This may just be the perfect white wine for winter

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What makes a white wine sip worthy as the temperature dips? It should be vibrant and fresh without being too tropical fruit-tinged or reminiscent of an August patio pounder, yet not so voluptuous or heavy-handed to be tiresome after just half a glass. And while a contender doesn’t need to be too showy or expressive on the nose or palate, it shouldn’t come across as ho-hum and neutral, either. Malvasia Bianca ticks off all the boxes.

Malvasia Blanca At Home In Puglia

Though Puglia is known for its big Italian reds including Aglianico, Primitivo and Negroamaro, Malvasia Bianca is emerging as the region’s standout white. Unlike the rich, lush, semi-dried passito treatment the grape gets in Sicily and Sardinia, the dry style vinified here touts acidity and structure, with a body that’s both delicate and textured. Malvasia Bianca from Puglia (and elsewhere) is a hot option to serve as the weather turns cooler.

 “When I taste Malvasia Bianca it brings a smile to my face and reminds me of the Mediterranean,“ says Gordana Kostovski, Master Sommelier and owner/operator of Townsend EPX, a French bistro in Philadelphia. “It is soft and subtle yet present, with peach, apricot, jasmine and honeysuckle on the nose and almond and mineral on the palate.”

 Kostovski calls these wines ripe and ready for service and features them on the menu at Townsend EPX as well as at their Spanish concept, Oloroso. She also believes wine fans would be surprised to learn that Malvasia Bianca is more ubiquitous than they might think, since it has many aliases including Caccarella, Greco and Moscatella.

 The variety has been planted for decades in Puglia, where it thrives in the warm growing conditions and produces yellow-brown grapes with low to medium acidity. Tenute Rubino has been producing Malvasia Bianca since 2004 in the Puglia’s southern Salento region. “The influence of the Adriatic Sea is quite dramatic,” says owner Luigi Rubino. “Our Malvasia grows in sandy soils with constant breezes from the sea.” Harvesting the grape a bit later lends intense floral and fruity aromas, a fuller body and more structure.

Other Regions For Malvasia Bianca

While Malvasia Bianca is firmly entrenched in Puglia, you’ll also find it in other pockets around the world. The key, according to Tiana Estremera, is growing the grapes in a region whose terroir allows it to stay as crisp as possible to counter the variety’s inherent low acidity. “Having a cooling influence from the sea or grapes sourced from a higher elevation can help Malvasia Bianca retain its acidity and bring a lean and clean profile,” says the sommelier at L’Ardente, an Italian restaurant in Washington, D.C. Expressions from Croatia are also subjected to the Adriatic Sea’s moderating effect, while those from the Canary Islands are impacted both by the volcanic soil and the ocean breezes. You’ll also find bottles made in Slovenia, Spain, Portugal and the U.S.

Pairing Malvasia Blanca

As a house white wine, Malvasia Bianca requires nothing more than a convivial atmosphere with dear friends and good conversation. But Kostovski says its versatility and flexibility in pairing can bring so much to the table. She recommends serving it with simple Mediterranean fare like fresh oysters, branzino, shrimp and octopus, as well as risotto, pasta, paella, flatbreads and kabobs. “It’s a beautiful grape and I always feature it on my wine lists.” Looks like it’s time to line our refrigerators and shelves with a little bit of Mediterranean sunshine.

Bottles To Try

Tenute Rubino Giancòla IGT Salento ($25): Straw yellow with golden reflections, and aromas of apricots, Williams pears and acacia. The palate is balanced, with juicy fruit and a pleasant finish.

La Collina Lunaris Secco Malvasia ($18): “A fun and unique natural wine, with notes of honey, orange blossom, lemon zest and brioche,” says Kostovski.

Contrade Malvasia Chardonnay 2018 ($13): Easy-drinking, with minerality and fruit and a clean finish.

Los Bermejos Malvasia Volcanica Seco ($25), a tank-fermented wine from the Canary Islands, that’s crisp, bright and full of citrus and minerality.

Trapan Ponente Malvasia 2021 ($15): A fresh and vibrant bottle from Croatia, with notes of green apple, green melon and citrus.

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Yes, you can pair your potato chips & donut holes with wine. Here’s how


Champagne—and its sparkling wine derivatives—pair well with everything, full stop. The high acidity of the wine causes you to salivate so that your mouth begs for food, while the action of its bubbles scrubs the palate clean after each bite, subtly inviting the next one.

But why are Champagne and fried foods such a match made in heaven? For one, the textures of each kind of echo each other. “When I think of having fried food I often think of bubbles,” says NYC sommelier Marcela Colonna. “It makes me feel like I’m having the same crunch in liquid form through effervescence and bright acidity.”

In addition to Champagne’s texture, sommelier and sales rep Josh Lit seconds the acidity point: “When you have a lot of freshness and vibrant acidity, it pairs very well with richer, more decadent items like fried foods because the acidity cuts right through the richness.”

Any sparkling wine you like—including those that are slightly sweet or made with a process other than the traditional champagne method—can fill in for Champagne against any fried food you like. (And with a potential looming Champagne shortage, you might need to resort to other choices anyhow.) But in the fizzy, heady spirit of sparkling wine season, here are 7 specific fried food and sparkling wine pairings worth raising a glass to.


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Champagne and fried chicken together is a highbrow/lowbrow pairing that people in the know go crazy for. Let it be a testament to the universal reverence of this pairing among the beverage community, that this earned the most raised hands from people who volunteered to rhapsodize about it. (One person even went so far as to say he “knew I’d be just fine in life,” for having suggested it in the first place. I’ll take it.)

