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Summer is in full swing. It’s hot, it’s humid, and all I really want in life is a cool, refreshing drink. Summertime = white wine season. Who wants a heavy Cabernet when the mercury soars? Not me, certainly. With that in mind, here are 10 summer wines that will help you keep your cool and broaden your horizons.
Note: these wines should all be served well-chilled, between 40 and 50 degrees (approximately 2 ½ hours in the refrigerator, or 15-20 minutes in the freezer).
1) Vinho Verde (“VEE-no VAIR-day”). A product of the Minho region of Portugal, Vinho Verde means “young (or green) wine” and is intended to be drunk reasonably soon after bottling, generally within a year. Vinho Verde can be made from a variety of indigenous Portuguese grapes, including Alvarinho and Loureiro. Vinho Verde is my go-to summer white. It is lightly effervescent, giving you a slight sense of the celebratory. Very fresh and light, Vinho Verde delivers crisp and acidic fruit and floral aromas. Most Vinho Verde ranges in alcohol content from 8-11%, making it the ideal picnic wine. It is also available as a rosé.
2) Albariño (“ahl-ba-REE-nyo”). Albariño is the Spanish version of the Alvarinho grape mentioned above and is grown primarily in the Rías Baixas (“REE-ahs BUY-shuss”) region. It has the hallmark light crispness of the grape, with aromas of stone fruits, such as peach and apricot, as well as a bit of spice.
3) Viura (“VYUR-ah”). Another Spanish grape, this one hails from Rioja (“ree-OH-ha”), the region famous for its red wines made from Tempranillo. As such, it’s sometimes called “white Rioja.” Viura, also called Macabeo, is a fresh, fruity wine with slight minerality. You’ll find apple, pear, and apricot, along with vanilla if it’s a barrel-aged wine.
4) Sancerre (“SAHN-sair”). As is common with French wines, Sancerre is the name of the region, not the name of the grape. It’s located in the Loire Valley in southwestern France. The white wines of Sancerre are made from Sauvignon Blanc, a familiar grape to even a casual wine drinker. Sancerre presents with more minerality than a Sauvignon Blanc from, say, California or New Zealand, but some would say that Sancerre is the truest expression of the grape. It has a more diverse flavor, rather than smacking you in the face with citrus, like many NZ offerings. You’ll taste apricot, mango, quince, citrus, and gooseberry. It’s an ideal food wine, given the levels of acidity, but be prepared to spend more than you would for CA or NZ sauvignon blanc.
5) Provence Rosé (“pro-VAHNTS rose-AY”). Okay, it’s not a white wine, but summer is also Rosé season, and for good reason. If your thoughts immediately go to “White Zinfandel” when you see a pink wine, banish that thought forever. When made correctly (to taste like wine, not sugar), Rosé has all the vibrant acidity of a crisp white, combined with the fruit and slight tannic backbone of a red. It’s the best of both worlds. Rosé is made all over the world, and from many different grapes. But some of the best Rosé is made in Provence, in the South of France.
Producers to try: Miraval (“the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie” wine) Rosé 2014, Château d’Eclans Whispering Angel Rosé 2014, Commanderie de la Bargemone Rosé Coteaux d’Aix en Provence 2014. Pair with a sunny day on the patio and grilled food.
6) Grüner Veltliner (“GHREW-ner FELT-leen-er”). You’re most likely to see Grüner Veltliner from Austria, but it’s also very common in Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic. Grüner is an herbaceous, food-friendly wine and often presents more spiciness, including white pepper, than fruit. It’s a full-bodied wine that can be made in a style that will age quite well.
Producers to try: Domäne Wachau Federspiel Terrassen Grüner Veltliner 2014, F X Pichler 2012 Loibner Steinertal Smaragd Grüner Veltliner, Loimer Lois Grüner Veltliner 2013. Pair with grilled chicken, seafood, pheasant, Wiener Schnitzel.
7) Vermentino (“vair-men-TEE-no”). Vermentino is an Italian grape, mostly grown on the island of Sardinia. When grown on the mainland of Italy, it goes by different names: Pigato in Liguria and Favorita in Piedmont. It’s a very food-friendly wine, especially with Italian foods. (Duh.) You’ll find citrus, honey, and maybe even olives on the palate, along with the type of acidity necessary to stand up to food.
Producers to try: Argiolas Costamolino Vermentino 2014, Antinori Guado al Tasso Vermentino 2013, Fattoria San Felo 2011 Le Stoppie Vermentino. Pair with light pasta sauces, shrimp cocktail, vegetarian casserole.
8) Verdicchio (“vair-DEE-kee-oh”). Verdicchio is another Italian grape. It hails from the Marche in central Italy. If you like citrusy wines with high acidity, give Verdicchio a try. You’ll also taste stone fruits, almond, and honey.
9) Assyrtiko (“ah-SEER-tee-koh”). My only entry from Greece, Assyrtiko is indigenous to the island of Santorini. Hailing from a Mediterranean island, it’s a fruity, citrusy, briny wine that pairs well with all foods from the sea.
10) Torrontés (“tore-on-TESZ”). The “other” wine of Argentina, Torrontés is less famous than Argentine Malbec, but is coming up in the world. It’s generally lower in acidity than many other wines on this list, and is very aromatic with floral, peach, and apricot aromas. Torrontés is best consumed fairly young, within a few years of its vintage year.
Because some of these varietals are on the unusual side, you may have trouble finding the exact producers I mentioned, but if you see any offerings of these wines at your local store, give one a try. The great thing about wine is that there’s always something new to try and learn!