Not wearing white after Labor Day was totally your grandmother’s rule — fashion magazines are full of white dresses, pants and blazers. But drinking white wine when the chill sets in has been slower to catch on. Heartier dishes are typically paired with a bottle of red. Turns out, the seasons don’t need to be so red and white.
“If you go to cooler climates, they have hot days but drink white wines all year long. Germany is a cool climate and the majority of the wines are white. Same with Austria,” said Bohlsen Restaurant Group corporate beverage director Paulo Villela.
Riesling, Dry, Willems & Willems, Mosel
This German wine isn’t for sweet tooths — “This is an extra dry Riesling,” Villela said. “The residual sugar is lower than most California Chardonnays.” It’s also high in acidity, which cuts through the fat and brings out the flavors in heartier dishes like steak. Villela suggested thinking of this wine like a lemon. “If you can squeeze a lemon on a dish, then you can pair it with this Riesling.”
Recommended pairings: Steak, sushi and gnocchi with parmesan-white truffle sauce
Riesling/Gruner/Neuberger, Von Den Terrassen, Arndorfer, Austria
This versatile winter white wine gets its notes of citrus and pepper from Gruner and full body from Neuberger. “Blend those things and you have everything you need,” Villela said. That means there’s a place at the table for red meat, white meat and seafood when this blend is around.
Recommended pairings: Scottish salmon and steak
Viognier, Flanagan, Bennett Valley, Sonoma County
This Sonoma County vineyard, home to cooler temperatures than hotspots like LA, has been Villela’s go-to for Californian Viognier for years. It quite the compliment — Viognier is a hard grape to harvest to perfection. “Viognier has a tendency to go from not quite ripe to over-ripe very quickly,” he said. “There is a narrow window where the grape has developed rich flavors but retains the bright acidity that makes the wine lively and attractive.” Because of its richness and acidity, Villela swears this winter white wine is “as easy to drink as a Malbec.”
Recommended pairings: Lobster, salmon, halibut and cod
Garnacha Blanca/Viognier, Barbara Fores Blanc, Terra Alta
A Spanish white blend, the Barbera Flores Blanc is dry, acidic, rich in flavor and focused on the palate. It offers tangy lemon pith and quince flavors that gain weight and sweetness on the back half. “The floral and mineral notes echo emphatically on the persistent, mineral-laced finish,” Villela said. It’s so versatile it pairs well with anything from red meat to fish.
Recommended pairings: Rack of lamb, Seared yellowfin tuna (piperade, chorizo, romesco).
Sauvignon Blanc, Crocker & Starr, Napa
This Sauvignon Blanc brings warm tropical aromas of guava and mango with the slightest hint of orange blossom and lime. But don’t mistake “tropical” for “summer wine.” “The tropical flavors act more like a sauce [on a piece of meat or fish.]” The vintage is high in acidity and primed for taking a dish from fine to flavorful.
Recommended pairings: Green lotus spicy tuna, lump crab and Asian pear