Two Whites with the Salmon

The leaves are budding, the daffodils are open, and yesterday the bears strolled through our backyard. It's time to celebrate spring.

For our first big warm-weather dinner party, I planned to roast salmon in butter with fresh herbs (following Bittman) and to make a batch of fresh pasta. For wine, we wanted a White Burgundy—something flinty enough to cut the rich fish.

I went wine shopping with some trepidation. White Burgundy isn't our usual fare, so I wasn't sure how to pick a good one. Standing alone in the wine store before an array of selections, no store clerk in sight, I jumped online to find reviews. I landed on a J. Drouhin Pouilly-Fuissé 2007, which, through the drinking-straw screen of my handheld, seemed to promise the seriousness we were after. It was on sale for about $23. I bought two bottles.

But then I hit the grocery store for the rest of the meal's ingredients. That store also has a good wine selection, and the always-helpful (and ever-present) wine manager told me that, for the money, I should try a French Sauvignon Blanc instead. He offered an Henri Bourgeios Petit Bourgeois 2007, for $14. Another two bottles went into the cart. I figured I could risk it: neither wine would be bad, and this gave me options to discuss when I got home.

In the end, of course, we opened them both. We wanted to know which one worked better with the fish, and to hear our guests' reactions.

The Bourgeois was the winner. It was citrusy and full of fruit, with a bright, pleasant finish. A simple vin de pays from the Loire, it was labeled as a varietal—Sauvignon Blanc—probably to capture the American market. Guests preferred it to the restrained and somewhat austere Pouilly-Fuissé, made in a solid French style. Where the Sauvignon Blanc was exuberant and fun—and not very French—the Pouilly-Fuissé was patrician, an old guard white that made you work for your pleasure.

I can't help feeling like we did the Pouilly-Fuissé a bit of a disservice, serving it against such a young buck. But with the last rays of spring sun streaming across our table, and the robin singing his evening song to the twilight, it's no wonder that "exuberant and fun" won our hearts.

J. Drouhin Pouilly-Fuissé 2007
Price: $23

Henri Bourgeois Petit Bourgeois 2007
Price: $14

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