White Christmas

A celebrated British wine merchant Harry Waugh reportedly once said, “The first duty of a wine is to be red.” Rubbish, I say. White wines deliver refreshment in a way that reds seldom can, and they arrive in a mind-boggling array of hues, aromas, flavours, sweetness levels, textures-even bottle shapes. More transparent in every way, they show nuance, terroir, and the very art of winemaking with naked clarity.Winter is coming, of course, but white wine is entirely suitable at this time of year if it fulfills certain criteria: the richness to match weighty cold-weather dishes (think Alsatian baeckeoffe, pine-mushroom risotto, leek and potato soup), the complexity of savoury botanical flavours rather than juicy fruit alone, and the spicy warmth of generous alcohol. Earth tones, layers of rich texture from lees, and roasted-nut flavours all serve to warm from within.If riesling and sauvignon blanc are quintessential summertime wines, winter belongs to fleshy Rhône grapes like marsanne, roussanne, and viognier, as well as sumptuous oaked chardonnay, opulent gewürztraminer, and honeyed chenin blanc. Cold-weather wine styles can be dry to barely off-dry, and tend to have softer acidity and plush texture; they belong in a wide-bowled glass with a fire nearbyBest CellarEmily Walker, wine director for YEW Seafood + Bar and the Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver (791 W. Georgia St., 604-692-4939) is Okanagan-born, so she feels a special affinity for the Trebella, declaring that it offers “a perfect mix of aromatics, acidity, and mouth feel to harmonize with rich shellfish dishes such as Dungeness crab ravioli in a light cream or butter sauce.”White MagicHEGGIES VINEYARD CHARDONNAY 2011($27.99)This is a lovely South Australian chard, full of tropical fruit and buttery richness, but not overloaded with oak or alcohol. It is truly cool-climate (the vineyard sits at 550 metres) and it shows, with crisp green-apple acidity and a long, lingering lime-flavoured finishCHAPOUTIER CONDRIEU INVITARE 2010(private wine stores; price varies)Made with the fragrant and exotic (but difficult) viognier grape, Invitare is grown on steep granitic terraces. It shows astonishing honeysuckle and white-peach aromas and flavours, with succulent acidity, a richly layered palate, and profound mineralityBELLINGHAM BERNARD SERIES OLD VINES CHENIN BLANC 2012($24.99)This generously oaked chenin blanc offers lavish spiced-vanilla and honeyed scents with overtones of lemon verbena. A velvety palate of tropical and stone-fruit flavours is refreshed by chenin’s riveting acidity, creating a ravishing finishFiled Under DJ’s wine picks, White Wine, Wine