RICHARD ESLING: Fresh white wines to herald the spring

Spring whites ' ready chilled
Spring whites ' ready chilled

Although it may not have seemed like it last weekend, or even the beginning of this week, spring is officially here.

Depending on whether you follow the astronomical or meteorological timetable, spring officially arrived this year on Tuesday, March 20 – the former – or on March 1 – the latter.

The meteorological definition of spring is pure and simply the three months of March, April and May. The astronomical definition, however, is far more complicated, changes each year and has a lot to do with the precise angle of the Earth as we orbit the sun.

Hopefully, the snow and Beasts from the East, be they little or large, are now behind us and we can start to enjoy the blackthorn blossom, buds bursting, song thrushes and blackbirds singing, to herald the better weather.

Time perhaps to move away from the full-bodied, red wines, which have warmed us through the winter, in accompaniment to hearty roasts and casseroles, to lighter and fresher white wines.

Too early perhaps for spring greens, but not too early for spring whites.

“Gorgeous little citrus flowers link arms with melon and peach to dance in the sunshine, always maintaining an air of class. Meanwhile lime lingers in the shadows, vying for attention.”

The start of a new novel, or perhaps part of the scene setting script of a stage play? No, it’s the description of a white wine from Gisborne in New Zealand, according to the label. It is part of the new wave of wines from this country, made from grape varieties other than the ubiquitous Sauvignon Blanc.

Made by Leftfield wines in the Te Awa winery in Hastings NZ, the variety is Albarino, more often associated with north-west Spain, from whence it originates. With a quirky, modern label depicting a ‘harvest duel’, the 2017 Left Field Albarino is fresh, aromatic and zippy, with a rich, underlying complexity, derived from partial fermentation in French oak barrels. First class winemaking has produced a wonderfully interesting wine, perfect for spring drinking. £14.55 from Wine Rack, Sissinghurst Wines and other independents.

Another surprisingly light, fresh and unusual white from ‘down under’ is the McLaren Vale Fiano 2017 from Hancock and Hancock.

Following the trend to introduce more exciting grape varieties, Fiano is an Italian variety, which has found a new home in McLaren Vale, South Australia.

The bright and fresh 2017 has good body and texture from the character of the varietal, with citrus and nectarine aromas, leading to a satisfying, fresh fruit finish, which lingers enticingly on the palate.

An interesting and rewarding change from Chardonnay and Semillon. £14.80 from specialists such as Wine Utopia, The Wine Reserve and Vino Wines.

Heading back to the ‘Old World’, some interesting wines are being made in France from non-traditional blends of grape varieties.

Like some of their counterparts in Italy, they are only allowed the designation of ‘country wine’, in this case ‘Mediterraneé IgP’ (Indication géographique protégé), since they do not follow the Appellation Controlée rules.

One such wine is Les Collines de Laure Blanc 2016, made by one of the top Rhone Valley wine producers, Jean-Luc Colombo, based in Cornas. Top, modern wine-making techniques are employed, with a long, low temperature fermentation followed by immediate bottling to preserve the freshness and fruit.

The grape varieties are a fusion of Rhone Viognier and Provence Rolle, also known as Vermentino.

Small amounts of Muscat and Sauvignon Blanc add to the fruit flavours and freshness, producing an elegant and aromatic wine, with hints of fennel and pear, together with white peach, apricot and elderflower.

Great wine at £14.20 a bottle, worth tracking down from the independents such as The Solent Cellar in Lymington or Apero Wine Services.

Richard Esling BSc DipWSET is an experienced wine consultant, agent, writer and educator. An erstwhile wine importer, he runs a wine agency and consultancy company called WineWyse, is founder and principal of the Sussex Wine Academy, chairman of Arundel Wine Society and is an International Wine Judge. Twitter @richardwje. Visit www.winewyse.com.

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