It is hot out there, and while I do love a full-bodied red wine with dinner, these days I am all about refreshing whites, rosé or lighter reds that I can serve slightly chilled. This week let's talk about the whites that are great for these hot summer days.
While wine marketers will often (justifiably) promote the same wine one season as a summer white and six months later as a winter white, there are certain characteristics that I tend to look for in a white wine during the summer months.
The weather is hot and I am likely to be eating lighter foods, cold dishes and salads. In a wine, I am looking for refreshment, crispness, and juiciness. Because more things that I eat will tend to be dressed with vinaigrette rather than a sauce, I am looking for wines with fairly high to high acid.
Texture and body-wise I am probably looking for something juicy and not too heavy, viscous or full-bodied. Lower alcohol wines are also better, as for many people, the heat accentuates the influence of the alcohol. And while I have enjoyed many an oaked white wine in summer, my tendency is to buy unoaked, as they usually taste lighter and are easier to drink.
And because I am eating more outdoors and having picnics casually with family and friends, I am not looking for enormous complexity or age-worthiness. Therefore I should not have to spend a huge amount of money to find perfect summer whites that will delight whether sipped on its own or savored with food.
There are certain grape varieties and wine regions that I associate with summer days, such as Albariño from Rías Baixas in Northern Spain, Kabinett style Riesling from Germany, any white wine from Greece, Italy and the South of France, as well as their neighboring Mediterranean Islands. Torrontes from Argentina is also a great summer sip.
The possibilities are many, and this is not intended as a prescriptive or exhaustive list of worthwhile summer white wines, but rather a personal musing that I hope stimulates some discussion on what wines you like to drink over the summer.
Some wines that I and my family have tasted, shared and really enjoyed this summer include:
Summer Albariño Wines
• 2009 Salneval Albariño, D.O. Rías Baixas, Spain $10 — Bright with fresh stone fruit and citrus aromas and flavors. Easy drinking, juicy, and refreshing — a perfect summer sipper.
• 2009 Martin Codax Albariño, D.O. Rías Baixas, Spain $13 — A medley of ripe citrus and peach aromas. Crisp, lively and easy drinking with lots of juicy fruit flavors and a touch of spice on the finish.
• 2009 Laxas Albariño, D.O. Rías Baixas, Spain $16 — Wonderfully crisp, and packed with ripe juicy apricot, peach and nectarine flavors. Delightfully luscious without being heavy or viscous. Lingering fruity finish.
• 2009 Condes de Albarei Albariño, D.O. Rías Baixas, Spain $15 — Vibrant, refreshing with racy acidity and lovely stony minerality. Flavorful, with lots of ripe stone fruit, melon and floral notes. Long finish with a hint of a salty tang.
• 2008 Brandal Albariño, D.O. Rías Baixas, Spain, $18 — A little more expensive, but worth it. Racy freshness and minerality give this wine great focus and structure. Smooth and rich texture with citrus, tangerine flavors. Very long minerally finish.
• 2009 Alba Rosa Albariño, D.O. Rías Baixas, Spain, $15 — A great value wine. Quite complex and layered nose of citrus and stone fruit with lots of stony minerality. Focused palate, smooth with lovely racy acidity. Lots of vibrant juicy stone fruit flavors and a long persistent mineral finish.
Greek Summer Whites
• 2008 Parios Oenos Moraitis, Paros, Greece, $16 — This wine is made from the indigenous Monemvasia grape. A beautiful golden green color. Dry with aromas and flavors of juicy fruit stone fruit salad, summer flowers and a spicy licorice, balsamic finish.
• 2009 Skouras White, Regional white wine from the Peloponnese, Greece, $10 — Very minerally, subtle fruit aromas but lots of dried herbs with some citrus and floral notes. Crisp, fresh and light-medium bodied. Very attractive spicy finish. Made from blend of 60% Roditis and 40% Moscofilero.
• 2008 Notios White Wine, Regional wine of the Peloponnese, Greece, $13 — Another Greek white blend. This one is a blend of Moschofilero and Rodititis. Light-bodied and perfect for summer. Juicy, bright citrus flavors that linger across the palate. Minerally, crisp and a long, tight finish.
• 2009 Thalassitis Dry White Wine, Gaia Estate, Santorini, Greece, $24 — Made from the wonderful Assyrtiko grape variety, this is a favorite wine in our house. Absolute pure, taut, minerally – you can almost taste the sea air. Racy acidity, delicate lemony flavors, with wonderful subtle spices – anise and fine herbs. Very long persistent finish.
Summer Riesling Wines
• 2008 Hooked Riesling, Qualitätswein Nahe, Germany, $11 — Deliciously fruity and crisp. This wine is slightly off-dry and packed with vibrant, youthful flavors of peach, apricot with hints of apple, melon and attractive mineral notes of the juicy finish. Easy drinking and a fabulous label as well!
• 2007 Sybille Kuntz Riesling Kabinett Trocken, Mosel, Germany, $20 — Dry and quite nicely focused. Crisp and fresh with layers of stone fruit, white flowers and crushed stone minerality. Light-medium bodied.
• 2008 Schloss Schönborn, Marcobrunn Riesling Kabinett, Rheingau, Germany, $20 — Really elegant, taut and minerally. Enticing aromas of apricot, peach and tangerine cream. Racy, lively and packed with juicy, rich and succulent flavors. Strong stony minerality, hints of spice and herbs and a very long poised finish.
• 2009 Cupcake Vineyards Riesling Qualitätswein Mosel, Germany, $12 — Vibrant citrus, apricot and candied peach aromas with hints of fresh cut grass. Off-dry and zesty on the palate with a citrus salad of lemons, limes, tangerine and grapefruit. A nuance of honey on the finish. Light-bodied and easy-drinking.
• 2009 J. Lohr Bay Mist Riesling, Monterey County, California, $10 — Subtle fruit aromas with notes of honeysuckle and spice. Zesty with some spritz and a lush mouth feel with a medley of ripe tropical fruit and pear-drop flavors. Notes of spice and mace on the finish. Off-dry and medium-bodied.
• 2008 Gobelsburger Riesling, Kamptal, Austria, $18 — Dry in typical and excellent Austrian style. Crisp, minerally and lovely depth of flavor. Ample ripe white peach, nectarine and apricot fruit with a sprinkling of spicy pepper and crushed stone.
• 2009 Jacob's Creek Riesling Reserve, South Australia, $14 — I just tasted this wine on Tuesday evening and felt I had to include it as it absolutely smacked of summer. Dry, but in no way austere, crisp and packed with lively, juicy citrus fruit. Fairly easy-drinking but has very good weight on the palate and shows some attractive stony minerality.
Torrontes and Blends from Argentina
• 2009 Crios de Susana Balbo Torrontes, Argentina, $12 — Intense aromas of lychee, white flowers, rose water and peach pith. Lively and delicate but succulent and fresh flavors of orange citrus, tropical fruit with a distinctive spicy, incense, floral finish. Light-medium bodied.
• 2009 La Posta Cocina Blanco de Blancos, Mendoza, Argentina, $15 — a blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Torrontes. Subtle floral aromas with hints of citrus and orchard fruit. Crisp and fairly broad across the palate. Smooth texture with ample fruit - citrus medley of lemons, limes and grapefruit with hints of apricot and peach. Fairly easy drinking, juicy and really refreshing.
What are some of your favorite summer white wines?
Mary Gorman-McAdams, DWS, is a New York based wine educator, freelance writer and consultant. She holds the Diploma in Wine & Spirits from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET), and is a candidate in the Master of Wine Program.
(Images: Mary Gorman; wine producers)