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Swirl n' Spit

Whites for Chillin'

By Taylor Eason

It's too damn hot to drink anything warm. Give me cold water, iced cappuccino and, most definitely, chilled white wine. I crave the taste of refreshing, fruit-infused acidity in my mouth. It quenches, it invigorates, it just feels good.

During the heated months, fresh vegetables and salad, chilled seafood, cold roasted chicken are foods that complement white wines. Acidity in the wine is key. It highlights the fresh ingredients in a dish and matches the sharpness in foods like tomato and citrus. Acidity delivers the zing, the tartness and the impression of crispness on the palate. If that's what you seek, the highest acidity comes in Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio (also known as Pinot Gris) and Pinot Blanc. If you want the opposite--a softer, fuller bodied wine with less acidity--then Chardonnay, Viognier and Riesling might scratch your itch.

Be careful how cold you serve white wines. Lower temperatures mask flavor; higher temperatures accentuate flavors, good or bad. It's like drinking a fantastic, ice-cold beer that suddenly becomes disgusting when it warms up.

If a white wine doesn't have much aroma or flavor after you've poured it into a glass, it probably needs some warming. Let it rest for 15 minutes, or for faster results (about five minutes), cup the sides of the glass in two hands and use your body heat. The best serving temperature for most white wines is between 50 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit, but some higher-end Chardonnays (those not afraid of being "exposed" at higher temperatures) are better between 58 and 62 degrees. For summer quaffing, try some of these:

Hope Estates 2004 Verdelho Hunter Valley (Australia); $10: A fairly unknown grape originally from the island of Madeira in Portugal. I'm seeing a lot more of it lately, especially out of Australia. This wine tastes and smells like a lime margarita. Almost creamy in the mouth, yet it bursts into a refreshingly acidic symphony of citrus with a drop of sweet mango pizzazz. If you like Sauvignon Blanc, you really should try Verdelho.

Morgan 2004 Pinot Gris Santa Lucia Highlands; $18: Very decadent and full-bodied for a Pinot Gris. This one could please anyone seeking a heavier wine that still has the zingy grapefruit thing, but also with overripe pear, almonds and vanilla.

Murphy Goode 2002 Chardonnay Sonoma; $15: A smooth, easy and comforting Chardonnay. Smells like Snuggle fabric softener and tastes elegant with rich, oaky vanilla, ripe peaches and an inkling of zesty lemon. This could easily be a buy-it-by-the-case everyday wine.

McManis 2004 Pinot Grigio; $11: Light and subtle green grass with crisp grapefruit flavors. Like a good New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc without the price tag. Also has that wet slate, minerally thing going on.

Talus 2004 Pinot Grigio; $8: A perfect summer wine, with juicy passion fruit, fragrant honeydew melon, orange and energizing grapefruit in the smell as well in the sip.

Vina La Rosa 2004 Chardonnay Cachapoal Valley; $10: Luscious tropical fruit aroma floats from the glass, with lime, pear and peach on the sip.


Heather Irwin will return next week.

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From the July 13-19, 2005 issue of the North Bay Bohemian.

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