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Choosing a white for a special occasion
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Choosing a white for a special occasion

Michael Bray

Wine Columnist Michael Bray Wine Columnist Michael Bray

Greetings! I hope this finds you well and settling into 2021. It’s been wonderful to connect with many of you via email, as well as in-store at Passion Vines. I am most appreciative of your questions and feedback regarding your wine journey. I will continue to answer your questions here, and will also share sips of my own adventures.

We ended last year speaking of some wines to seek out for a special occasion. I was recently asked about sharing a couple of white wines, under similar context. Below are two wines that demonstrate the impact of aging, Terroir, as well as wine style. They are certainly not every day price points, but they are well worth the wait and savings. Next time you’re looking for something unique, expressive and delicious — lean into the following:

1. Daniel Etienne Defaix 1er Cru Chablis Les Lys 2005

Chablis is often thought of as a light, citrusy white wine, pleasant for summertime drinking. Simple village wines can make this idea true, but when you start getting out of the valley floors and move up the hillsides, there are highly structured wines coming from Premier Cru and Grand Cru sites that really require some bottle aging to allow the fruit to harmonize with the acids all while developing some complex flavors, such as pastry crust and honey. It’s a fabulous experience to enjoy a perfectly aged Chablis, and this example from Defaix (a family who has been an icon in the region for centuries) is exceptional. Look for notes of Earl Grey tea in this wine, and Daniel Defaix himself enjoys this particular wine with scallops and lobsters.

2. Gravner Ribolla Gialla

I grew up not knowing anything about wine, and anytime I walked into a store and looked at the Italian white wine section it overwhelmed me to the point where I reached for the familiar (such as a Pinot Grigio) and walked out. Little did I realize many years after some rigorous study and exploration that all those bottles that looked so similar to me on the surface could have such an amazing spectrum of flavor, aroma and sensations. The native grapes of Italy are fascinating in that they don’t really grow well anywhere else, and have this incredible ancient history tied to them. In the case of the Ribolla Gialla grape, my first experience with it left a lasting impression with its combination of lemon curd, anise and cardamom spices, with a minerality to it that feels connected to northeastern Italy. Gravner takes it to yet another level by fermenting in clay “amphorae” pots with wild yeasts, bottled unfiltered and not releasing the wine until ready to drink. An ethereal wine experience like this should be on your list — make it happen in 2021!


Q: Jane from Northfield asks, “Most Sauvignon Blanc is too light and crisp for me. Is there one you recommend that may be fuller?”

A: Hello Jane! Great analysis of what you don’t like, which will definitely lead us to a wine that will fit your profile. I recommend you seek out a Sauvignon Blanc with one of two things: first, oak aging. For example, Honig Winery of Napa Valley produces a Reserve Sauvignon Blanc that ages a brief time in oak (as opposed to stainless steel), which results in a fuller, fatter style of Sauvignon Blanc. Second, I would consider a wine from Sancerre, France. White wines from Sancerre will be 100% Sauvignon Blanc and offer more minerality given the soil (or Terroir as the French call it). Lastly, you may also inquire if the wine has been, “aged on the lees.” Lees aging refers to coarse sediment that accumulates during fermentation, mainly dead yeast cells and small grape particles. Lees aging can tame the high acid you’re trying to avoid, as well as add more flavor and body. Many times you will see this listed on the label as, “Sur Lie.” Give this a shot and let me know.

Lastly, we finish with me asking YOU a question. Email me the answer, and I’ll reply with a prize.

Q: Which varietal is home to Rioja, Spain:

a. Carmenere

b. Barolo

c. Garnacha

d. Tempranillo

You keep asking, and I’ll keep writing.

Drink Passionately,


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