If there's one thing I learned from my too-many years of attending a Methodist church in rural Cleveland county, it's that those after-church potlucks would've been a whole lot more fun with an open bar. Now, I'm not suggesting that you show up to this Sunday's Easter service with a bottle in your purse ... but if there was to be one catch-all wine for your Easter meal, what would it be?
I think we can all agree that Easter is by far the best holiday in terms of church food, but it's something of a conundrum wine-wise. How do you find a wine that pairs with weirdly sweet ham, chicken spaghetti, those little green bean bundles wrapped in bacon, and at least three different takes on banana pudding? In essence, you need a wine that pairs with almost every flavor in the Southern culinary lexicon while still being something traditional enough that won't offend the pastor's wife. Enter Bordeaux blanc.
White Bordeaux, the lesser-known and infinitely cheaper companion to the red wines of France's largest wine-growing region, is not only one of the world's most slept on styles of wine, but it's also, perhaps the single best pairing for the complex flavors of Southern food. Typically a blend of two grapes, sauvignon blanc and semillon, these wines are lush and vivacious, rich and lithe all at the same time, somehow balancing refreshing fruit notes that can range from the tropical (think guava, lime and grapefruit) to the savory (like ginger and chamomile). It stands toe-to-toe with everything you might find on a Southern table, from collards to cornbread, grits to gumbo.
The intricacies of paring Southern staples to wine are infinite, and I'm sure I'll touch on it further in future columns, but here are a few of my favorite bottles to get you started.
Chateau La Freynelle Bordeaux Blanc, $15
It's rare that you won't find a bottle of this in my fridge, and with its summery mix of citrus flavors, you'll see why. It pairs best with sunny skies and a patio.
Chateau Graville-Lacoste Graves Blanc, $21
When I was selling wine full time, I used this as my gateway drug to white Bordeaux. A little tangy, a little rich, and always a crowd-pleaser.
DeLille Cellars Chaleur Estate Blanc, $37
As it turns out, the white Bordeaux recipe works just as well in other places. Though a little hard to find, this Washington state stunner is one of my absolute favorites.
Chateau Carbonnieux Blanc, $60
At its pinnacle, white Bordeaux often sees significant time in oak and can live a long life in a well-stored wine collection. Reach for this bottle when you're ready for a heavier wine that, with a little time in a decanter, is ready to soar.