Neuroplasticity describes the concept that our beautiful brains can adapt and change over time, rewiring habits and even our impression of ourselves. This is key to learning and experience. But what does this have to do with wine?
As wine consumers we tend to find things we like and stick with them. This makes sense, of course, considering the potential expense and impact on our waning leisure time. We don’t want to waste an opportunity with something we might not like.
But what if what our preferences are malleable, like our brains? What if we can introduce or reintroduce a flavor and aromatic profile and experience it fresh? We can. Though blind tasting — sipping a wine without knowing its identity — is often associated with critical appraisal reliant on sense memory and association, it has other uses. A blind taste can reset one’s analysis of simply by enjoying the hits of florals, fruits, earth, and minerals that come from the glass.
Here are several categories of white wines that are perfect candidates for a second look thanks to modernity, innovations, or refinements that may have slipped by while drinking from a stash of standbys and old-reliables. (Looking implies all of the ways we examine wine, including taste and smell, of course).
DOC delle Venezie – The Pinot Grigio Queen
This category comes from north-eastern Italy, in the regions of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Veneto, and the province of Trento. Included here are 20 historical denominations with a dedication to Pinot Grigio. If you’ve enjoyed an Italian Pinot Grigio, which of course you have, chances are it came from this spot.
What’s new is that starting with the 2017 vintage, the region has imposed a certification system for “the benefit of the consumer.” Wine educator and writer Regine T. Rousseau calls these “mood lifting wines” and reminds consumers to always look for the seal of approval, which is a tracing system that provides connection to the origin designation.
A wine to to taste test: Casa Girelli Canaletto Pinot Grigio DOC delle Venezie 2020. Rousseau says this put her “in mind of great food” with a hint of strawberry and citrus rind notes.
Alto Adige – A Range of Italian White Wine
On the other hand, that Italian Pinot Grigio could have come from Alto Adige, which is located on the border with Austria and Switzerland. The striking feature here is the Dolomite mountains, which are regarded as some of the most beautiful in the world. Wine educator Morgan Perry says “it’s hard to find a bad wine from the region.” Alto Adige is not just about Pinot Grigio — aged whites with a backbone of acidity and blends of Pinot Bianco, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc are highlights.
Thanks to a growing environment of high altitude and plentiful sun, grapes in Alto Adige experience a concentration of sugar, yet the signature style of these wines is one freshness and tension. Fifth generation proprietor Karoline Walch, of the Elena Walch winery, advocates “parcel thinking” to illustrate to an international audience the distinctive potential of Alto Adige wines. “We’re not here to make basic commercial wines,” says Walch.
A wine to to taste test: Cantina Valle Isarco Kerner 2020. Fresh, balanced, and aromatic — you’d never guess there’s 14% alcohol in this one.
Saint Aubin – A Rising Star in Burgundy
It hardly takes an arm-twisting to get on board with Bourgogne (Burgundy). But sometimes it can be hard to make a buying decision. Everyone seems to want the under-the-radar wines with good value for money. Saint Aubin fits the bill. A neighbor to Montrachet in the Côte de Beaune, this village appellation is home to 30 Premiers Crus.
Nadine Gublin is first woman to receive the “Winemaker of the Year” Award from the Revue des Vins de France and she calls the white wines of Saint Aubin well-balanced. “With brightness and a beautiful energy, they keep a very nice, natural acidity,” says Gublin. Some of Bourgogne’s young guns have invested their energy in this village and critics and enthusiasts have started to take note.
A wine to to taste test: Château de Saint Aubin Saint Aubin 1er Cru Clos du Château 2019. Gublin says that 2019 was an “outstanding vintage” and that the white wines have a “high potential for aging.