Asking anyone to switch to white wine in the middle of a red wine frenzy might seem a little off-beat. But one thing British Columbians do better than most other North Americans is live at the edge of wine fashion.
Two decades of food and wine tasting/pairing has not been lost on the growing numbers of chefs, sommeliers and restaurant owners in Whistler. One of the benefits has been the trend to embrace seasonal foods and appropriate wines to match. That makes the month of May "lighten up" time across the village, and as menus and wine lists are transformed to coincide with the warmer days of spring and summer, consider doing the same at home.
A number white grapes are making the move to prime-time drinking, each hoping to push chardonnay from its dominate position as the white for all occasions. Heres a trio worth looking at: viognier, riesling and sauvignon blanc.
Viognier is the quirky member of the group, but over the last decade its quickly spread from its Northern Rhone base to Australia, California, Chile and even B.C.s Okanagan Valley.
Its not an easy grape to grow. Mildew is a problem; yields are less than ample and seldom unpredictable. But when its right, viogniers golden colour and the aroma of fruit and flowers can be shockingly good. The colour and nose often suggest a sweet-tasting wine, but viognier is invariably dry.
Australian Robert Hill Smith, owner of Yalumba winery and a viognier enthusiast, describes viognier as quixotic, not exotic.
British wine writer Robert Joseph says, "The only thing I know about viognier is that if you think you know the answer, you didnt understand the question."
Also pushing hard to be the white wine of choice is riesling. Another UK wine writer, Jancis Robinson, describes it as "indisputably aristocratic and ludicrously unfashionable."
The unfashionable part is changing fast here because the floral, perfumed aromas and racy acidity of riesling is perfectly suited to spicy foods, particularly the Pan Asian dishes that are so much a part of West Coast dining. Whatever success riesling undergoes in Germany, where, by the way, its back on top of that market in a big way, its the resurgence of this noble variety in other parts of the world that will be key to reversing its fortunes.
The last member of summers white wine trio worth a try is sauvignon blanc. Much of the new interest in sauvignon stems from its affinity to pair seamlessly with seafood, spanning just about everything from antipasto to fish in cream sauces or even Mediterranean-style fish and chicken.