As we wait for warmer weather and more sunny days, the best wines can transport you — albeit fleetingly — to places where Mother Nature hasn’t forgotten it’s spring.
I reached out to several retailers in the area to see which springtime white wines they’re carrying on their shelves and it’s abundantly clear that your local liquor store is more than equipped to suggest the best possible white wines for springtime escapes. Chris Dewitt, resident wine guy at Roger Wilco in Ventnor, quickly rattled off several white wines he’d suggest and within minutes we had flown to the wine countries of Chile, Argentina, Spain and Italy. His first suggestion, Martin Codax Albarino 2011 ($14.99) really spoke to me. It certainly is an “oldie but a goodie” having been available in wine shops and on restaurant wine lists for some time now, which has really helped broaden wine drinkers’ appreciation for this uniquely Spanish grape. Expect fresh apple, lemon and citrus notes on the palate from this effortlessly drinkable and food-friendly wine, perfect for spring salads or ceviche and fish tacos.
Right across the street is the recently relocated and freshly renovated Plaza Discount Liquors in Ventnor run by the Djambinov family, wherein I encountered the knowledgeable and friendly Irene Djambinov. It wasn’t too long before she brought me to the perfect spring white wine, Daisy Chardonnay 2013 ($6.99), a fairly new item from Chile for her store. There’s no mistaking why this wine is perfect for warmer weather: upon your first sip you taste ripe tree fruits of apples and pears with a distinct citrus zest that keeps it lively in the mouth throughout the finish. But look elsewhere if you’re the oak-y chardonnay fan; this wine is undeniably fermented in stainless steel tanks, emphasizing the freshness of the grapes and their varietal character. This wine proves you don’t need to overthink the perfect springtime white wine. It just needs to be balanced, affordable and most importantly, tasty.
For the “adventurous” wine buying set, Circle Liquors in Somers Point has some seriously eclectic offerings from a carefully hand-curated selection. It was clear to me walking down the aisles that bon vivant and “walking-wine-library,” Chad, could go in any number of different directions with his recommendations and he most certainly did not disappoint with the first wine he showed me a bottle of Teddy Hall Chenin Blanc 2011 ($7.99). It was so popular, it had apparently sold out but he assured me it’s coming in by the time you’re reading this article. Make no mistake: it’s hardly the case in wine shops across the country that Chenin Blanc from South Africa is flying off the shelf, but with Chad manning the floor here, he shows it’s possible that a wonderful “Wednesday Night White” such as this can have a home on wine lovers’ dinner tables in South Jersey. There is a lot of style in this affordable wine as well; look for bright aromas and flavors of melon, kiwi and citrus notes.
Last but not least is my selection from Atlantic City Bottle Company: Paul Mas ‘Cote Mas’ Blanc Mediterranee 2012 ($12.99) which comes in an affordable 1-liter bottle. It’s a lively blend of Grenache Blanc, Vermentino, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc that’s as quaffable as it is exotic. Seeing these grapes together evokes the old world “field blends” where grape growers and winemakers would blend together the different rows of vines on their property and create delicious table wines for everyday drinking. With flavors of peach, pear, lemon and green apple, there’s not much with which this wine can’t be paired nicely. Interestingly, on the back label it reads, “This wine is generous on the palate, just like our sunshine.” We should all hope so if we’re going to beat the winter doldrums.
All these wines included above are truly a little bit of sunshine in a bottle. Enjoying any of these selections may not actually hasten spring, but they all can remind you it exists and the best ones can even take you to the sunnier places from where they come. The reality is winter has been given its last rites, warmer weather is right around the corner and your local retailers are prepared with your next perfect springtime white wine!
Paul Tonacci, Managing Partner of Atlantic City Bottle Company & The Iron Room, is a Certifed Sommelier, a Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW), an American Wine Judge through the American Wine Society, and a member of the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs’ Société Mondiale du Vin. He’s attempting to raise the profile of wines from all over the world, including New Jersey’s own, and feature those among others in a list of more than 750 different wines in his restaurant. His column runs every other week.