I don't know about you, but this is the week that spring fever has officially kicked in, for me. The sun feels higher in the sky, the backyard patio beckons, the fruit trees are blossoming, and everything feels more redolent and alive.
It's time to lock the wine cellar door -- leave the reds to lie in repose until next fall, or the next steak dinner -- and stock the refrigerator with light, crisp young whites for spring meals. Here are a handful of suggestions, some regional directions to explore. The best thing about this category of wine is that most are very affordable, less than $20, and often hovering closer to $10.
5. Oregon Pinot Gris:
From the cool 2010 and 2011 vintages, Oregon's other pinot is crisp and leesy, marked by bright apple and pear flavors with a racy line of acidity coursing through the fruit like a mild electrical current. Brands to watch for: A to Z, King Estate, Cooper Mountain, Adelsheim.
4. Austrian Gruner Veltliner:
That 'grun' in Gruner Veltliner might as well be the first push of spring growth, for in most bottlings there is a leafy evocation in the flavors, scallion, pea tendril, and freshly cut herbs, commingled with hints of lime and mango. Brands to watch for: Pollerhof, Bernhard Ott, Schloss Gobelsburg, Nigl.
3. Chilean Sauvignon Blanc:
There is often an alpine feel to the whites of Chile, a lemony crispness and salinity that feels like a slap to the tongue and which is a brilliant foil to seafood. Steam some mussels with green garlic and uncork one of these pristine whites to pour alongside -- or just pour. Brands to watch for: Matetic, Casa Marin, Cono Sur.
2. French Picpoul de Pinet
Most of France's Languedoc region is devoted to dark robust red wines of impressive warmth and extraction -- except the region closest to the Mediterranean, in the vineyards surrounding the coast town of Mèze, about 40 kilometers from Montpellier. There a singular white is harvested, the perfect complement to all the shellfish harvested from the region -- the variety Picpoul has a green herbal scents and a pleasing mineral tang. Brands to watch for: Caves de Pomerols, Les Croix Gratiot.
1. German Kabinett Riesling:
Exquisite wines from exquisite vintages, German riesling is the benchmark for this noble variety. At times, German riesling bottlings are a thicket of verbiage and nomenclature, but with Kabinett classification, picked at the height of harvest, the levels of sugar must will be expressive but not overly ripe -- and will reflect the effortless balance of the last few vintages, with flavors of green apple, passion fruit and marked with a slatey minerality. Brands to watch for: Dr. Loosen, Robert Weil, Joseph Leitz, Donnhoff.
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Patrick Comiskey, our drinks columnist, blogs at patrickcomiskey.com and tweets at @patcisco. Want more Squid Ink? Follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook.