Back in the day when Chardonnay was king (and it still is in a lot of households), there was the ABC (Anything But Chardonnay) movement. Ultimately no universal truths came out of it, only the fact that more people realize that other white wines, some even with funny names, can be very pleasing beverages and, as a bonus, more versatile with food.

White Rhones can be something of an enigma to some folks. North and south feature different varietals, blends can be quirky, and how one utilizes oak can be a make or break proposition. There is also a history of wines that were a bit oxidative and rather expensive that gave the category a rather checkered history in decades past.

Even though white wine production is considerably smaller than red in this part of the world, vintners have made great strides in producing whites that are both compelling and bright. In this case, Francois Villard is probably more known for his whites and the Francois Villard Saint Peray Version 2017 presents the kind of clarity and lift that few wines from this lesser-known region achieve.

Pear and citrus fruit punctuated by subtle floral and mineral aspects, this got our attention from first sip. Wine Advocate’s Joe Czerwinski was spot on with his notes here, “Villard’s 2017 Saint Peray Version is simultaneously rich and opulent yet bright and refreshing. This medium to full-bodied blend of 65% Marsanne and 35% Roussanne was barrel fermented and aged in older barrels, giving it plenty of weight and a silky texture, but the flavors of anise and flamed citrus zest keep the wine fresh, lingering elegantly on the finish…93 points.” The expressive, gregarious nature of this white makes it a surprisingly engaging choice in both aperitif or food applications.