Tasting Wine: Bargain whites for springtime

Last week, I wrote about bargain reds in the aftermath of tax day, so to be fair, this week I’m going to comment on bargain whites. As we head into warmer weather, I am sure many of you are getting into the mood for white wines. It’s exciting. White wine equals spring. Yay!

Parts of the world are known for making good, inexpensive red wines. Even with the unfavorable exchange rate, it is still possible to pick up a decent Salice Salentino or Corbieres, though these are becoming scarcer.

Outside Germany, which is known for making sweeter wines, it is more difficult to find really tasty bargain white wines. Yet it’s not impossible, it’s just a matter of tasting a lot and keeping an open mind. Of course, tasting time is a luxury for many of you; so here are three of the best white wine bargains I’ve tried recently. Enjoy!

Domaine de Mirail Colombard, 2006 (Cotes de Gascogne, France) — The Mirails are another one of those old winemaking families who have been at it for more than 500 years. In addition to wine, they make Armagnac. This simple colombard is a real treat. Aged in stainless steel, it is crisp and clean, with subtle apple and mineral tones. Suggested retail: $14

Gulfi Valcanziria, 2006 (Sicily, Italy) — Vito Catania started Gulfi in 1996 and now it is one of Sicily’s hottest producers. They use mostly indigenous varietals and some foreign grapes. Valcanziria is such a blend, made from chardonnay and Sicily’s own caricante and albanello. Although it is aged in aged in stainless steel, it has a nutty richness that suggests oak. Medium-bodied with marzipan, sweet butter and butterscotch notes, this is a superb wine for the spring. Suggested retail: $14

Szoke Matyas Irsai Oliver, 2006 (Matrai, Hungary) — Located near Budapest, Szoke Matyas has been making wine since the 1970s. Family-owned, the winery is a pioneer and role model for other producers throughout Hungary. Irsai Oliver is a cross between Pozsony, from the Hungarian town of the same name, and Pearl of Csaba, which is from the Carpathian Basin in central Europe. Muscat-like, this wine has heightened floral, apricot and guava aromas. The nose will lead you to think it is sweet, yet it has a lovely, dry finish. Suggested retail: $14

Pamela Busch is the wine director and proprietor of CAV Wine Bar & Kitchen in San Francisco.

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