It’s the middle of summer. It’s hot. And you’d like something to drink. There’s no need to spend an entire paycheck on something to sip on. In fact, you can score quite a few fantastic white whites – perfect for summer — for under $25.
My current draft picks for whites that won’t slaughter your budget goes way beyond the obligatory Chardonnay (in fact, a killer Napa Chard is what you are not going to get for under $25) and reaches into some very familiar and some less familiar varietals and regions. All are obtainable without a ton of trouble, though some producers are larger and some smaller, and some will be likely to grace the chilled section of your supermarket beverage aisle while others you might have to order (if it’s one of the less ubiquitous ones it is internet-orderable and worth it; no one has to high tail it to the Basque Country or a remote corner of Slovakia for any of these). Keep an eye out for these guys.
Anyone keeping score at home will have noticed that I have a bit of a fetish for the Alto Adige region of northeastern Italy. This Kerner is one reason why. A German grape with some Riesling parentage, good Kerners have a crisp, dry, appley nature and are green-gold in the glass. This one’s a beauty, with a peach note and a good balance between opulence and restraint. Which is what we’re all looking for, aren’t we?
This yellow-gold, bracing wine hails from Moldova (but trust me, you don’t have to fly there to get it.) Like New Zealand, Chile and South Africa, Moldova has serious wine at amazing prices for the value. This is an example. Citrusy, grassy, lightly mineral. Perfect summer afternoon sip.
Pretty sure you hate Chardonnay? Don’t be too sure. Chardonnay’s one of the great shapeshifters of the grape world and this one, another pick from my pals in Alto Adige, is lively, but soft and rounded, without that buttercream thing. Unoaked. White peach, honeysuckle, tangerine zest. Long happy finish.
Vouvray wines come from the Loire Valley and are made from Chenin Blanc grapes. It is fruity, layered, and I don’t want to say off-dry but it has a teensy little bit of a sweet finish. Not syrupy. Yummy. Heady floral nose, orange and a touch of hazelnut. Super versatile and food friendly, also wonderful all by itself because it is 5:06 on a Tuesday.
Oregon’s main exports may be timber and ironic beards, but their wine scene is on the move. This Willamette Valley Pinot Gris is a playful wine that doesn’t take itself too seriously even though it could be forgiven for doing so. Great depth, unfolding notes of grapefruit, melon and tangerine, wonderful balanced acidity. A killer picnic wine.
One of my favorite grapes from one of my favorite Bay Area producers: Donkey and Goat is a small shop and depending where you live, you might encounter it in your local Whole Foods or it might be on the “You need to order it” list, but for heaven’s sake do it. Supple, sexy, and bone dry, this wine’s a paean to stone fruits and honey. Great minerality. Lots of personality. So good.
I’ve written about this amazing Campanian white before, but it bears repeating. A sultry light bodied, pale wine, it delivers an amazing bouquet of peaches and nectarines and pretty white flowers but when you taste it, there’s virtually no fruit on the palate. Medium bodied and highly mineral, with notes of sea air. If you see it anywhere, grab it.
Pinot Gris is a beautiful grape with many wonderful expressions – this one delivers a nice bouquet of apple, pear and quince and segues into a tangerine sort of thing with a good deal of something granite-like. Lingering. But it will not linger at your dinner table.
The white Supertuscan! This is a very well-thought-out blend of chardonnay and pinot bianco that brings out the best in both. Straw-hued with a slight green reflex. Substantial but not heavy, with typical Pinot apple notes and typical tropical notes of Chardonnay. There’s a bit of neroli or bergamot, a bit of oak but not too much, great minerality. A steal at the price and a really unique wine.
It is a testament to how much I love “Gun-Bun” that I am calling out a Gewurztraminer on this list at all – I rarely find one I like. This Sonoma take on what is often a cloying mess of a grape is gorgeously aromatic – put it to your nose and you’ll be hit with everything from jasmine to ginger and allspice. From there it’s mostly a tangerine and lychee affair with a tiny bit of nectarine. Yum.
Napa is not known for acidic, aromatic whites, so I am happy to note that Hendry’s going for it with this Spanish mainstay. Lemon, lemon and lemon, with some peppery notes and a nice florality (I get lime blossom). Light, acidic, food friendly. There are a ton of wonderful Albarinos from Spain – it’s just so nice to see one coming out of Napa at an affordable price point I had to say something.
An elegant Chardonnay from an AVA where they tend to avoid the butterbomb effect that puts a lot of people off. Nice balance of creaminess and acidity, lots of tropical tones but balanced. These guys have a hard time making a bad wine and most of their bottles are above this price point. Accessible and totally worth it.
South Africa has some wine superstars and Mulderbosch is one of them. Chenin Blanc is the signature grape of the Cape region and this is a lovely expression of it. Pale green in the glass, this wine is lively, youthful and light, with a nice floral nose and subtle hints of mango and pineapple. A steal.
Yes, it’s over 25 bucks. I had to include it, though, because I love it so much. This blend of Rhone whites (Viognier, Rousanne, Grenache Blanc and Marsanne) is epically delicious, rich and curvaceous, sunny, and extremely layered and complex. Peaches, lime zest, pear, honeysuckle, aromatic herbs and a tiny hint of nuttiness. If you’re going to go over your budget, go here.
I’ve said it before and I will say it many more times: Quivira rules. These Dry Creek stars are sustainability-forward and prove that you do not sacrifice quality when you’re paying attention to your footprint. This is an unusual Sauvignon Blanc for California. Often they’re a pretty uncomplicated citrus-fest with a faint grassiness – and they’re great warm-weather wines. This one has a stony finish – in the best way – and hints of melon along with the citrus notes. I wish I could figure out if the power of suggestion accounts for the fact that I actually smell figs.
This is another wonderful Sauv Blanc, bright and very nuanced, with pronounced acidity and a heady floral bouquet. Peach and apricot, lemongrass, and a hint of melon. Pure pleasure.
Folks, I recently went wine tasting in San Luis Obispo and I am here to tell you that this region gives you serious bang for your buck. They lack the cachet pricing of Napa Valley and you will not miss it. Tangent’s Grenache Blanc is light and lovely and reminds you that apples and roses are related. Silky-smooth and balanced, with the hallmark stoniness that pervades SLO wines. This bottle is an amazing value. It’s delicious.
In fact, while you’re on the hunt for wines from Tangent, try their Viognier. This grape, handled properly, can be sublime, and these folks understand aromatic whites. This one has a strong, persistent peach note, and a lot of floral notes on the finish (honeysuckle dominates). Full-bodied and rich, creamy mouthfeel, great acidity.
Another lovely viognier at a great price point, with an almost gewurtztraminer-like lychee note on the nose in addition to the classic peach scent. Medium body, peachy and lemony on the palate.
Another central coast, cool climate white. White pepper and steel, a bit of melon, and something ineffably earthy. This is the kind of wine you have to be careful with because you could drink it all day. And you might.