With an erratic climate—frost and balmy weather all within the same week (at least here up in the northeast), your wine choices might also shift wildly. In one week, I drank a full-bodied Bordeaux blend from Virginia and a Tannat from Uruguay to go with hearty stews, but also whites from northern Italy and Austria to go with soups and composed salads. No matter what the weather, the calendar still says it’s winter, so here are some whites that can do double duty on warm days and cold.
Attems “Trebes” Ribolla Gialla 2020, Collio DOC. Lemon, pear, baked apple and orchard fruit in this medium-bodied, mineral-y wine made from an ancient grape found around the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region. This savory wine is a happy partner with crisp-roasted meats or pasta dishes with white or oil-based sauces, but I had it with a white bean. sausage and tortellini soup.
Cantine Volpi Cascina “La Zerba” di Volpedo Timorasso 2019, Colli Tortonesi. Deeper hue of yellow, this is an exotic, round and rich white from a little-known historic grape that’s undergone a revival. Stone fruits (peach, apricot), creamed apple tart, mineral backbone. Pair with pumpkin soup and crispy bread.
Inama Soave Classico “Carbone” 2020. It’s always a pleasure to taste the wines from this winery run by two young brothers, leaders in the unofficial rebranding of the Soave region with their carefully tended and crafted wines. This one uses 100% Garganega grapes from vines planted in volcanic soils, which implies a smoky, flinty nose. Medium bodied, savory with tinges of lemon curd and backed with an acid streak, this is pleasant on its own but also a versatile food partner. Excellent with hard-to-pair greens: mine were escarole in a chicken and orzo soup.
Livio Felluga Terre Alte, Colli Orientali del Friuli. From the pioneering winery that literally put the Rosazzo appellation on the map, this blend of Friulano, Pinot Bianco and Sauvignon estate-grown grapes is a medium-bodied exotic white with flavors that cross over from tropical fruits to citrus and almond and then ending in a satisfying savory umami-like place. A lactic quality gives this a round, pleasant mouthfeel. Delicious with cabbage, leek and white potato soup.
If you’re moseying around northern Italy, it seems natural to cross over the border and explore a few Austrian whites, since the two regions share a certain cross-cultural history. Stylistically, they will be quite different, but I found they paired with similar winter dishes—mainly the hearty soups I was making all winter with root vegetables, cabbage and sturdy greens such as kale and escarole.
I didn’t have a large selection of Austrian wines on hand, but did a horizontal tasting of Domäne Wachau’s excellent single-vineyard whites from the region of the same name. Overseen by Master of Wine Roman Horvath, it is a quality-driven cooperative, often cited as one of Europe’s best—with vineyards hugging the steep terraces along the Danube river. It’s located in Dürnstein, about an hour due east of Vienna and a good eight hours north of the Colli/Soave/Friuli region I had been exploring, but the wines presented a pleasing and complementary mirror to the Italian counterparts.
Domäne Wachau, Riesling Achleiton 2019. A quiet, medium-bodied wine with clean and bright apple and lemon tones. Good pairing with Ribollita soup before the snowfall.
Domäne Wachau, Riesling Federspiel Bruck 2018. Golden-yellow hue, sexy petrol and yellow-fruited nose of peach and apricot. From a steep site in the Spitz Ravine. Medium bodied, rich but not opulent. I had it with a repeat performance of the cabbage and leek soup, the broth of which was made with parmesan rinds, giving the soup an umami quality that paired well with this soup.
Domäne Wachau Gruner Vetliner Smaragd Reid Achleiten 2019. Slight petrol notes—just a nod—on the nose of this medium-bodied wine. Otherwise, on the palate, a savory herbal aspect, cooked lemon curd. Delicious with white bean and escarole soup.
Domäne Wachau Gruner Vetliner Federspiel “Terrassen” 2020. From a rocky terraced vineyard site, this is a medium bodied, elegant wine with a wash of Meyer lemon and spice notes. Round and sophisticated and approachable. This was a pretty pairing with Greek avgolemono soup.