Ask any wine enthusiast a simple question: “what are you drinking nowadays?” You’ll get surprising answers. Oftentimes they will not mention hoity-toity labels. They will quote reasonably priced wines within their comfort zone, some of which you may know, and some you won’t. The big names remain relegated to ceremonial occasions.
There are some enthusiasts out there who restrict themselves to only certain categories. For instance, I know a few who won’t touch white wine. Many refuse sweet wines like Port or German Riesling. The list is endless. I myself am a sampler of all that’s out there and I don’t pre-judge wines based on categories.
If you ask me what whites I am drinking nowadays, I will give you a different answer than I did five years ago, which will yet be different than fifteen years ago. Back in time immemorial when I first began my wine journey, I was a California Chardonnay person, like most. Then I discovered others. As I entered my ABC phase (anything but Chardonnay), Sauvignon Blanc loomed high in my horizon, Domestic, New Zealand and Loire alike. Sancerre anyone?
Now I am in a peculiar double zone with whites. At home I mostly drink Chablis, a French Chardonnay that tastes nothing like its counterpart from California or the rest of the New World. The photos I posted above are of my current “top of the list”. La Chablissenne is a co-op that 300 or so growers belong to which puts out a total of 25% or so of Chablis production, and with 1ere Cru and Montee de Tonnerre labels selling at less than $30, provide suberb bargains.
Unlike most other Chablis, these wines do not avoid the oak barrel, some 20-30% of them spending some time in this politically-incorrect medium for us French wine snobs. The result is a crisp, fruity, acidic, food friendly wine, but with a touch of that – oh so seductive – California style. My wife and I have consumed multiple cases of their 2010 vintage, which at current prices beat high end domestics by a mile.
When it comes to restaurants however, my top choices are Albarino (Spain), Verdelho (Spain, Italy, Sardinia), Fallanghina (Italy), and Friulano (Italy). These wines are wonderful accompaniments to food, especially seafood which I love, at prices that in San Francisco Bay Area menus won’t break the bank.
Chablis? Sancerre? Forget it! They have already been discovered, and the prices are ridiculous. Thus I find myself with a dichotomy of home wines versus restaurant wines, each segregated from each other. I have made no effort to amass those Spanish and Italians in my private collection. I seem to have a need to maintain a restaurant domain that is distinct from my private side. Otherwise the restaurants would not be special.
I should be grateful that the diversity of the wine world allows me to segregate “home” wines from “away from home”.