed with lemons and fresh herbs, or pistachio-crusted pork chops.

Lopez de Heredia Viña Gravonia Crianza Blanco 2001 ($20): Here's a phrase that might puzzle more than a few of you: white Rioja. We're betting that your experience with wines from this region in northern Spain is limited to the red variety; while we too adore those spicy, earthy tempranillo-based offerings, their white grape counterparts are stunning in their own right. Made from viura (known elsewhere in Spain as macabeo, where it is used principally in cava production) this rich, deeply golden-hued wine reminded us of sherry, as it was chock-full of nutty, oak-casked character that had absolutely nothing in common with the so-called "oaky buttery" chardonnays that many of us shun nowadays. Prepare yourself instead for a sensory assault by way of dried pear, salted Marcona almonds and a hint of licorice -- all of which may sound a bit cray but tastes like a mouthful of nectar. As for what to eat with this elegant, intellectual wine on a crisp fall evening? Nothing would be better than a hearty paella (what we paired it with) full of saffron-laced jumbo shrimp, chicken and sausage. After sipping white wines this delicious, you may forget all about drinking reds this season.

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