Through the Grapevine: Winter whites

Cave de Saumur 2014 Les Pouches Chenin Blanc (Saumur)

Rating: A

Everything seems to be heavier in the winter — the coats, the foods, the people — and everyone starts to break out the red wine, as if following some kind of ritualistic code. It’s as if, because the thermostat reads below 32 degrees, all the meats and sauces must be red, and so do the wines.

So when I was invited to a dinner and wine tasting party at a well-respected colleague’s house this past week — in which the cuisine was left a complete mystery — I wanted to break the stereotype. Having gained a few pounds myself — I blame all this wine — I wanted to surprise with something on the lighter side. You know what they say: think thin.

But it was a curveball not knowing what food would be served. I thought about bringing a favorite red, but what if we were to eat, for example, broiled scallops? I did not want to embarrass myself by bringing the wrong pairing, so it had to be white.

I’ll admit I was skeptical about this Cave de Saumur chenin blanc when I saw it advertised on sale at The Store Ampersand for only $9.99. For one, chenin blanc grapes are quite dynamic, capable of producing light and fizzy sparkling wines, sweet dessert wines or wines with little dimension at all. If price were any indication of the final product, I might have been in trouble.

But what a game-changer this chenin blanc proves to be. Boring, it is not. With a bright pear aroma, it invites the drinker back to the warm days of summer. Colored like lemongrass with aromatic notes of the same herb, this wine brings to mind sunny days spent lying in fields looking up into the sky, gentle breezes blowing through your significant other’s and your hair.

But, alas, it is December in Orono, and even though this wine should be enjoyed in the summertime there is absolutely no reason it cannot be enjoyed now. With its medium body and bright acidity, it stands up to most cuisines with ease. Citrusy enough to cut through a heavy cream sauce, juicy enough to lend the salad a hand and neutral enough to pair with most proteins. This just may be your new house white.

I could easily see myself preparing a meal for my colleagues just to pair with this wine and this wine alone. Ideally, this wine should be consumed with roasted vegetables, scallops, smoked or grilled fish — salmon would be perfect — or roasted chicken, but it plays well with marinara sauces and creamy cheeses as well. But if you want to just enjoy a few glasses by itself, I won’t judge you. In fact, I’ll join you.

This is the ultimate wine for a pleasant dinner alone or for summer sipping with friends. This is the kind of wine I search for, but so often cannot find. How many terrible whites have I suffered through on this quest for perfection? If you’ve been following my column, you know it’s far too many. Once lost, but now found, I can see the light thanks to this delicious chenin blanc from Cave de Saumur.

Alan Bennett is a fourth-year journalism student at the University of Maine and Culture Editor at The Maine Campus. His personal interests include food and dining, music, and health and fitness.

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