As a kid in New England, growing up within earshot of chilly North Atlantic waves crashing onto the rocky shoreline, “summer whites” referred to lightweight, summer uniforms donned by the swabbies at nearby Newport Naval Base. While I’m sure the sailors were glad to trade in their peacoats and winter woolens for something a bit more comfortable, many modern day sailors – of the recreational variety – have grown tired of their summer whites and would love to find some delicious new wines for onboard entertaining.
Of course, there’s no reason the non-sailors among us can’t enjoy these tongue-twisting options, as well, whether grilling in the backyard, welcoming friends to the summertime table, or lounging next to the pool. If you’re still reeling from the ABC syndrome (anything but Chardonnay), and have had your fill of not-too-exciting Pinot Grigios, take heart. There are lots of wonderful white wines out there just waiting to be discovered.
Whether it’s just you and that special someone savoring a simple grilled snapper, or a dozen of your closest marina mates or nearby neighbors gathered together for dinner and drinks, these uniformly hard to pronounce summer whites will brighten the occasion, and get your wine-picking skills noticed at the same time!
Txakoli – Head to the “Wines of Spain” section for this one. From the Basque country of northern Spain, one of the world’s centers of great cuisine, Txakoli (the Basque language is filled with t’s and k’s and x’s in a variety of how-do-you-say-that? combinations; substitute a Ch sound for the Tx—cha-koh-lee—and you’re in business) is a lively, light to medium bodied wine with a slight effervescence. Typically pale straw in color with dramatic, mouth-watering acidity, expect to find honey, citrus and stone fruit notes that go beautifully with light, simply prepared seafood. Grilled octopus, for example, has no better match. And if the wine’s name isn’t enough to give you pause, consider that it’s made from the grape variety Hondarrabi Zuri.
Edelzwicker – Next in our lineup of who-named-these wines is a scrumptious, fuller bodied white that easily handles heartier offerings like smoked salmon or even light pork or veal dishes. Higher in alcohol than Txakolis, these wines hail from Alsace, that northeast corner of France that’s been a ping-pong ball of territory batted back and forth between Germany and France since the Romans first established the region as a viticultural outpost around 50 BC. Meaning “noble blend,” Edelzwickers are a free-form blend of any or all of the best Alsatian varieties, including Riesling, Muscat, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, Auxerrois and/or Sylvaner. Despite the lack of uniformity in composition, these wines are usually a lovely yellow color with open, fruity aromas. A similar, and more easily pronounced, wine, called Gentil, hails from the same region and is nearly indistinguishable.
Moschofilero – From the highlands of the central Peloponnese (sounds like Greek to me) we hail this rather marvelous white that is vying to become my new, new favorite. Moschofilero, a pink-skinned grape descended from the ancient Filero grape family, produces wine that is light in color and known for its effusive aromas of roses and violets, followed by some nicely textured, spicy fruit flavors. This wine has presence; in fact, it’s hard not to be impressed with this particular Greek, regardless of the wine styles you’re normally drawn to.
There you have it: three unique wines, three excellent summer sipping options. While you may have trouble getting all the syllables in order, you shouldn’t have any problem finding these at most good wine shops. Let your retailer know you want the best examples of these wines that he has in stock. After all, life is short; why drink anything less than excellent? In any case, whether you’ve just shed your peacoat and foul-weather gear or you’ve put away the family’s sweaters and galoshes till next fall, Txakoli, Edelzwicker and Moschofilero are able, exotic and ready for deployment as your new summer whites. Do your palate a favor and welcome them aboard.
About the author:
Jim Laughren loves wine. And has for a very long time. He’s a wine collector, former president of a Florida-based wine import and distribution company, and founder of the consulting firm, WineHead Consulting. He holds the designation of Certified Wine Educator and has conducted hundreds of teachings, tastings and training sessions, and has visited wine regions throughout North and South America and Europe, and hopes to get his bones to Greece, Australia and New Zealand while he’s still young enough to drink without dribbling. We’ll see if he makes it!
A Beer Drinker’s Guide To Knowing And Enjoying Fine Wine can be purchased through Amazon.com, www.bn.com, www.crosstownpublishinginc.com, and at better bookstores across the U.S.