(Soft White Wines)
© by Sheral Schowe
What a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon, amidst a forest of pine trees, eleven miles up Big Cottonwood Canyon. Then add an educational wine experience and some great new friends. The deck of Silverfork Lodge was the venue for University of Utah's five-week "Styles of Wine" course, beginning with six, soft white wines to open the series.
The term "soft white wine" refers to a wine with relatively low levels of alcohol, possibly a high amount of residual sugar, or at least the impression of sweetness due to the fruity and floral aromas and flavors. It is soft on the palate, but certainly not uninteresting. Soft white wines are a perfect match for those foods that light your mouth on fire. Some favorites that come to mind are; Cajun, Sechuan, the Wasabi on Sushi, and spicy Thai dishes. The last thing you want in your mouth after this heated invasion is a lot of alcohol, which would only serve to increase the pain, intensifying the heat. What you do reach for, is a cold glass of ice water to put out the fire. Soft white wines serve the same purpose, with a calming effect on the palate. These wines should be chilled down to about 50 degrees before serving.
The best soft white wines, in my opinion, are imports. We started with the Valkenberg Gewurztraminer 1998 ($8.95) from Germany, which is full of peaches, apricots, and apples and a little spice, though not as much spice as an Alsatian Gewurztraminer, with a hint of sweetness. The next three wines were Rieslings, the first one from Alsace. Wolfberger Riesling 1997 ($11.95) reminds me of wet stone and minerals. For those of you who think that all Rieslings are gorpy sweet, with an overabundance of fruit and sugar, this wine as well as any Alsatian Riesling will surprise you. It is vinified in the French, dry style. Next was the Carl Graff Riesling Kabinett 1996 ($8.95) from Germany. Kabinett means the grapes were picked at the regular harvest time, creating a wine that is exciting, full of peach-like aromas with a nice amount of acid to carry the flavors on the finish. The next Riesling was picked at late harvest, when the residual sugars are a little higher. Von-Hovel Riesling Spatlese 1997 ($19.95) packs a big punch for flavor and finish, while, as typical with German Rieslings, low in alcohol.
Our last two wines were French varietals. Goulaine Vouvray 1998 ($8.85) is a Chenin Blanc from Vouvray, in the Loire Valley. When you see the word Vouvray on the bottle, you know that it is always Chenin Blanc. Full of flavor and a little sweetness, but dry as a bone when compared to domestic Chenin Blancs. Our finale was a blend of Viognier, Marsanne, and Rousanne, all Rhone varietals, which have been planted in Santa Barbara, among other places in California. Fess Parker Melange du Rhone 1998 ($16.95) is an aromatically intense wine, reflecting the perfumy characteristics of the three Rhone varietals. It was an elegant finish for our first summer wine education series in the pines of Big Cottonwood Canyon.
June 6, 2000