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March 13, 2011

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Budget whites delight

Good inexpensive wines exist. But they're difficult to find. Many wines under 200 yuan range from merely drinkable to pretty dreadful. About 80 percent of wines under 200 yuan. I tasted for my latest guide, I would not recommend. Another 15 percent are good for the price, but there's always about five percent that I like so much I have to double check they are under 200 yuan. This week, I highlight some of these inexpensive whites.

Why white wine?

China is red wine centric. White wines are often ignored despite their essential and complementary role in wine appreciation. The relationship between red wines and white wines has parallels in the dynamics between men and women. How boring to have a party with all men! Likewise a meal with only red wines is one dimensional. Even if you're a red wine fanatic, you will enjoy the red wines even more when you first enjoy one or more white wines.

Start light

Think of a symphony that starts bombastic and continues that way all through the composition. This would be an overwhelming and dreadful experience. Likewise, starting with a big red wine and continuing with full body reds throughout the meal overwhelms your palate and lacks the contrasts that help us optimize our enjoyment of wines. Start with fresh white wines and then move to red wines and I guarantee you will enjoy the reds even more. The more delicate nature of many whites helps set up your palate for the heavier red wines and gracefully allows you to build your wine experience to an exhilarating crescendo.

Time to breathe

Enjoying white wine prior to drinking red wines has another benefit. It allows time for the red wine to breathe. Next to drinking red wines too warm, the most common offense when drinking red wines, is not allowing enough time for breathing. Most good red wines need time to breathe so their aromas and flavors open up and their tannins soften. When consumed too quickly they may be closed and too aggressive.

Food pairing

If you are having a steak, drink red wine. However if you are having seafood or something lighter a white wine is usually the more suitable companion.

The acidity in white wine awakens the best characteristics of seafood. Also, when enjoying a Chinese meal where seafood is served alongside meats, white wines are often the better solution as they match nicely with many meats including pork, veal and chicken.

I often try to arrange my Chinese meals so the seafood and lighter meat dishes arrive first as we enjoy our white wine, then the heavier red meat dishes come as we savor red wines. I know this is messing a little with Chinese culinary culture, but it's done for a noble cause.

Here are four white wines to broaden your wine-drinking experience without impacting your bank balance. Remember that only the best white wines benefit from aging so drink these lovely budget beauties young.

Torres, Vina Esmeralda, 2009 Torres, Vina Esmeralda, 2009

Region: Penedes, Spain

Grape Varieties: Gewurztraminer, Moscatel

Aging Method: No oak

Aging Potential: Three to four years

Retail Price: 171 yuan

Importer: Everwines



From the mountains of the Upper Penedes comes a very fragrant and intriguing wine with light golden color, exotic nose of flowers and sweet citrus fruit and smooth and generous flavors of ripe fruit and honey; the wine has an initial touch of sweetness followed by a nice dry finish, overall, it's a very balanced wine; Torres has been making wines for over three centuries.

Pairing Tips: Serve at 8-10 degree Celsius; match with seafood, chicken and pork dishes. Hugel, Gentil, 2007

Region: Alsace, France

Grape Varieties: Silvaner, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Muscat, Gewurztraminer

Aging Method: Light oak aging

Aging Potential: Three to five years

Retail Price: 199 yuan

Importer: Summergate

This wine has a pale yellow color, aromatic nose of beeswax and houseleek, also a scent of cape jasmine, yeast and chalk; flavor of sweet melon with crispy acidity, slightly salty finish with malm hint.


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