I recently found a newspaper article about wine from 1977, which noted that wine was so confusing that most people just gave up trying to figure it out and always drank the same thing. Which helps explain the American fascination with chardonnay, which has been the most popular white wine for as long as I have been writing about it.
This is not a knock on chardonnay; it accounts for some of the world’s best wine, and I drink a lot of it myself. But it’s not the only white wine that’s versatile, goes well with food, and is widely available.
The next time you want to drink the same old thing, consider these alternatives:
• Dry Creek Dry Chenin Blanc ($10): If chenin blanc is known in the U.S., it’s as an indifferently made sweet wine. The Dry Creek, on the other hand, is well made and not sweet. Look for lots of white fruit aromas, a little lemon peel fruit, and a sort of slate-like, fruit-pit finish.
• Château Magence Blanc ($9): This French white blend includes semillon, a grape used in Bordeaux to blend in white wines but little used in the U.S. This wine is crisp and lemony, with an interesting, almost salty flavor in the back.
• Yalumba Riesling ($10): Australia hasn’t always been known for massive, manly red wines. It was once famous for riesling, and the Yalumba shows why. Look for pleasant petrol aromas, some lime zest, not much sweetness, and an almost spicy finish.
JEFF SIEGEL WRITES ABOUT WINE and neighborhood dining news every Friday.
Ask the wine guy
Q: I found an old bottle of wine in the house. How can I tell how much it’s worth?
A: The easy answer is that it’s probably not worth anything. Being old doesn’t make a wine valuable; rather, it needs to be a high-end wine that benefits from aging, and those are rare. Also, it should have been stored properly, away from from heat and light. If it meets those conditions, you can check on a site like wine-searcher.com.—Jeff Siegel
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With your wine: Lentil soup
Lentils are the easiest dried beans to use – they usually cook in 30 minutes or less and don’t require soaking before use. You can use any lentil here, but the French du puy lentils are the best and worth the extra cost. Add some Tabasco, and this will pair with the chenin blanc or riesling.
1 cup lentils
6 cups stock or water
1 onion, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 stalk celery, diced
salt and pepper to taste
1. Put everything in a soup pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until the lentils are tender, 20 to 30 minutes.
Serves 4, Takes 30-45 minutes