Monday, July 02, 2007

Surf's Up--the Wine

Penguins. They're everywhere this summer. On the big screen. Even on wine bottles.

The folks at Little Penguin sent me a press sample bottle of this summer's special release wine, a blend of Chardonnay and Riesling that is designed to be a simple summer white. If you needed a clue about its contents, the surfing penguin on the label has pretty much captured its essence. It's all about relatively mindless summer fun--and there's nothing wrong with that.

The 2006 Little Penguin "Summer White" ($7.99; between $6.50 and $8.5o from many merchants) is made of an unorthodox blend of chardonnay and riesling. I honestly couldn't figure out what they were going for here, but when I opened it I think I understood: this is the white wine answer to shiraz-viognier. The chardonnay provides the body, Granny Smith apple aromas and flavors, and a vanillin tinge. The riesling provides flowery aromatics and a softness that lightens up the heavier chardonnay texture. If you like simple chardonnays, this wine is priced right and is not loaded down with artificial tasting oak. It is also fairly true to the varietal characteristics of both wines that went into it, so I give it good QPR.

The Little Penguin Summer White is a wine that tastes mostly of chardonnay--with a summery whiff of flowers that helps the wine go down smoothly and easily. This is not a wine to ponder. It is a wine to take to a picnic, to have with crab cakes under an umbrella by the beach, or pop open with some simple grilled chicken. Oddly enough, to do so you will need a corkscrew since this was bottled with a synthetic cork rather than a more sensible screwcap. Too bad, because the folks at Little Penguin missed a perfect opportunity to match form, function, and message there.


JB said...

I have to say I'm skeptical of any wine that uses cute animals on its label. However, the varietal combo isn't as obscure as you might think. We carry a chard/riesling from the Langhe region of Italy that is quite intriguing. It's from a cool climate and I think the riesling helps the chard which wouldn't otherwise perform on its own in such an environment.

Dr. Debs said...

Well, I've had LP wines before and have been pleasantly surprised. They are cheap and easy to find, and as I said perfect for picnics. I guess what I was trying to say was why would you put riesling with an Aussie chard? I can see it in the Langhe, but I think the opposite is going on here: the riesling is added to lighten up what might be an over the top chard.

Neal said...

Chateau Grand Traverse has an aged in stainless Chardonnay that tastes nearly like a good German Kabinett. Amazing what can be done when you don’t oak it! Unfortunately heavy oaking is in vogue these days and ruins what otherwise is a very fruity tasting grape. Not that I’m advocating non-oaked Chards, but overdoing (or undoing) anything is almost always a bad thing.

It's nice to see vintners step outside of the "rules" now and then. So depending on each wines own characteristics, you could indeed produce a very nice blend.

Dr. Debs said...

Welcome, Neal. I've never had a chardonnay that remotely tasted like a kabinett, but then I don't drink much old world chardonnay since we are awash in the California and Australian stuff here. I couldn't agree more with about the tragic effects of over-oaking wines (especially chardonnay, but not only chardonnay). And blends--I like them more and more these days, and think that people who see them as lesser wines than single varietal bottlings are missing out on a whole lot of fun!

MrTaz said...

Hi Debs,
Do comments for such old posts still reach you?
I spotted this wine on sale last night for $3.99! I thought I remembered you liking it, so I picked up a bottle. Ok, so it's not summer (going down to the 20's tonight). I guess they want to move out their stock.
What do you think about pairing this with Thai food tonight?

Dr. Debs said...

Mr. Taz, I'm not sure about the Thai. This was pretty chardonnay-ish. Maybe KFC would be better. But I'll enjoy hearing your experience!

MrTaz said...

To us it was only slightly "chardonnay-ish". Much lighter than a typical Aussie or Cali chard, and no noticeable oak. So, we all felt it was simple and pleasant enough -- it neither enhanced nor detracted from the Thai meal. It would have hurt to pay $8 for this, but at $4, it was better than 3 Buck Chuck (for us Easterners). I think you're right. It would be better with KFC or ice cold with a summer picnic.

Dr. Debs said...

Mr. Taz, I'm glad it wasn't too bad with the meal. Perfectly fine, I think, but probably not a wine that you would seek out. And definitely better in summer, well chilled.