We spent last week's first day of spring, whilst snow fell here at home in Virginia, contemplating which wines we'd recommend to everyone in the temperate northern half of the world as we transition into (perhaps slightly) warmer weather. Spring and autumn are the conundrum seasons for those of us whose tastes hew fairly reliably to thirst for reds in winter and whites in summer. So in this our Best Wines of March we recommend you look into a white, a rosé, and a red that we find pretty reliable in confused temperatures.
The white Viognier grape is grown in many regions around the world, despite being far less well known than other higher production whites that form the mainstay of most wine collections. We love it in springtime because it's sufficiently full bodied (sometimes similar in texture to a Chardonnay) to offer the heartiness you want in colder weather, yet is known for its robust floral notes that fill the nose with those blooming flowers we'll soon see all around us. Viognier is the only grape permitted for use in wines from the region of Condrieu, in France's Northern Rhône Valley. This singular focus yields some of the world's most stunning whites. The grape is also widely cultivated in Virginia, the state we call home, where winemakers use it to produce some of their very best bottles. Condrieu and Virginia are thus the places we'd look for the world's best Viognier. The former should be fairly easy to find, albeit a bit pricey, in a serious wineshop, while the latter will prove difficult to locate far from where it is made. We otherwise suggest you seek an alternative from elsewhere in France, Australia, or South Africa.
2013 Potomac Point Vineyard & Winery Viognier Richland Reserve (Virginia, USA)
Richland Reserve Viognier from Virginia's Potomac Point Winery has been a staple of our spring to summer lineup in years past, and this 2013 edition did not disappoint. The 2013 was in its drinking prime in June of 2017, so we're eager to see how our last bottles of it are performing this spring. The nose is very dry, with the sensation of lush green grass on a rainy day, with a hint of hay, and juicy green apple. A little oak and butter greet us on the palate, but more so a mix of green and floral notes (particularly at the tip and back of the tongue), apricot, and perfumes. We love Virginia Viognier, of which this continues to be one of our favorite renditions.
Rosé: Wines of Provence, France
While rosé is a wonderful go-to at various moments year round, we found that those from the French region of Provence particularly outperform from March to May thanks to their delicately sophisticated nature that remind us of this season when the world is at its best. You'll find wines made predominantly from the red Mourvèdre, Cinsault, and Grenache grapes in this world famous rosé-making region in France's Mediterranean southeast. Its notoriety for this type of wine makes bottles quite easy to find in near any wineshop, though feel free to broaden your search for single varietal Grenache rosé. You'll have no trouble finding something tasty at an affordable price.
2016 Famille Combard Côtes de Provence Magali Figuière (Provence, France)
Light, baby pink in the glass as typical of rosé from this part of the world, the nose is understated yet clearly strawberry and cream that is -- again -- pretty rosé typical. It makes for quite a delightful glass to sip on as you begin a meal or enjoy with no food in site. The palate is quite clear and unencumbered, with lovely peaches, strawberries, and cream notes. We really loved this when we tried it last night at the excellent Brix 27 wine bar in Martinsburg, WV. Its fresh feeling reminds us of spring, a portend of what's to come.
This (often) cooler feeling red grape hails from Spain's somewhat cooler climate northwest, in several wine regions of Galicia and the far western reaches of Castile and León. If you're conscious of having tried it before, you might think of it as the leading grape produced in the Bierzo region, though we've enjoyed lovely examples from nearby Ribeira Sacra as well. We think this is an ideal bottle to keep your red drinking ways alive for a few more months, while typically cool enough to be able to carry you straight through into summer. Mencias are often profoundly interesting, commonly conjuring notes of green peppers that distinguish them from many reds grown elsewhere in Spain. Incidentally, these wines are also somewhat unique among Spanish wines in that they are often referred to by the name of their grape (Mencia) rather than their region (e.g. Bierzo or Ribeira Sacra). This stands in contrast to the norm among the country's other wines, typically referred to by their region (i.e. calling the wine a "Ribera del Duero" or a "Rioja") rather than by grape varietal (generally "Tempranillo" for both).
2014 Luna Beberide Finca la Cuesta (Bierzo, Spain)
We found this bottle on the shelf at the neat Planet Wine shop in Alexandria, Virginia's Del Ray neighborhood (they have a nice Spanish section). Meghan and I both agreed that the very intense nose throws up notes of cool menthol, cocoa, and white pepper after about two hours letting the wine breath in the opened bottle. The palate isn't particularly fruity, but does express more white pepper and that green pepper so characteristic of Mencias. It's earthy, peppery elements harken back to winter while its light and delicate nature remind us of what's to come as the seasons change.