Overheard regularly in our store when we suggest the perfect wine for a customer’s (highly ethnic) menu:
“But that wine is made from Riesling (or Moscato or Traminer or many other related varietals), isn’t it sweet?”
“No, actually it’s drier than that Chardonnay you have in your hand.”
Since we sell a LOT of aromatic whites that SMELL like honey, candied fruit, tropical flowers and even fancy bath soap but are BONE DRY (and amazing with Thai, Sicilian, Indian, Persian and other highly spiced cuisines), we spend a lot of time thinking and talking about this.
One thing we have to point out is that your entire sensory system is built on pattern recognition: you can read text even if half the letters are smudged or truncated, you can recognize a solarized or profile portrait of a celebrity with no problem and you can figure out a song from a mere tease of the melody. This is a truly wonderful expression of the heights of cognitive evolution to which we (and maybe dolphins and even cuttlefish) have reached, BUT it can also be a two edged sword. Back to wine: we sell an insanely concentrated bone dry Malvasia (our beloved Martilde Piume) that smells like candied lime rinds, wild honey, honeysuckle blossoms and maybe Sophia Loren after a brisk jog and, since your feeble little cerebellum is CONDITIONED to associate these aromas with jam, candy, perfume and maybe even soap, it INTERPOLATES non-existent sweetness into its sensory report to your consciousness in the same way it tells you that you are seeing actual movement at the cinema instead of 24 still pictures per second.
Our friend Terry Theise (an amazing curator of German and Austrian wines plus Grower Champagnes) often pours the SAME Kabinett style Riesling from both its own bottle (tall, slender and green = sweet in many peoples minds) and a Burgundy bottle like your average Chardonnay comes in and asks tasters “Which one do you like better and why” and over half of them prefer the ersatz Chard and pronounce it to be “so much drier”!!! He then goes on to tell them that the best Chardonnays all come from Riesling (as if it is a place) and to always look for that name on the bottle but that’s another rant entirely.
So, in short, just because something TASTES like super ripe tropical fruits (because it contains the same chemical compounds that tickle the same receptors in your tongue) that doesn’t mean it is also sweet (full of actual residual sugar) any more than Kenny G playing a soprano saxophone makes his music Jazz and, remember, you can’t SMELL sugar anyway. Try some of these with your Mee Krob, Pollo con Mole or Tandoori and join the Church of Transcendental Aromaticism tonight!
Marina Alta Blanco Gran Seleccíon
Muscat de Alexandria 2010, Alicante Spain
Terre al Sole Zibibbo (Moscato) 2011, Sicilia
Moscato….it’s the new Viognier! Medium bodied with a refreshingly DRY finish and simply gorgeous aromatics dominated by flowers, spice and citrus. Sushi, ceviche, scallops with lemon grass, fruit, cheese, friends, this works…
Torrontés is a white grape from the Rioja zona in Spain seeking asylum in the Argentine where it produces a PERFECT wine for California cuisine. The bouquet of limes and honeysuckle might lead you to believe these are sweet but their super crisp, BONE DRY finish is just the thing for sushi, smoked salmon, dim sum, picnic stuff or just an afternoon tipple. They’ve become so popular that we have a Torrontés section now! These range from very light and refreshing to quite complex and aromatic. Try some, they won’t hurt you…
Viñas de Luján Torrontés 2011, Mendoza
Marlena Torrontés 2009, Mendoza
Los Clop Torrontés 2011, Mendoza
Toneles Torrontés Reserva Tonel 46 2011, Mendoza
Dario Raccaro Collio Malvasia 2007, Friuli
This blasts lime, honeysuckle and sheer joy from the glass yet is so will balanced with acidity and minerallity that you never tire of that intensity. Get your hands on some great Thai or Vietnamese take-out or some classic Charcouterie, some grilled Fennel and bloweth thy everloving brains out….