I love rosé all day. I’m not against chilling certain reds when dining al fresco in the warm months. But recent trends seem to have pushed white wine to the bottom of the fashionable sipping list, and they don’t deserve to be there. After all, the stylish Europeans have made it cool to sip regional white wines in the hot sun for centuries. The wine needn’t be steely, citrusy and bone dry to refresh, either.
Here are a few white wines to kick off summer in style, while leaving enough cash in your bank account to purchase some snacks (or a pair of chic sandals) to go with them. Pro tip: no time to pre-refrigerate? Don’t fret. Wine will cool down relatively quickly if you put it in an ice bath (a bucket or large bowl filled with ice water) for at least 10 minutes, and once open, continue to leave the partially full bottle there until it reaches desired temperature. I’ve seen people put the ice in the glass in a rush, but there’s really no need unless you purposely want to water it down for some unspeakable reason.
First, some affordable bubbly
Domaine Paul Buisse Crémant de Loire NV – I love the pop of sparkling wine any day, but especially to kick off a warm summer evening. The 80% chardonnay and 20% chenin blanc grapes in this wine were grown in a vineyard bordering the Loire River that benefits from warm days and oceanic breezes. It’s crafted in the Champagne method, with second fermentation in the bottle, and this results in a fruity, slightly creamy and toasty wine with delicate bubbles. When I served this at a gathering, people actually held the glass up and made yummy sounds. 12% ABV and only $15!
Albariño with character
Albariño was one of the first white wines I developed a crush on, no pun intended, when I was in wine school. When done right, and so many of them are, they really taste like something – ranging from peachy/apricot summer freshness to aromatic citrus peel to earthy mushroom to a bit of wildflower honeyed sweetness to a whiff of Galician seaside brine. 2017 was a very balanced growing season in Rias Baixas, and two from this northern Spanish region that I really enjoyed tasting recently were Bodegas Terras Gauda and Santiago Ruiz. Both hail from the O Rosal subregion, and both are blends of local white grapes along with Albariño, but beyond those commonalities they couldn’t be more different. The Gauda is like a Carmen Miranda hat of fruit, flowers and earthiness while the Santiago Ruiz is a fresh, classic, slightly salty sipper. 12.5% ABV, $14 and 13% ABV, $20.
Light and medium bodied Italian whites that are total steals
Mezzacorona Pinot Grigio Trentino DOC 2017 – I know what you’re thinking. Isn’t Pinot Grigio considered kind of the wonder bread of the wine world? The answer is it really depends on who’s making it and how much they care about winemaking. This winery, located in the Adige valley, cares a lot, so much so that they have gone through the trouble of acquiring SQNPI (Qualita Sostenibile) certification – the Italian seal of sustainability. Maybe it’s because I knew the wine is made with the Italian Alps standing in the distance, but sipping it, I could easily picture those snow-capped mountains as I allowed the green apple and grapefruit peel flavors calm me down after a long day. 12.5% ABV, $12
San Marzano Il Pumo Malvasia Salento I.G.P 2017 – I love a 50/50 Martini in warm weather, so I was thrilled to taste this 50/50 split of sauvignon blanc and Malvasia wine from Puglia. Like a good vermouth to a gin, the herbal/grassy notes of the SB get a wash of fruity and floral aromatics from the Malvasia. I started sipping this one stone cold out of the fridge, but as it warmed up a bit in the glass, different depths of flavor began to emerge. Sure, you could pair it with cheeses and pasta with tomato sauce, but you don’t really have to. Somehow it’s only $8 (but tastes way more expensive) at 12.5% ABV.
California Chardonnay that missed the casting call
Outlot Wines Chardonnay 2015 Considering this was a big drought year in Sonoma County, the Alexander Valley grapes seem to have focused all their available resources on ripening. A variety of clones were put into the blend, adding sophisticated depth of flavor. This is my kind of Chardonnay – not too buttery, vanilla-y or oaky, but with enough oak influence to lend some baked apple and créme brulée type sweetness, and tropical fruit acidity to balance it out. The judges at the 2018 NY International Wine Competition agreed, awarding it double gold. 14.5% ABV, $20
Old World meets New World
New Clairvaux Vineyard Assyrtiko 2017 – California has a history of Old World traditions in its winemaking, and its ancestry couldn’t get a bigger nod than with this Greek varietal produced at a Trappist-Cistercian monastery in Vina. Winemaker Aimée Sunseri and her family have revitalized the St. James Block vineyard to produce less common European varietals, all with sustainable winemaking practices. This soon-to-be-released white wine that won gold in the 2018 NYIWC is a stunning example of what the California sun and climate can do for these aromatic, zesty grapes. Look out for it soon, at around $18 from the New Clairvaux website and select retailers.
Alsatian Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris
Trimbach Pinot Gris Reserve 2013 – The Trimbach family has been been producing wine since 1626, and this is one of the first releases from 13th generation family member Anne Trimbach. This 100% pinot gris wine does not undergo any secondary malolactic fermentation to keep acidity in check, with bottles cellared for a few years before release. I shared a bottle with diehard red wine drinkers who appreciated sipping something with a full on chill that has some heft to it. We all enjoyed the satisfying stone and tropical fruit flavors, and the hint of sherry-like nuttyness. 13.5% ABV, $26
Paul Blanck Pinot Blanc d’Alsace 2016– Pinot blanc is the lighter-bodied, zestier, more acidity-driven cousin to pinot gris. This 100% varietal expression is the perfect reward for a hot day in the sun. The grapes are farmed without the use of pesticides and fermentation begins without the use of added yeast, taking place in temperature controlled, stainless steel vats. Ripe white peach, apricot and green apple have a touch of yeastiness and a lemony finish. 12.5% ABV, $16
Amanda Schuster is the Senior Editor in Chief of Alcohol Professor and the author of NEW YORK COCKTAILs available from Cider Mill Press. Certified sommelier, former retail spirits and wine buyer - she likes to think of herself as "bi-spiritual." Please don't ever offer her a Pickleback. Complete bio here.