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For the new year, share exotic white wines with friends

Dave DeSimone
| Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013, 8:43 p.m.

The New Year's dawning offers an optimal moment to depart from the ordinary with wine. Resolve to explore exotic grape varieties, unfamiliar producers and novel wine regions.

Don't worry about the wines' numerical ratings — high or low. As with musical compositions and human personalities, numerical ratings cannot convey a wine's nuance, magic and emotion.

Plumbing those depths comes only with understanding each wine's context — what the French call terroir. What types of climate, landscape and culture prevail where the grapes were grown? What foods are common in the region?

What history and traditions stand behind the people who made the wine? What language do they speak?

Answering such questions offers insight to the wine's style and personality. The process of answering helps in understanding how best to enjoy the wine.

Some wines suit casual moments of refreshment after a day's hard work. Other might work better in celebrations, while others might work better with sit-down meals. Perhaps a wine might improve with cellar aging before opening.

Cold, numerical ratings alone answer none of these questions. So, forget the numbers.

Instead, enjoy and embrace your unique journeys in discovering wines. Above all, have fun and share the wine experiences with friends.

The following tasty white wines might surprise even the most jaded wine drinkers:

2010 Alange Pardina, Ribera del Guadiana, Spain (Luxury 21352; $10.49): The pardina grape — or pardillo, as it is also known — grows primarily in southwestern Spain along the Portuguese border. Traditionally, this white-skinned grape has been used to make sherries, a pleasantly oxidized wine perfect for apéritifs.

Spanish locals, however, also have long used pardina to make refreshing, easy-to-quaff, dry white wines. The style works perfectly with popular tapas — little bites of savory foods — served in local bars and bistros.

This bottle's dry-white style opens with fresh lemon and fennel aromas. Fermentation in stainless steel preserves fruitiness without any oxidized traits. Crisp citrus flavors unfold in the glass and carry through the soft, yet dry, finish. Try it with seafood linguini. Recommended.

2009 Doniene Gorrondonna, Bizkaiko Txakolina, Spain (Luxury 17707; $20.99): In northern Spain, the old port city of Bilbao provides a gateway to the cultural enclave of Basque country. The winegrowers' unique language and traditions frame a discrete heritage starting with the grapes.

This wine uses hondarrabi zuri, a white-skinned grape prominent in the Basque vineyards. For centuries, the rugged, independent-minded growers have tended the vines primarily on low foothills of clay sprinkled with a little limestone. The climate varies from rainy and cool conditions near the sea to warm and dry in the sheltered inland valleys.

The resulting fruit conveys exotic, distinctive aromas and flavors delivered with subtle effervescence. This wine offers quince and grapefruit aromas mixed with earthy notes. Grapefruit and apple flavors balance with fresh acidity through the dry finish. Just a hint of spritz provides a lively touch. Pair it with steamed mussels. Recommended.

2010 Grosjean Petite Arvine, Vigne Rovettaz, Vallée d'Aoste, Italy (Luxury 38514; $27.99): The Vallée d'Aoste region embodies a classic cultural mix frequently found along the boundaries of European nations. This high mountain area lies within Italy, but the locals embrace strong cultural influences from Switzerland and France.

The Grosjean family, for example, has long raised cattle in the Alpine meadows. Grape-growing and chestnut-tree cultivation also played important roles in supplementing the family economics.

More recently, as international attention centered on the high quality of the wines, the family has refocused on fully developing the vineyards in this unique environment.

They farm without chemical pesticides and herbicides and apply only organic fertilizers to the vines. Using natural yeasts for fermentation helps to capture the fruit's distinct regional personality.

The grapes include internationally recognized varieties such as gamay and pinot noir. But the Grosjean family also cultivates more obscure local varieties such as fumin, cornalin, premetta, vuillermin and, in this case, petite arvine.

Lovely floral and peach aromas lead to crisp citrus and peach flavors. Enticing creamy notes meld with refreshing acidity for lovely balance. The dry and elegant finish evokes the freshness of a rushing mountain brook. Recommended.

Dave DeSimone is the wine columnist for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at

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