Not-so-innocent whites

In our house, you really can’t go wrong with red wine, particularly a nice New World Syrah or Grenache – but we’re big on whites, too (well, really, we’re just big on wine, and sticking to one colour would be far too limiting).
White wine was actually taboo for quite some time with me, due primarily to a regrettable prom night during which I tried to look sophisticated by drinking white wine. Not only did I not achieve the desired sophistication credit, I awoke with enough headache for three people, and what I thought was a lifelong aversion to white wine.
Then I discovered oaky Chardonnay.
It turns out that there are many, many white wines out there, and not all of them are horribly cheap house wines served in small town bars. It’s true that in the dead of winter, a nice, deep red seems like the way to go, wine-wise, but we do have a few suggestions, starting with the oaky Chardonnay that sparked the whole rediscovery process…

EXP Toasted Head
Chardonnay, California, $17.75 at the SAQ (code 00594341)
Like its red counterpart, the virtues of which were extolled in the last post, the Toasted Head Chardonnay is a rich mouthful of grape. You can almost see the flavour in the deep yellow colour, and the way that the wine seems to cling to the side of the glass, like honey. The oak is a definite presence in the wine, along with some hints of vanilla and other spices. Definitely a good wine if you like your oak.
Little Penguin
Chardonnay, Australia, $11.95 (code 10342311)
The Little Penguin is a nice, inexpensive alternative to the Toasted Head. Our weekly menu includes homemade macaroni and cheese (the recipe for which is available elsewhere on this site), which these days is rather skilfully prepared by my oldest son. The Little Penguin makes an excellent accompaniment, with enough body to hold up to the flavour of the casserole, but enough fruit to balance the cheese (and Colin tends to be very, very generous with the cheese).
Little Penguin also does a very nice Chardonnay-Riesling blend, and the Chardonnay itself is conveniently available in a three-liter box.
Chardonnay, especially the oakier ones, works well with many dishes that you might otherwise serve with a light red – think cheesy casseroles, burgers, or thick vegetable stews.
McWilliam’s Hanwood Estate
Riesling, Australia, $14.80 (code 10754607)
Reisling is one of those whites that I would never drink on its own, but that works really well with the right food. Asian dishes, or the very few Thai dishes we do, seem to be the perfect foil for the McWilliams – we like it with hot and sour soup and vegetarian pho. The McWilliam’s, like many Australian wines, is consistent from year to year, and it’s reasonably priced for a good wine. It’s light and citrusy, which balances well with the occasionally salty broth of the Asian soups and works nicely beside the lime and coriander flavours as well. A good friend assures me that Riesling is perfect with a lentil and butternut squash casserole that she prepares.
Chateau des Charmes
Gewürztraminer, Canada (Niagara-on-the-Lake), $19.95 (code 10745479)
Gewürztraminer, in my mind, is comparable to Riesling, but has a little more oomph – it’s just as citrusy, but tends to incorporate a little more spice. This one is a nice example, and of course it’s always nice to have some CanCon. Serve this wine with Indian curries, particularly milder ones, like a hearty Aloo Gobi.
Robertson Winery
Chenin Blanc, South Africa, $9.75 (code 10754228)
Chenin Blanc is a good alternative to the more run-of-the-mill Chablis and Sauvignon-Blanc, which for me are a little too reminiscent of that nefarious house wine. We serve this wine with Dr. T’s very excellent pizza, both the feta/black olive/spinach version and the hot peppers/pineapple extravaganza.
As always, please feel free to send me your suggestions, and if you do try one of our favourites, let us know your thoughts!

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