The old wine countries of Europe have seen their sales decline to disaster levels as drinkers have found better wines and prices elsewhere. Some French producers are blaming their government for not supporting and protecting their industry. Fortunately, other winemakers have taken a more proactive response — improving quality and holding down prices.
This week, I’d like to tell you about two European white wines that can rival anything out there for quality and price. This is just a hunch, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of the best everyday wines will one day again be from Europe.
The Rhône region in the south of France isn’t well-known for white wines, but it’s working on it. La Vieille Ferme is an everyday line of wines produced by the Perrin Family of Château de Beaucastel in Chateauneuf du Pape. The white is a super-pleasant, just lovely wine, with a drink-anytime, good-with-anything feeling. The price is friendly, too.
It comes in a handy screwcap and gets my vote for one of the best house whites of the year.
Rueda is Spain’s answer to Sauvignon Blanc. It has a similar zesty, live-wire character. Cool nights due to the high altitude of the region allow the grapes in Rueda to retain freshness and fragrances.
The flavours are herbaceous with a little earthiness. This current vintage is richer than in the past so this is an ideal all-evening white, from aperitif to barbecue. It is another handy screwcap wine.
Both of these wines are made from little known, indigenous grape varieties so they make a refreshing change if you have been having too much Chardonnay.
• This Saturday’s Vintages release recommendations are posted on www.billysbestbottles.comunder the weekly picks section.
Billy Munnelly is author, wine critic and publisher of Billy’s Best Bottles Wineletter and Billy’s Best Wines For 2007, a guide to the best wines at the LCBO, available in bookstores or through www.billysbestbottles.com. Sign up for his free wine e-letter at www.billysbestbottles.com.