NYC bar professional Nick Vendetti explains the magic of the pairing: “The acidity of the wine cuts through the fat of the chicken, and the subtle sweetness of a brut especially, while usually not so perceptible on its own, helps balance out the acidity and the salt of the food. It’s similar to how sweetness functions in ketchup or BBQ sauce, or in many types of various Southeast Asian cuisine, or even American Chinese cooking.”

One to try: Une Femme The Juliette Premier Cru Champagne


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Prosecco is often considered Champagne’s country cousin: a little less refined in its winemaking process and texture, but no less zesty and lively when it comes to pairing with food.

Furthermore, Italian cuisine understands the value of sparkling wine and fried food combinations better than just about other cultures. Take a glance at any Italian wine bar menu and count the instances of the word “fritti” on the food section. Little fried bites—the aforementioned fritti—with Prosecco are a staple of Italian aperitivo culture, but Prosecco absolutely has the oomph to take on a full meal, dessert, or even…breakfast cannoli?

Consider the absolute twinning of a Prosecco and cannoli pairing by Brooklyn-based chef, Albert Di Meglio, where Prosecco is used to add extra bubbles to the fried cannoli shell. Take the cannoli. Take the Prosecco along with it.

One to try: Cavit Prosecco


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Lambrusco, with its fruity nature, light fizz, and gentle tannin, is the unsung hero of the Italian wine catalogue, in my opinion. Another “in the know” coupling is Lambrusco with pizza, which is more than just an inspired pairing; it’s a laid-back, lifestyle choice. So how about Lambrusco with pizza in fried form, i.e. mozzarella sticks? (Mozzarella stuffed arancini would also do nicely here.)

“Lambrusco with mozzarella sticks is genius,” says Althea Codamon, Beverage Director at Brooklyn’s Aita Italian restaurant.

Sommelier and sales rep Josh Lit concurs: “Lambrusco and mozzarella sticks go really well together, because you’re going to dunk the mozzarella sticks in tomato sauce, and the Lambrusco has a little sweetness and ripeness, plus a lot of texture, which goes great with the rich cheese and the salty crust.”

One to try: Bruno Zanasi, Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro, D.O.P.


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By now you’ll hopefully have accepted the salt/fat/acid/heat quadrumvirate that sparkling wine and fried food combos bring to the table. Now, I turn up the salt factor with an additional element: brine. Some of the greatest wines sparkling wines on earth grow on fossilized seashell beds, or in coastal areas where the salty sea air influences the grapes, making them a natural pairing for oysters. When the oysters and grapes come from the same area? Game over. That minerality sings, even when you decide to give them the deep-fried treatment, which you should.

Robin Kirk Wolf, sommelier and owner of Highwater, in San Luis Obispo, explains: “Oysters and bubbles are an incredible pairing that can be seen around the world, and it’s showcased perfectly here on the California Coast. The briny salinity of the oysters from our own Morro Bay fit perfectly alongside a Brut Cuvée, from Laetitia Vineyard just four miles inland. The rich texture of the oysters is balanced by the light and airy streams of bubbles, with hints of lemon chiffon and fresh bread.”

Further up the California coast, in a promotion called “Taste of the Bay,” Chandon, Food 52, and Real Oyster Cult have teamed up to deliver this exact pairing right to your door. Through Food 52 you receive a bottle of Chandon Taste of the Bay Blanc de Blanc reserve, along with a code for 50% off oysters from Real Oyster Cult, which are overnighted for freshness. The package also includes accouterments such as locally made hot sauces and shrubs, which, incidentally, also happen to be ideal condiments for fried bivalves.


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During a recent event showcasing Spanish food and wine at Jose Andres’ Mercato Little Spain in New York, sommelier Marcela Colonna took home the pairing challenge prize with this matchup: Cava rosé and churros. Other somms were asked to pair foods such as paella, patatas bravas, and other Spanish superfoods, which just goes to show that the sparkling/fried combo always wins, even when you pit savory against sweet.

“I loved the berry and toasty, brioche notes I got from the Cava rosé, which made the churros that much more enjoyable if that’s even possible,” says Colonna, along with the bubbles, which, from my own experience tasting the pairing, emphasized and enhanced the churros’ sugary crunch.

One to try: Segura Viudas Brut Rosé


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This, right here, is the classiest junk food pairing imaginable.

It’s natural to try to forget that potato chips are fried, often being within arms’ reach. But that just makes this pairing all the more fun, as you might not even need to leave your kitchen in order to achieve it. Any bubbly on hand turns a bag of chips into a celebration, but here’s the argument for Moscato D’Asti or Asti Spumante:

“Salt and sweet work well together. I call it the kettle corn theory” says Minneapolis-based sales rep David Curiel.

Italy’s moscato grape makes a generously fruity wine. If, in your mind, this translates to being cloying, that is a reputation it doesn’t deserve. In the right hands it is vibrant and balanced, especially with bubbles, and most especially if you introduce spice into the equation, as with barbecue or other spicy-flavored potato chips.

“It’s totally magical,” says Curiel, “Asti Spumante tastes like apricots and nectarines. The bubbles and acidity wash the chips off of your palate, and the spice from the chips shines through the fruit and bubbles.”

One to try: La Caudrina Asti Spumante “La Selvatica


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This is one from my own heart, and not just because the wine is literally called “bugey.” Bugey Cerdon is an appellation tucked into the Jura mountains in Eastern France that produces lightly sweet, floral, sparkling rosés.

Bugey Cerdon and chocolate donut holes together are an even bougier version of chocolate-covered strawberries. If you intend to start in 2022 like you mean to go on, then there’s a New Year’s Day Breakfast of Champions for you.

One to try: Dentelle Bugey Cerdon Semi-Sec Rosé


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