Reflecting the urgent energy of spring, three whites - delightful, but in categories often under our wine radar - summon our attention. But be forewarned: these aren't your run-of-the-mill variety quaffers.
They're much more interesting because of the unique grapes featured, and the expressions of place where the wines originate.
First, racy Entre-Deux-Mers from Chateau Sainte-Marie. The largest sub-region of Bordeaux, Entre-Deux-Mers is most well-known for its expression of Sauvignon Blanc-based white wine, although rouge, under the heading of Bordeaux Superior, is also made in the region and is worth seeking out. Chateau Sainte-Marie crafts a version made from 70% Sauvignon Blanc, 25% Semillion, and the rest Muscadelle. The latter grape comes through in this wine with a grapey tone which mildly buffers the citric Sauvignon. Grapefruit and grass aromas dominate, but not with the explosiveness many wines from New Zealand bring. So the mouthfeel is elegant, with mineral and herb elements woven together in a taut, refreshing format. Entre-Deux-Mers in a most accessible style. Did someone say fresh Whitefish from Lake Superior? $15-16 nationally for the 2013.
From Sicily, Erse Etna Bianco from Tenuta di Fessina. If the long title without a headlining grape seems a bit daunting, skip to your nearest shop where the Italian wine section is strong and ask about it. This dry, intriguing blend contains unique grapes typical to regions near Mount Etna, the highest active volcano in Europe. When was the last time you had Carricante, Minnella, and Catarratto, all in one white wine? From volcanic soil, Erse smells of hay and pear, and there's a savory component which makes me think of red wine upon tasting this. Flecks of herbs with a hint of tomato. Try this with roasted asparagus with olive oil and coarse salt. About $21 nationally for the 2013.
Pinot Bianco from Tiefenbrunner, grown and made in northern Italy's Alps in Alto Adage, is the third white to chase down. While Pinot Bianco may not yet be everyday white to most consumers, it could be at your house after you become acquainted. Castel Turmhof winery vineyards are among the world's highest and, at nearly 3200 feet above sea level, produce wines of understated intensity. The flavors and aromas are primarily of flowers and lemon creating an impression of elegance with backbone. You may detect a whiff of rose petals in this wine. A gift for this time of year, but equally compelling in other seasons. Other varietals are available from Tiefenbrunner, including a flagship Muller-Thurgau and the red wine Lagrein. A great starter wine for the evening and an easy friend to fish and salads. About $15-16 nationally for the 2013.