No, I’m not talking about the boring coordinated white shoes, purses, and hats that ruled the July and August fashion scene in the 1950s…and I’m definitely not talking about white lace skirts and shirts that appear every summer at the shore. I’m talking about another kind of summer white — white wines that can add the perfect touch to any casual meal on a summer afternoon or evening.
When I think of summer whites, I want something with a light taste, conjuring images of puffy clouds drifting in a blue sky. Summer is a challenging season for wine drinkers and it’s not because our taste for wine is influenced by the weather. The way wines taste is influenced by the weather. Heat is the enemy of most high-end wines. It can kill them in a bottle — a wine exposed to excessive heat will often taste of baked or stewed fruits – and it can also ruin them at the table.
For every season, there is a wine and there are many good “summer” whites that can cool you off without emptying your wallet. A hint of sweetness or citrus element makes for a refreshing summer wine. During the summer months, the best wines are the ones that are lighter, can be chilled, and compliment typical summer fare, such as barbecued meats, seafood, fresh vegetables, and shellfish. They are often lower in alcohol content (drink too much alcohol while baking in the rays of an August sun, and you may not live to tell the tale).
There are a number of delicious relatively inexpensive wines. The key is to “Think young”. Wines from recent vintages will be fresh and better priced. Select crisp, light, fruity white wines to sip and match salads, seafood, and chicken. It’s all about acidity with summer whites, to keep the wine light on the palate.
To make hot weather thirst-quenching wine selection easy, think lemonade. The reason lemonade tastes so refreshingly good and crisp is because of its tartness and acidity. To get this same kind of hot weather refreshment in a wine, look at Sauvignon Blanc (one of my all time favorite varietals), Riesling, and Pinot Grigio wines. These wines can range from very sharp acidity to a milder tartness, so it pays to try several types to see what fits your needs and your menus.
In selfless service to my fellow wineaux, I’ve tasted a variety of whites to help you find the right bottle the next time you’re barefooting in the thick grass, stretched out on the beach, or nibbling fresh guacamole on the deck while waiting for the grill to heat up.
New Zealand makes a range of wonderful Sauvignon Blanc wines, many of which are best sellers with our customers. For a refreshing Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand Rain, Tohu, or Oyster Bay are three of my favorite choices. For a California Sauvignon Blanc, my go-to pick is Girard Sauvignon Blanc from Napa
Whites from the Alsace region of France such as Now & Zen Wasabi White and Lucien Albrecht Riesling are very good. Gewürztraminer, a spicy grape variety from Alsace is another great choice a store favorite for sipping and spicy foods is Willm Vin d’Alsace.
Alsace isn’t the only place to find great Rieslings, so don’t forget to try some Washington State Rieslings such as Hogue Genesis or Snoqaulmie Naked Rieslings. At around $10 Snoqualmie is a great buy and organic as well.
Italy is the spiritual home of the very best Pinot Grigio wines—try a customeer favorite, Kris Pinot Grigio, or a Tieffenbrunner. For a wine of choice to match practically any dish, from fish antipasti and pastas to vegetables terrine, salads, white meat casseroles, and risotto, try Cantine Argiolas Costamolino Vermentino di Sardegna DOC. It is a mouthfull to say, but this wine has an intense yet delicate bouquet that displays supple aromas of citrus, pineapple, tropical fruits and honey supported by a zesty acidity. It is delicate and pleasantly refreshing on the palate, and we love it.
Spain also produces light white wines in an excellent price range—my favorite summer house wine: Rene Barbier Mediterranean White is a delicious crowd-pleaser and so affordable, you don’t mind a bit sharing it with all your friends .
During summer people who want a refreshing light white wine should avoid the heavier California Chardonnays, which often taste of the oak in which they are aged. If you insist on having a Chardonnay, try a lighter French Chardonnay (white burgundy), Pouilly-Fusse, or Chablis-there are many good choices to be had.
For a new adventure try Torrontes, the signature grape variety of Argentina, which has a has an aromatic nose and a fruity taste in addition to being very refreshing. Jelu Torrontes has bright minerality and flavors of peach, ripe citrus, lime and a touch of grapefruit-like tartness. The minerality makes it similar to a French Viogner–which can also be a good summer alternative to Chardonnay, in this case, i’d recommend Chamarré Grande Reserve Viogner.
Another excellent choice for summer casual dining, are the Vinho Verde white wines produced in Spain and Portugal from the Albariño grape. Vinho verde means ‘green wine’ and refers to a style of new wine that is “grape today and wine tomorrow.” These light, refreshing wines are perfect hot weather thirst quenchers. We often recommend Gazela Vinho Verde and Famega Vinho Verde.
There is one more white grape that has become one of my favorites and it is starting to get more well deserved attention in the U.S. It’s Grüner Veltliner from Austria. I call it my “perfect for asparagus” wine. This varietal accounts for over 1/3 of the vineyards planted in Austria, so it’s no surprise that it flows freely in wine gardens throughout the country. You might want this wine to flow freely in your backyard this summer too, especially if you can get your hands on the Salomon Undhof Hochterrassen Grüner Veltliner . Just like its name, it has a big round mouthfeel, hints of lemon and a bit of fizz on the finish, making for a refreshing taste, great fro sipping or pairing with salads (not to mention asparagus).
Summer white wines should be cooled down to around 55 degrees, which means 15 to 20 minutes in the refrigerator before being served. Please, don’t use ice cubes, unless you are making something like a white wine spritzer. The Gewürztraminer from Germany and California combined with club soda make perfect drinks for summer. Otherwise, adding ice dilutes the wine and causes you to lose the unique flavor you spent so much time selecting to compliment your meal.
All of these lighter summer white selections pair very well with lighter summer fare – cookouts, chicken, seafood and salads and they come heartily recommended. I’m running out of space here, and there are so many more refreshing whites to try. Italy, Portugal and Spain all have interesting whites, not to mention France and California It is a tough job but someone has to samples all these new wines. Don’t worry I’ll be sure to share my good finds with you!