I usually like to write about white wines earlier in the summer, but this year’s heat has had me moving more slowly than usual. But there’s still time – warm weather usually extends past the official end of the summer season.
Refreshing whites are welcome at any time of year, but especially when conditions are too hot for anything ponderous, oaky and/or high in alcohol. So, with that in mind, here are eight bottles to consider.
France’s southern Rhône region is best known for reds, and in summer it’s often associated with rosé. But the area is also the source of fresh, mineral-inflected whites, which are nearly always blends of grapes like grenache blanc, ugni blanc, clairette and the like.
One good example is the 2021 M. Chapoutier “La Ciboise” Luberon Blanc ($18), which offers fresh pear and lemon flavors with an undertone of wet stone and some weight. Another good one, though it may be harder to find, is the 2022 Domaine Maby “La Fermade” Lirac Blanc ($24), a wine with lively stone fruit and apple and a chalky, stony note.
The 2022 E. Guigal Côtes du Rhône Blanc ($17) is fairly widely available and displays fresh, plump white peach, with notes of beeswax and wet stone.
Italy is the home of refreshing whites like vermentino, fiano, arneis – and, of course, pinot grigio. The 2022 Attems Pinot Grigio Ramato ($23), from the northeastern region of Friuli, is pinot grigio with a twist. Its pale copper color comes from brief skin contact before fermentation (pinot grigio has pinkish skins). The wine is fresh and racy, with lemon-lime, pink grapefruit and peach flavors and some structure. It’s a serious pinot grigio to drink with food.
Spanish appellations like Rias Baixas and Rueda are devoted to white wines, but there are also refreshing bottles to be found in a classic red appellation, Rioja. The 2022 El Coto Blanco Rioja ($12), which is mostly viura, is very fresh and citrusy, with a hint of cantaloupe. A touch of spritz enhances its thirst-quenching character.
Shifting to the Southern Hemisphere, South African chenin blanc – once locally known as “steen” – is often a good value. That’s the case with the 2022 MAN Family Wines Chenin Blanc ($12), a racy wine with fleshy white peach and golden apple flavors, medium weight and a persistent finish. The label includes the phrase “free-run steen,” a nod to chenin’s past in the country.
There are plenty of refreshing whites from the U.S., although a couple of my favorites in recent months have been a little more pricey. For example, there’s the very pretty 2022 Sokol Blosser Pinot Gris ($28) from Oregon’s Willamette Valley, with its white peach and pear flavors and appealing floral note.
And no list of summer whites would be complete without at least one sauvignon blanc. I have nothing against acidic, somewhat grassy sauvignons, but sometimes I want something with more weight and roundness, like the 2022 Bernardus Sauvignon Blanc ($28) from Griva Vineyard in Monterey’s Arroyo Seco appellation. It’s fragrant and a little creamy, with melon and citrus. Yes, its suggested retail price is expensive, but the wine is often available for less than $20.