White wine that tastes salty? Trust us: it’s a good thing. A tinge of salinity lends a savory quality that makes your mouth water with every sip. Not to mention that these bottles pair swimmingly with seafood and shellfish. Take the plunge with bottles that bring the brine.
In the shadow of more famous whites like Sancerre and Vouvray from the Loire Valley, Muscadet, not to be confused with Muscat, is produced with the Melon de Bourgogne grape and most frequently produced sur lie. Made with grapes grown in Pays Nantais, the wines “are brimming not only with classic citrus peel acidity, but also striking in the salinity apparent from the first sip,” says Jennifer Knowles, general manager/beverage director for Washington, D.C.’s Mirabelle.
Domaine Pierre Luneau-Papin 2016 Terre de Pierre (Muscadet Sèvre et Maine); $24, 92 points. From a stony parcel called La Butte de la Roche, this wine is concentrated and a strong mineral backbone. Its ripe spiciness and smokiness are balanced with profuse quince and citrus fruits. The wine, rich and textured, is ready to drink. Louis/Dressner Selections. Editors’ Choice. —Roger Voss
Domaine du Haut Bourg 2012 Origine du Haut Bourg (Muscadet Côtes de Grandlieu); $25, 92 points. Aged for five years in large subterranean tanks, this wine is rich and intensely concentrated. It has the essence of lemon and peach fruits, cut with acidity and spicy secondary flavors. The wine is impressively ripe and ready to drink. Polaner Selections. —R.V.
Most prominently made on Santorini, the Greek island famed for its stark white architecture and blue-domed roofs, Assyrtiko is a mineral-driven, full-bodied white wine that’s incredibly ageworthy. It picks up its salty tang from volcanic soil and Mediterranean breezes, though vines are protected from harsh winds by a unique basket vine training method called kouloura. “Its bright citrus flavors, notes of sea spray and herbaceous undertones work perfectly with Mediterranean [cuisine],” says Haunah Klein, head sommelier at Boulud Sud Miami.
Boutari 2017 Assyrtico (Santorini); $35, 91 points. Jasmine, orange blossom and citrus scents start this food-friendly white from Santorini. Sea salt, lemon and slate flavors prevail on the palate, feeling crisp and laser-focused. A perfect cohort to grilled fish or chicken. Terlato Wines International. —Susan Kostrzewa
Gaia Wines 2017 Thalassitis Assyrtiko (Santorini); $25, 90 points. Lemon pulp and orange rind aromas start this robust but elegant Assyrtiko from Gaia. It offers zippy minerality and fresh fruit flavors in a clean and balanced package, with the characteristic smoke and saline edge from its Santorini terroir. Athenee Importers. —S.K.
Like fino, Manzanilla uses Palomino grapes and is aged in the solera system under a layer of yeast called flor to prevent oxidation. But Manzanilla’s secret weapon is where it’s made: Sanlúcar de Barrameda. Closer to the Atlantic Ocean, it’s cooler and more humid than Jerez, which results in citrus, chamomile and saltiness in the resulting wines. “Manzanilla’s bone-dry character is one of great mineral salinity, absolute thirst quenching and ideal as a pairing with seafood,” says Chantal Tseng, “Sherry ninja” and head bartender of Washington, D.C.’s Reading Room at Petworth Citizen.
Bodegas Yuste NV La Kika Manzanilla Sherry (Manzanilla-Sanlúcar de Barrameda); $30, 90 points. Wood resin, green melon and a slight whiff of gasoline comprise the nose on this fresh refined manzanilla. Spiced apple, sea salt and sautéed white mushroom flavors are lasting on a healthy semicomplex finish. Classical Wines. —Michael Schachner
Bodegas Dios Baco S.L. NV Riá Pitá Sherry (Manzanilla-Sanlúcar de Barrameda); $12, 88 points. This wine’s precocious nose includes nutty stone fruit and talcum powder aromas. Its full yet fresh palate is rich, with salted dried apple and peanut flavors. It finishes on a base note of salted nuts. Cordelina Wine Company. Best Buy. —M.S.
This Italian white from the island of Sicily is a sommelier favorite. Produced mainly from Carricante grapes grown in the mineral-rich volcanic soil of Mount Etna, it picks up a saline tang from the wind that comes off the Mediterranean Sea and refreshing acidity from high-elevation vineyards. “Very important in white wines is the balance between fruit, minerality and acidity, [and] Mount Etna delivers on all ends,” says Jared Gelband, wine director of Italian Village Restaurants in Chicago.
Pietradolce 2017 Archineri (Etna); $42, 92 points. Aromas of Mediterranean brush, yellow apple, crushed rock and juicy citrus flow over to the bright savory palate along with pear and savory mineral notes. Bright acidity imparts a refreshing finish. Empson USA Ltd. —Kerin O’Keefe
Le Vigne di Eli 2015 Bianco Moganazzi Volta Sciara (Etna); $25, 90 points. Enticingly delicate, this has alluring scents of Spanish broom, citrus blossom, Mediterranean scrub and white stone fruit. It’s ethereal yet savory, with pear, white-peach and lemon zest flavors balanced by vibrant acidity. A tangy saline note marks the close. de Grazia Imports LLC. —K.O.
This white that hails from Campania is an eclectic alternative to Sauvignon Blanc. Modern versions have juicy acidity, a line of salinity and hints of peach, yellow cherry and orange blossom. “Falanghina is one of those crazy [varieties] that really doesn’t get much exposure but yields a wine that. . .pairs great with charcuterie, grilled fish and melon,” says Mike Brewer, executive chef at Copper Vine in New Orleans.
Mustilli 2016 Sant’Agata dei Goti (Falanghina del Sannio); $18, 90 points. Spring flower, citrus blossom orchard fruit aromas drift out of the glass along with an enticing whiff of vineyard dust. It’s juicy and savory, doling out ripe yellow pear, nectarine and white almond alongside fresh acidity. A hint of chopped herb enhances the finish. Casa de Case. Editors’ Choice. —K.O.
Fontanavecchia 2016 Taburno (Falanghina del Sannio); $20, 90 points. Honeysuckle and tropical fruit aromas leap out of the glass. On the tangy medium-bodied palate, bright acidity balances yellow peach, pineapple and yellow pear while a hint of white almond backs up the close. Haw River Wine Man. —K.O.
Published: September 13, 2018