As you may have noticed, spring has been threatening to commence here in Denver for the past several weeks. In spite of the fact that our split-personality-disorder-of-a-weather-pattern may at any moment revert to what we should have been subjected to since February, our seasonal wine drinking habits don't seem to have noticed. Because ever since a spate of succulent, sun-soaked days descended upon us more than a month ago, our cravings for a lighter style of vino have bordered on incessant.
And much like the unusually balmy temps we delighted in, we've lately stumbled upon a veritable avalanche of equally unique, highly memorable wines that made us remember that there's a whole universe of whites out there just waiting to be savored from now until....well, forever. Many of these stunners are not your everyday, run-of-the-mill grape varieties. You may never have heard of most, if not any of them. We doubt sincerely that you regularly consume them. Which is why we're about to let you in on some of the best kept secrets of the wine world, and help you see beyond your perhaps previously myopic enjoyment of chardonnay, pinot grigio, or straight-ahead sauvignon blanc. Read up on -- and then drink in earnest -- four singularly spectacular spring white wines.
La Caña Albariño 2010 ($12): "Albariño, you say? We've had plenty of those," you may be scoffing right about now. Trust us: You have never, ever had one that tasted like this. This wine was life changing; well, at least the part of our lives that thought we too had been there, done that when it comes to these perpetually palate-cleansing Spanish whites. The nose gave us our first hint that this was no ordinary albariño. The key lime notes were familiar enough, but then we were assaulted by a fragrance that can only be described as bodacious -- a sensorily intoxicating combination of gorgeous, blooming orange blossom and white peaches. The taste? Like a scoop of homemade lemon curd, kissed with a dollop of tangy Greek yogurt. Although the sun-kissed flavor palate will have you longing for summer, do not hesitate to pour a glass (or several) to comfort you while wait.
Grotto del Sole Asperino d'Aversa 2010 ($11): Don't you just love it when a friend you haven't seen in a minute invites you to stop by their place for a glass of wine, just as you're emerging from a painful, traffic-clogged commute home? And if that friend should happen to open a bottle of this stellar wine? So much the better. Our first sip was blind: based on the tart acidity and mineral-driven citrus fruit that coursed across our tongues, we initially pegged this for an albariño. Stopping for a moment to take a gander at the glass, we were astonished to discover neat rows of tiny, perfectly formed bubbles dancing up the sides of the glass. What the hell were we drinking? Perplexed by the name on the label, a quick Google search revealed this to be asperino, a grape indigenous to Campagnia, Italy (where you can best believe winemakers routinely turn out juice that's perfecto with the local cuisine -- seafood, natch.) Curiosity sated, we proceeded to hoard the rest of the bottle (our friend barely had a chance), enchanting all the while in the zesty, lemon-lime-y goodness in our glass. That friend who hooked us up? She proceeded to throw down a completely unexpected dinner of grilled tilapia fish tacos -- which turned out to be a killer foil for this lovely juice.
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Fantinel Sant Helena Friulano 2009 ($20): This isn't the first time we've found ourselves drooling over one of these endlessly delectable northern Italian whites, and it's not likely to be the last. That's because they're the absolute antithesis of what a handful of unfortunate, yet persistent haters perceive to be true of white wines. Instead of being insipid, this wine is lush; complex. Rather than coming off as meek and flavorless, this wine sings in harmonies of ripe tangerine, married to an expertly balanced core of limestone and brilliant Meyer lemon. You will instantly feel much, much hungrier than you thought you were after one sip; so expert at its job, all the bright acidity that's been corralled into this bottle. If you've never tried a Friulano, or even if you just suspect you're unsure whether you have or not, do not take any chances and risk missing your prime opportunity to become (better) acquainted with one of the most fantastic wines you might ever be lucky enough to savor. And if you think you can handle the experience of a truly mind-altering food and wine pairing, we dare you to match it up with a bowl of creamy risotto.
Oveja Negra Sauvignon Blanc / Carmenère Reserva 2011 ($12): As soon as we spotted this wine on a local Denver list, we knew we had to sample it. Because a sauv blanc / carmenère blend? Damn near unheard of, being that the former is a white variety and the latter, rather an intense, ballsy red, likely better known to you as an old-school Bordeaux blending grape. Perhaps we needn't have been so surprised at this unlikely blend; after all, the winery's name does translate into "black sheep." The only thing more satisfying than discovering this über-cool wine was the actual wine itself. Hugely grapefruit-y on the nose, it segued into a surprisingly rich, sexy mouthfeel. Like the sauv blanc you're used to, only without that sometimes not-so-awesome slap of just...green...across your palate. No matter what the weather outside is like, everything about these wines tastes like spring.