By The Glass
Beat the heat with whites from Italy
WOW, was it HOT today. It got to 94 degrees on the digital thermometer in my truck. I was working, of course, although the beach seemed a much better option.
Luckily, work involved an Italian wine tasting at Formaggio. I went straight for the whites, and boy was I happy to be there. I was searching for new and exciting wines that would really quench my thirst. Here are the highlights:
The 2004 Cantina Custozza Lugana ($9.99) may be the best white wine from Italy I've ever had for less than 10 bucks! This stunning bottle of pure trebbiano grapes grown in the Veneto has a heap of citrus, pear and peach notes, and the scent of white flowers and blossoms galore. The texture is something like sauvignon blanc, with a tingly acidity.
I kept returning to it just to see if it was just the heat and my thirst that drove me to this wine. It wasn't. It went well with the Fromage d'Affinois cheese that was being served and I can also see it making a snapping good pair with shellfish, sautéed with olive oil and herbs, with a quick squeeze of lemon. I guarantee you'll be drinking this more than once.
The 2003 Cantina Custozza Valpolicella is just as deliciously fruity and gulpable for the same price. Its juicy and ebullient scent reminds me of cherry and raspberry, with a hint of pinot noir qualities. The juiciness creates a smooth texture and mouthfeel. It isn't a mammoth wine, it's more a wine to be enjoyed for the moment.
It immediately made me think of antipasto, patés, tapenades -- all the things you would be welcomed with in an Italian home. I also thought of roasted pork loin or chops, and of course, pasta. But the wine is quite elegant and broad in aroma and flavor, and would match a wide array of foods. You be the judge.
STILL WARM from the sweltering heat, I went back to the whites and found another affordable white -- the 2004 La Planeta Segreta Bianco ($14). The evocative blend is grecanico, chardonnay, viognier and fiano from the island of Sicily. It is so exotic, with a grapey and really flowery scent, like gardenias and orange blossoms in one bouquet.
It has a texture like chardonnay, not light, but not heavy either, and lingers elegantly on the palate, showing you Bosc pear one second and mountain apple the next. It's quite complex for a $14-dollar wine and can handle heavier fair such as fowl, or buttery, creamy, cheesy things like alfredo sauce or chowder. Really fun and satisfying, two words I love putting together.
IT'S GREAT to see that Italy still has a touch with indigenous varieties instead of all the chardonnay and cabernet that everyone, and I mean everyone, is making. They still make some really good wines -- at a bargain to boot!
Speaking of boots, Italy can really play some soccer, too, no? Salute!
Roberto Viernes is a master sommelier and wine educator with Southern Wine & Spirits.
This column is a weekly lesson in wine pairing written by a rotating panel of wine professionals. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org