Originally published in the Vines on Pine subscription newsletter
Subtlety is not in high regard these days, I know. Just watch any TV channel or go to the movies. People seem drawn to their big, bold wines, safe bets, and the trashiest reality TV shows. Why, you ask? They require less thinking. They are easy.
I say there is more to be appreciated off the beaten path. While I certainly love a classic, there is a lot to be gained from getting to know a lesser-known wine. It gives me a certain, almost guilty and smug sense of satisfaction when I can drink a $17 white Crozes Hermitage while reading clichéd raving reviews of expensive and excessively oaked American Chardonnays.
Marsanne, the chief grape in this wine is not a household name like the aforementioned Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc. Instead is a delicate flower on the palate: refreshing, light, and balanced. It hints at elderflowers and withdraws into a slightly acidic, minerally vapor.
This wine is vinified in the classic old world tradition, which shies away from manipulation, for the sake of making it more "accessible to a broader audience." It doesn't hit you over the head with fruit, oak, or acidity. It is PBS's "Downton Abbey" not MTV's "The Jersey Shore." It invites you to really enjoy and internalize the clean flavors. Cave de Tain Crozes Hermitage Blanc is the ideal choice for an early fall afternoon picnic, where the weather has that elusive balance of neither too warm nor too cold.
So in a world of "bigger is better," where glossy magazines spout their love of trendy soda and fast-food reminiscent fruit bombs, Crozes Hermitage Blanc is the thinking person's wine. It doesn't need to be served ice cold, it's not creature of extremes, and doesn't accost the palate so much as it seduces it. Instead it is demure, like flute music or the fragrance of azaleas.
This wine would be lost with a heavy meal. It is a beautiful drinking wine for a picnic in Fort Tryon Park accompanied by equally delicate flavors. Lightly fried zucchini flowers would pair well as would thinly sliced prosciutto draped around honeydew melon. Other accompaniments include chèvre cheese, hummus, and vegetarian pâté.
Fried Zucchini flowers
10 zucchini flowers, cleaned
1 1/2 cup of spelt flour
1/4 cup of seltzer
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
Mix the salt, spelt flour, and seltzer together to form a loose, viscous batter. Add more seltzer if necessary. Heat olive oil in a frying pan for about 2 minutes. (To test that the oil is hot enough, toss a small drop of the batter. If it sizzles, you're ready to fry.) Dredge the flowers through the batter and then immediately add to the hot oil. Turn once, cooking for about 1 and a half minutes or until lightly golden.