Aromatic White Wines for the Foods of Summer

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Salade niçoise is a favorite summer dish at our house (and I've already made it twice since Memorial Day). Its simple summer flavors, combined with chunky olive oil-cured tuna and gently hard-boiled eggs, make for a nearly perfect balance of lightness and substance.

While Bandol rosé is always going to be my favorite pairing for this one-course meal, I often find myself craving and reaching for aromatic white wines when we sit down at the dinner table.

By aromatic, I'm referring to grapes like Sauvignon Blanc, Albariño, Malvasia, Gewürztraminer and many, many others: Their flavor profiles are dominated by intense aromatic notes (like the "cat piss" or "Tom cat" that you find in classic Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley of France).

Although the gentle tannin of a great rosé is also going to work well with this dish, an aromatic white can tame citrus of the freshly squeezed lemon juice and the mustard powder that I use for the dressing, but it will also hold its own against the intensely flavored red onion, the marine notes of the tuna and the richness of the egg.

A sommelier buddy of mine recently turned me on to one such white wine, the 2011 Oro de Castilla Bodega Hermanos del Villar from Rueda (Spain). It retails for under $15 and is clean, fresh and bright with the acidity that a dish like niçoise needs. But it also has a wonderful herbaceous note that plays against the handful of finely chopped flat-leaf parsley that I tossed in the dressing.

The only caveat: When purchasing this wine retail, be sure that your sales person gives you the 2011 bottling (this is not a wine intended for aging, but some of Houston's retailers have stock left over from previous years).

What summer dishes are you making these days and what wines are you pairing with them?

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