My husband and I had dinner with our new neighbors last month. Like most neighbors, we didn't know much about one another beyond the fact of a common property line. I didn't know, for example, if they liked red or white wine. So we brought over a bottle of each. While the red was warmly received, the white was quickly dispatched to the kitchen. "We're red wine drinkers," said the wife, in the sort of tone most people reserve for declaring their religion. Hence the aperitif of choice wasn't our soft fruity white but their rich and powerful California Cabernet--a great wine for lamb or roast beef but a not-so-great companion to crackers and olives. Instead of having our appetites whetted by a lively Riesling or a juicy Sancerre, we were struck soporific by a high-alcohol Cab.
I love red wine--and that includes Cabernet--but I feel just as passionate about white. And unlike the people who start drinking white wine in June only to switch back to red in September, mine is no mere seasonal fling. I love the brisk acidity of Sauvignon Blanc, the intense minerality of Puligny-Montrachet and the distinctive aroma of Roussanne all year round. I love the way white wine can be rich and seductive, with layers of flavors and aromas that range from violets and honey to lime and wet stone, or simple, straightforward and refreshing--a beverage in the best sense of the word. But most of all, I love that thanks to better winemaking techniques and more serious winemakers, there's never been a better time to be a fan of white wine than now.
Unfortunately, it seems that the word hasn't spread as far as it should. In fact, a lot of wine drinkers feel like my neighbors: They'd rather drink almost anything red. Even the popularity of that perennial American favorite, Chardonnay, appears to be slipping. Not only are growers pulling up their Chardonnay vines at record rates (most often replacing them with Cab and Syrah), but restaurateurs polled by Wine & Spirits magazine this year reported that their sales of Chardonnay had declined while sales of Cabernet and Zinfandel climbed steadily upward.