Are you desperate to get away this summer but have decided to play it safe and holiday at home? Well, I have an incredible selection of six refreshing European white wines that will tantalise your tastebuds and transport you seaside without leaving the comforts of home or your wine glass.
I decided to invite a few wine-loving friends over for my second ever Vigneview wine tasting this past weekend. We spent the evening exploring, understanding and enjoying refreshing European white wines while pairing them with three different European cheeses, an Icelandic prawn salad, truffle salami (Yes, I said truffle!!!) along with various other indulgent antipasti delights.
What makes a white wine refreshing?
When tasting wine, acidity is the source of the mouthwatering, refreshing sensation on your palate. There is a certain amount of acidity in all wines, as this is one of the fundamental components found in grapes. Within the grape itself, there are three main types of acids: citric, malic and tartaric. After primary fermentation lactic acid can also occur if the winemaker decides to have the wine undergo malolactic fermentation. This can take place when lactic bacteria is allowed to convert the harsh malic acid into softer, lactic acid. Lactic bacteria can be inoculated into the wine or it may already be naturally present due to cellar contamination. This process de-acidifies a wine, thus creating a wine that appears to be softer and less vibrantly acidic on the palate.
The amount of acidity left in a grape at harvest directly correlates with the growing season and how the grape responds to temperature fluctuations. The warmer the growing conditions, the less acidity a grape will retain. Additionally, the timing of harvest is usually dependent upon how much acidity and sugar is left in the grape. For example, grapes with higher acidity levels and less sugar are needed when making dry sparkling wines. Therefore, these grapes are often harvested earlier than if they were being used to make a still wine.
Each grape variety retains a different level of acidity during the growing season. For example, the Assyrtiko grape from Greece grows in a warm, Mediterranean climate. Despite these warm growing conditions, it still manages to preserve higher acidity levels which in turn, enables winemakers to create refreshing white wines.
Finally, one of the key ways to retain acidity and freshness within a wine occurs during the winemaking process. Most refreshing white wines are aged in inert fermentation vessels (stainless steel is the most common) to prevent oxidation from occurring. If the wine comes in contact with oxygen, this decreases the acidity and freshness of the wine. The goal is to minimise oxygen contact.
Which wines made the cut?
Choosing six refreshing European white wines, was not an easy task for my wine tasting, as there are so many incredible wines on the Continent. However, I thought it best to select of few of my personal favourites, as well as using this as an opportunity to explore new grape varieties and regions. The following wines made the cut;
- Martin Codax, Rías Baixas DO, Albariño Caixas 2019 (Galicia, Spain)
- Casal de Ventozela, Vinho Verde, Arinto 2019 (Vale do Ave, Portugal)
- Cave de L’Ormarine, Villemarin, Picpoul de Pinet AOP 2020 (Languedoc, France)
- Siddùra Spèradi Gallura DOCG 2019 (Sardinia, Italy)
- Filos Estate, Aspri Petra Assyrtiko 2020 (Florina, Greece)
- Domäne Wachau Weissenkirchen Grüner Veltliner Smaragd 2019 (Wachau, Austria)
Overall, the wines were a real delight for the senses and palate. My personal favourite was the Siddùra Spèra Vermentino di Gallura DOCG 2019 from Sardinia. However, the price point might cause people to shy away from purchasing it. Probably my new ‘go-to wine’ from this tasting that’s a bit more budget friendly, would be the Caixas Albariño. However, I also really liked the zestly acidity from the Arinto and Picpoul. I was also blown away by the powerful Grüner Veltliner. As you know, I can never make up my mind. Well, when in doubt, buy all of them!
Which foods and cheeses pair well with refreshing European white wines?
Each wine from this tasting is truly unique, reflective of the local terroir and yet, all are refreshing European white wines in their own right. Additionally, all six wines are versatile as well as being great value for money You would have no problem pairing these wines with a variety of foods and cheeses, as well as enjoying a glass or two on its own.
Speaking of pairing wines with food and cheese, I chose three delightfully different cheeses that pair incredibly well with each wine. The cheeses that made the cut were as follows;
- Tetilla DOP (Galicia, Spain) – This creamy, smooth cheese is made from local cow’s milk in the Galicia region of Spain where the Rías Baixas wines are made. In Galician, ‘tetilla’ means ‘small breast’…so basically, this is little breast cheese!!! You’ve just gotta love it! The cheese has a bitter, buttery flavour with a slight tang on the finish. I served it on crostinis, topped with fig spread. Locally, it is paired with Albariño as the wines’ citrus and stone fruit flavours along with some salinity and higher levels of acidity cut through the rich buttery notes of the Tetilla which create a complementary yet contrasting perfect pairing.
- Pecorino Sardo Canestrato DOP (Sardinia, Italy) – Unlike the famous Sardinian Casu martzu or ‘maggot cheese’, this Pecorino Sardo Canestrato DOP is a bit, shall we say, easier on the stomach. Made from the ewe’s milk of a local breed of sheep, this cheese appears firm yet a bit crumbly and has warm nutty flavours, subtle sweetness followed by a delicate sour note. The rind is a rustic mahogany colour that has been rubbed in oil and exudes earthy aromas. This cheese pairs beautifully with the Siddùra Spèra Vermentino, as the wine’s higher acidity cuts through the fattiness of the cheese while also offering complementary honeysuckle and citrus notes and an off-dry level of sweetness. Enjoy this cheese on its own, on a cracker or shaved on top of your favourite pasta or salad. This cheese embodies versatility!
- Pélardon AOC ( Languedoc-Roussillon, France) – This tiny little medallion of cheese is made from goat’s milk and produced in the Cevennes mountain range of France’s Languedoc-Roussillon region. It is a soft-ripened cheese with a white mould rind. Flavours and aromas are typical to that of a goat’s cheese; fresh, earthy and slightly nutty. Richer, buttery versions of this cheese appear in the early autumn. This cheese pairs perfectly with the Picpoul-de-Pinet wine. The wine’s vibrant fresh acidity, medley of floral, green and stone fruit notes, along with some salinity on the palate enable this cheese to come alive. Enjoy this cheese with your favourite cracker.
Seafood pairs beautifully with refreshing white wines. For this wine tasting, I re-created a well known Icelandic prawn salad called Raekjusalat. The sweet, savoury and slightly salty flavours of the shrimp coated in the the rich mayonnaise, sour cream-based sauce just shout-out for a zesty, vibrant white wine to cut through, uplift and complement the fatty indulgences of this dish! My lovely friend Roannna @bakingbyro baked me a gorgeous organic spelt loaf which provided the perfect base for me to pile on the prawn salad…no holding back!
Additionally, I discovered an incredible truffle infused salami in a local Da Mario Italian delicatessen in Highbury, North London.
Not able to resist, I purchased 100 grams of the truffle-infused salami and am so glad I did. This paired beautifully with the Grüner Veltliner wine. This fuller-bodied, zesty white wine complemented the strong umami flavours of the truffle, while also cut through the richness of the salami. I love this pairing and it all happened by chance! It’s great when pairings magically happen.
Overall, I can’t say a bad thing about any of the wines. They were are stellar in their own way. This was truly a magical tour of Europe via my wine glass.