Aromatic Whites

I’ve been on my travels again.  This time to the Prowein wine fair in Dusseldorf.  Only a three hours drive away it is a great opportunity to catch up with all of our producers from around Europe.

Being held on a Sunday and a Monday, the fair attracts many sommeliers. I had the chance to meet up with Cesar Roman, the Spanish sommelier of Comme Chez Soi on the stand of one of my favourite producers, Bodegas Rey Fernando de Castilla.  Not a catchy name, I’ll admit, but one you should be aware of.  With Cesar and managing director, Jan Pettersen, we tasted through the range of his Sherries – the rare Antique range and the even rarer Fino Rama.  As always we got talking about wine and food matchings and our mouths started watering with thoughts of pairing these beautiful elegant, smoky Sherries with hop shoots, white asparagus, fennel and endives.

So with this idea in mind, I then went around Prowein looking for other aromatic, unusual whites that would pair well with the onset of our wonderful, but vinously challenging spring vegetables.  My next stop took me to the German Hall and of course a mouth-watering selection of great Rieslings.  I have been heartened in recent years about the rise in quality of entry level Riesling – pure, aromatics of peach stones and petrol with just a touch of residual sugar to keep the acidity in balance. What a great grape Riesling is and what a pity that it seems only to be Masters of Wine and Sommeliers who seem to tout its virtues!

To offset the very expressive aromas, white wines need structure.  This can come from a variety of sources – acidity, oak or lees.  The reductive aging that lees can give a white wine, often gives a smokiness not far from oak aromatically.  (Fermenting wines either on its skins or in wood facilitates mild oxidation, giving a wine similar tastes and aromas. Winemaking in steel vats to reduce contact with oxygen, especially when the white wine sits on the lees, creates a aromas similar to those created by aging in wood.)  When this is paired with marine salts and iodine as is found in Muscadet, you get another really beautiful pairing with vegetables. I tasted an exciting Muscadet, David & Duvallet’s Goulaine cuvee, aged for two years on fine lees, which was delightfully gastronomic, tangy, with great acidity but also a rich leesy smokiness.  Perfect for asparagus served with hollandaise sauce.

© Fiona Morrison M.W.

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