Even in the mildest of years, wine drinkers enjoy a really long red-wine season in Minnesota, sticking with hearty cabs and syrahs and malbecs to ward off winter’s chill.
But some of us go in the opposite direction, and not just for the sake of being contrary.
For us, crisp, minerally whites provide lift and energy in a season in which it’s all too easy to give in to lethargy. The right white refreshes and revitalizes, invigorates and stimulates not only our palates but our souls.
Even — or especially — in a beyond-brutal winter such as this one. The pick-me-up provided by a bracing pinot blanc or albariño is, on many a ferociously frosty evening, vastly preferable to a sturdy red.
It’s actually not about the color so much as the texture, the zing and zest that so many of these whites provide. That’s especially true, ironically, with whites emanating from cooler climates: Italy’s Alpine regions (Trentino-Alto Adige and Piedmont), Alsace and Savoie in France, Germany’s rieslings and Austria’s gruner veltliners.
On the other hand, sipping an exhilarating white from Greece can not only jolt the senses but it can semi-transport us to someplace warm and welcoming.
Part of this predilection is economic: It’s generally easier to find complexity in white wines under $20 than it is with reds.
An even bigger factor for many of us is food-friendliness, the interplay that these wines can have with Asian dishes, poultry, seafood and pork (which is, after all, “the other white meat”).
Some of my favorite winter whites, wines that I have found to be consistently swell vintage after vintage:
• Evolucio Furmint ($12): Made from a grape that often goes into one of the world’s foremost dessert wines (tokaji), this crispy critter is sweet and tart at the outset, with a bit of voluptuousness on the mid-palate and finish.
• Domaine D’Arton Cotes de Gascogne ($12): This blend of colombard, sauvignon blanc and gros mansang offers up layers of citrus flavors and is the very definition of “clean,” with vivacious acid tickling the palate.
• Weingut Meinhard Forstreiter “Grooner” Grüner Veltliner ($12): Forget the groaner of a name. This is a dandy introduction to Austria’s signature white grape, with gobs of green fruit (apple, honeydew), a touch of white pepper and a decidedly fresh finish.
• Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc-Viognier ($13): A perennial delight, this juicy blend “stones” the palate with stone-fruit flavors and wet-stone texture. It starts large and finishes lean.
• Lafkiotis Moschofilero ($17): The essence of freshness, this signature Greek white is eminently quaffable thanks to 11.5 percent alcohol and a touch of sweetness in the citrus flavors. It beautifully complements most of its homeland’s foods.
• Botani Malaga ($18): Nothing on the label divulges what’s inside the bottle: a delish dry moscato from southern Spain’s Costa del Sol. There’s beautiful tension between the rich tropical fruit and the brisk acidity. Yum.
• Marjan Simcic Rebula ($21): This Slovenian winery is just across the border from Italy’s Friuli region, and this wine is made from one of Friuli’s signature grapes, ribolla gialla. It’s racy and a bit robust, with just the right ripeness and a pure-as-driven-snow finish.
Follow Bill on Twitter: @billward4