Many factors have conspired to convince consumers that to drink well, one must drink red wine. The arrival of fall and heartier cuisine would seem to support that notion. While on the appropriate occasion, a noble bottle of red can and should be the centerpiece of a special evening, unless you're whipping up a Magret de Canard or Pork Arrista, I'd argue that the moment is not tonight. With the wealth of fresh, vibrant ingredients readily available, our diet more often than not calls for wines of similar disposition.
I am unapologetically drawn to whites raised in cool climates which allow the grapes to maintain abundant levels of tartaric, malic and citric acid. Consider acid the fulcrum that keeps wine aloft in the mouth with balance, stability and grace. Without it, the wine can fall and lack dimension. With it, the wine plays across your palate's receptors and primes them for more.
Look to the nervous energy of Verdicchio or the saline snap of Muscadet as examples of wines loaded with sharp acidity but coated in flavors so developed that their edges are smooth and subtle. Not only are wines like this up for the challenge of radicchio, endive or artichoke, with fattier dishes they will provide a refreshing and restorative counterpoint to the richness. Pairing the brooding power of a sappy Syrah with a butter-drenched rib-eye can drown out any subtleties and quickly become fatiguing. But a Spanish Albarino or Greek Moscofilero perform in much the same manner as a good squeeze of lime; they perk up the flavors, highlight the nuances and tame the impact of what might have been a daunting combination.
The great news is that we are not talking about rare and elusive mailing list treasures here. These wines should be readily available at the better shops in town and carry price tags under $20. And to be sure you are getting the most for your money, keep that bottle out of the refrigerator once you have chilled it down. Bring it to the table with you and watch it develop at room temperature.
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David Rosoff is the GM at Osteria Mozza.