Many of you, I imagine, have wondered if there's some white wine which would not be outrageously out of place with, say, roast beef. And the answer is yes, even though choosing an appropriate white demands more care than choosing a satisfactory red. You surely don't want a delicate, flowery sauvignon blanc or a lean, shy riesling. But, for somewhat different reasons, a great white burgundy of an outstanding vintage would do, and so would a rich, buttery California chardonnay.
Both are, of course, made of the same grape, but grown in very different climates, and in distinctively different styles. A '96 puligny-montrachet (“poo-LEE-nyee mon-rah-shay”) from Louis Jadot would stand tall alongside the tallest standing rib, while a Gallo northern Sonoma estate chardonnay of the same year would flatter the beef in a warm wrap of harmonious aroma and flavors.
What brings this to mind just now is that the Christmas dinner I enjoyed with friends featured prime rib, and so my contribution to the feast was both a bottle of red burgundy, Savigny-les-Beaune '96, from Maurice Ecard, and the ever-easy-drinking Cinnabar '97. Both played their parts very well, and the hostess, who tentatively sampled the burgundy, reported the next day that - happy surprise - it did not leave a headache behind; a pinot noir is not obliged to behave like a cabernet sauvignon.
A few columns back I called a Chateau Souverain (no, it's California) zinfandel to your attention, reporting that I found it easily the best $10 zin I've encountered. Add '98 merlot ($17) and an intensely fruity '99 chardonnay ($14) to the list of good things Chateau Souverain does very well and sells reasonably.
YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: For several years now I've been touting the merits of a white, verdicchio dei castelli di jesi, from the Adriatic shores of Central Italy. When I started, even confident sommeliers would say “hunh?” Well, at the prestigious London Wine Challenge, verdicchio dei colli di jesi was declared the best Italian white. According to the Italian Wine & Spirits office, “Its producers have not seen the need to add even a single drop of Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc.” Look for a bottle from producers Fazi-Battaglia or Garofoli.
Robert Kirtland is The Blade's wine critic.