White Wine on the menu

Instead of keeping it on the wine rack, why not uncork a white and enjoy it while the weather is cold.  

In a wine context, the term winter white is regrettably becoming an oxymoron.

It saddens me this time of year to see beautiful white wines being robbed of their opportunity to shine on dinner tables of the unenlightened simply because spring hasn’t yet sprung.

Look, I get it. My spring and summer sipping often means a crisp Sauvignon Blanc poolside, and I’m all about a big Syrah with Stroganoff after putting another log on the fire.  

Some rules are meant to be broken, though, and whoever is stuck exclusively on big reds for pairing with Old Man Winter’s dishes needs to meet fellow myth busters Tiffany Eldredge and Lisa Strid.

“This thinking is so narrow-minded,” said Eldredge, a Southern Arizona sales representative for liquor distributor Young’s Market Company. “You should drink what you want, and you should drink it when you want it.”

Eldredge suspects this delusion comes from the idea that you shouldn’t drink chilled beverages when it’s chilly outside, and since white wines are typically served at lower temperatures than their red counterparts, they should be relegated to the rear of the cellar until spring.

She challenges this notion by pointing to the popularity of chilled sparkling wines during the holidays.

“Bubbles in the winter have never been an issue, right?” Eldredge said.

One of her examples of a winter-friendly white is the Feudo Principi di Butera Insolia, from Zonin Family Estates, that has characteristics that she says make it the perfect winter white.

She notes this Sicilian selection is a gentle cross between a Pinot Grigio and a Chardonnay, a little higher in acid than a Chardonnay but weightier in mouthfeel than a typical Pinot Grigio. She said its “roundness and minerality make it a great match for winter vegetables and other seasonal foods, even risotto, by accentuating the flavors rather than competing with them.”

Meanwhile, over in Willcox, local winemaker Strid is doing her own part to debunk this winter white mythology.

“I think whites are perfect any time of the year,” said Strid, winemaker at Aridus Wine Company. “Often times whites are even more food-friendly then reds, so personally I tend to drink a lot more whites.”

Her strategy for winter white pairings is to choose a wine that cuts through the food rather than one that just mirrors the food’s intensity.

“If you’re going to have a heavier, more substantial, even fattier dish in the winter, whites are ideal for cutting through that while refreshing your palate,” she said.

The Aridus Viognier is one of those wines that exemplifies Strid’s science in this regard. While it can be enjoyed year-round, it’s just a bit heavier in body than some others on the white spectrum. She also says that barrel-aging “softens it up a bit, making it somewhat akin to a Chardonnay for pairing with richer foods.”

So, what gets Strid’s nod for a winter dish that screams out for this wine?

A baked winter squash, like a Delicata, stuffed with chopped nuts, fresh sage, yogurt, sautéed onions, and garlic.

Look for these wines from Aridus and Zonin at restaurants and retail stores across Tucson and let me know what you find.

As I wrap up this column, I note that it’s 34 degrees outside with a rare flurry in the forecast. Time to break out some whites in my winter wonderland.  

Contact Matt Russell, whose day job is CEO of Russell Public Communications, at mrussell@russellpublic.com. Russell is also the publisher of OnTheMenuLive.com, a regular contributor to “Tales of the Keg” on ESPN Tucson, KFFN 1490 AM & 104.9 FM, as well as the host of the Friday Weekend Watch segment on the “Buckmaster Show” on KVOI 1030 AM.