One of the best new TV shows is HBO’s Bored to Death. Jason Schwartzman plays a wannabe private eye with an addiction to white wine. That totally goes against the film noir version of private dicks, who drink gimlets and martinis at every meal and snack.
However, just as the show’s protagonist proves that cases can be solved without the macho fronting, today’s white wines prove that even manly men can enjoy them. There are plenty of varietals that aren’t too sweet or flowery. These are wines that Sex and the City fans dismiss as too bold for their tastes.
Before going forward, a quick note on drinking whites. As a rule of thumb, don’t just throw bottles in the fridge whenever you buy them. If they’re cold when drunk, every single one will taste the same. They should be chilled. Toss the bottle in the fridge about 30 to 45 minutes before drinking. And don’t use a huge red wine glass. Pour it into a smaller white wine glass with a stem. If truly confident men can wear pink, they can carry an elegant glass.
Gazela Vinho Verde NV - Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal
Approximate retail price: $6
For years travelers would discover vinho verde in Portugal and wonder why they’d never had it before. It’s great: crisp with a small injection of CO2, which gives it a light fizz (but way less than champagne). The name literally means “green wine,” because of its age not its color. Vinho verdes have to be drunk within a year of bottling, because they don’t age well. For this reason, exporting them to North America wasn’t an option until recently. This brand comes with a bottling date (not a vintage) on the back label so you can check its freshness. No need for fancy wine etiquette here — refrigerate it like you would beer. It’s best enjoyed cold, not chilled, and in any glass you damn please.
Château La Gatte Bordeaux Blanc - Aquitaine, France
Approximate retail price: $12-$20
Just because it’s from France doesn’t mean it’s dainty. Thick grape skins give this white wine girth and body — drink it with smoked meats. Don’t worry, the wine is strong enough to hold up under some pretty heavy flavors. It sounds like a description for a savory red, but this bottle is also crisp, clean and very refreshing, with lemon-lime and mineral flavors. The story behind this particular brand makes a great conversation starter. This is a small independent winery run by a young couple. The guy, an American, was a workaholic ad man before wine and his French wife calmed him. Suggest to your date that she may do the same for you.
Kalyra Barrel Select Pinot Grigio - Santa Ynez, CA
Approximate retail price: $22
When Thomas Haden Church hits on Sandra Oh in Sideways, she’s pouring Kalyra wine in the winery’s tasting room. This aggressive wine hits your mouth like she hit him with her motorcycle helmet. However, true to pinot form, it follows through with crisp flavors of green apples and pears. As the name implies, it’s been aged in barrels, giving it subtle hints of oak that are reminiscent of finer whiskies. Its acidity is well-balanced and has a long, lingering finish. If your feast includes king crab legs and oyster stews, this wine is a must.
Big House White - Central Coast, CA
Approximate retail price: $10
Don’t let the low price or generic name fool you. These nutty professors mix odd grape varieties to impress wine aficionados and amateurs alike. This blend is dry and crisp, and WineEnthusiast.com rated it 90 points and named it one of the top 100 best buys for 2009. The nose is explosive, coming at you with a mix of star fruit and lemons. The finish is a little fruity, but not sweet. There are overtones of cucumber and buttered toast that keep the sugar in check. This white wine is perfect for dinners where the food is particularly rich.
Charles Krug Sauvignon Blanc - Napa Valley, CA
Approximate retail price: $20
This bottle screams outdoor drinking — even if you have to put on a parka and gloves and light a cigar to justify the journey into winter weather. Its acidity slaps your taste buds around as many sauvignon blancs do. However, this one also apologizes afterward, and gives you a shot of citrus moonshine. There is no grassy aftertaste that other bottles often leave. If you’re tired of beer while tailgating, this bottle will complement a bratwurst or a bag of peanuts. The classic-looking label isn’t even flowery like some whites, inspiring fewer taunts from buddies.
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Wolf Blass Gold Label Riesling - Clare & Eden Valley, Australia
Approximate retail price: $16
Rieslings are native to Europe, but their wines can be too sweet. That’s why men should look to a country founded by criminals for a Riesling bold enough to punch your pallet around. Wolf Blass is long in the teeth among Australian winemakers, having opened in 1966. Their whites continually impress reviewers and the Riesling is their flagship. It’s steely, minerally and finishes with surprisingly heavy jolt of citrus-y acidity. You think the fat lady has sung when suddenly an even fatter, louder lady belts out "Thunderstruck." Throw back a bottle of Wolf Blass with pork chops or shrimp on the barbie.
King Estates Pinot Gris - Willamette Valley, OR
Approximate retail price: $13
This is just the wine you’d expect to come from Oregon: earthy, laid-back and certified organic. Bring it to any party and please everyone. While the aroma is full of light citrus and pears, the taste is dry with unmistakable minerality and hints of green apple and grapefruit. The price is low, but its 92-point rating from Wine & Spirits will please more snobbish palates. And if you’re more hermit than party-pleaser, this is a perfect bottle to keep around to eat with anything from popcorn to Ramen to a microwaved Hungry Man turkey dinner. Go ahead, add a little class to your cheap meals.
Orballo Albariño - Galicia, Spain
Approximate retail price: $18-$20
During the ‘80s, an era of white Don Johnson suits and Billy Idol’s “White Wedding,” albariño became the first modern Spanish white wine to rise to popularity. Its continued success in the saturated international market testifies to its versatility. While its aroma suggests peaches and is similar to viogniers or gewurztraminers, the taste is unique, not overly sweet, unusually light on the tongue, but with enough acidity and alcohol to let you know it crashed the party. This brand epitomizes what is best about the wine: combining light citrus flavors with a peppery kick. You’ll kill the bottle before realizing dinner hasn’t even been served yet.