Cool, Crisp, Fresh White Wines for Summer From Around The World
Summer’s golden sun has arrived, bringing warmer temperatures and, quite often, steamy conditions.
Whether you find yourself on a boogie board at the beach, grilling on the deck, or hanging out with friends at your favorite wine bar, you’ll want appropriate wines for the situation. There are many cool, crisp white wines from around the world that are perfect accompaniments to “chilling out.” These dry wines are pleasantly light and refreshing.
The Chardonnay wines that rank with the best value-for-money wines from Burgundy come from Chablis. This sub-region remains “under the radar” for Burgundy buyers. About 65 miles northwest of Dijon, a town that defines the northern limit of Burgundy’s Côte-d’Or, Chablis, is an outlier within the greater region of Burgundy. Closer to the Champagne province, Chablis has a similar, very cool climate at the limit of cultivation. The best vineyards in Chablis are notable for Kimmeridgian limestone, which contains fossilized sea creatures called exogyra virgula. This soil helps impart a profound minerality to the wines. Overall, the style of Chablis wines ranges from dry to very dry to bone dry. Showing aromas of flint and stones, Chablis wines have pronounced minerality, intensely charged acidity, and citrus, white pepper and soft savory notes. Oysters on the half shell is the classic food pairing, however Chablis’ bright acidity also allows them to work well with soft cheeses, fish, pork, chicken, and most dishes that feature butter or fat. Wines to look for: Christian Moreau Chablis 2015, Patrick Piuze ‘Terroir de Courgis’ Chablis 2015, Jean-Marc Brocard ‘Ste. Claire’ Chablis 2015, Gilbert Picq Chablis 2015 and Domaine Philippe Goulley Petit Chablis 2014.
Located in Central France, the Loire Valley stretches 170 miles inland across central France, roughly a 2.5-hour drive south from Paris. From the Loire, the best-known Sauvignon Blancs are from Sancerre. With grassy, straw, herbal, and white flower aromas, the wines show mineral-laden, tangy, white peach, and citrus flavors. The finest vineyards are near the village of Chavignol, in the western part of the Sancerre appellation. Chavignol’s distinctive chalk-rich soil is called terres blanches (‘white earth’) by the locals and is quite similar to that found in Chablis. Sancerres are light-to-medium bodied and range from easy drinking, everyday wines, to those from Chavignol, which have the most structure and ability to age. These wines pair well with sockeye salmon, mahi mahi or flounder, either grilled, plank roasted, or pan-fried in a beurre blanc. Other dishes to try with these wines include, grilled chicken salad, roast asparagus, toasted almonds and soft, ripe cheeses. Wines to look for: Sylvain Bailly Sancerre Terroirs 2015, Maison Foucher Lebrun Sancerre Blanc Le Mont 2015, Gerard Boulay Sancerre Chavignol 2016, Lucien Crochet Sancerre 2015 and Domaine Pascal Balland Sancerre Blanc 2015.
The light and high-acid white variety native to the island of Santorini is known as Assyrtiko. It shows lemon, honeysuckle, subtle pineapple, and savory herb aromas and flavors. These wines have bright, cleansing acidity with mineral-inflected, crushed stone, and smoky characters. With grip and texture suggesting a medium-to full-bodied wine, Assyrtikos has depth and complexity on the palate without being heavy. Santorini island’s volcanic, organically poor soils impart an assertively earthy quality to Assyrtikos. These wines pair well with grilled swordfish, souvlaki, fresh hummus with pita bread, and grilled vegetables. They can stand up to grilled pork and beef dishes as well. Wines to look for: Hatzidakis Assyrtiko Santorini 2015, Gerovassiliou Estate White Epanomi 2014, Ktima Gerovassilliou Malagousia 2015 and Koutsoyannopoulos Assyrtiko Santorini 2013.
Albariño wines have dramatically emerged in the U.S. market. They are easily among the most interesting and compelling whites produced from any region in the world. In Rías Baixas, located just north of Portugal in the Spanish region of Galicia, the cold, wet ‘Atlantic’ conditions and varied soil composition (granite, sand, and slate) are optimal for white wines. Albariños’ flavors of peach, nectarine and other stone fruits, have citrus notes, and are all underlined by firm minerality. Albariños have sprightly acidity and ‘cut’ which underlines their medium-bodied character. Depending upon terroir and wine style, these wines are often more full-bodied. Very food-friendly, Albariños pair equally well with chipotle chicken wraps or muffuletta sandwiches as they do with simply prepared deep-sea fishes and shellfish. Wines to look for: Forja de Salnes ‘Leirana’ 2015, Columna Albariño 2015, Do Ferreiro Albariño Rias Baixas 2015, Fefiñanes Albariño 2015, Albamar Rías Baixas Albariño 2015, Pedralonga Rías Baixas Albariño 2015 and Benito Santos ‘Saiar’ 2014.
In northwest Portugal, the Vinho Verde appellation covers 21,000 hectares (51,892 acres), including an 80 mile coastal area that extends from just south of the Douro River to the Minho River. This is what defines Portugal’s north border with the Galicia region in Spain. The heavily maritime-influenced cool and wet climate combines with schist and granite soils to produce grapes with great acidity and earthy minerality. Overall, Vinho Verdes are light, crisp, and very quaffable wines that often have a slight spritz of effervescence. The grapes most often used are Arinto, Loureiro, Alvarinho, and Trajadura. Very drinkable by themselves, Vinho Verdes also pair well with fried or grilled deep sea fish, shellfish, Asian-spiced dishes and hard cheeses. Wines to look for: Quinta de Segade Vinho Verde Mica 2015, Vera Vinho Verde 2015, Quinta das Arcas Arca Nova Vinho Verde 2016 and Quinta de Segade Vinho Verde Mica Loureiro 2015.
Northern Italy’s region of Piedmont, best known for Nebbiolo-based Barolo and Barbaresco red wines, also makes high-quality dry white wines. In the late 1960s, Alfredo Currado of Vietti recuperated the last remaining Arneis vines, saving the variety from extinction. His family winery makes the finest Arneis. In the minds of most consumers, the Arneis grape has long lived in the shadows of Cortese, the featured variety in the Gavi or Cortese di Gavi DOCG appellation. However many wine trade veterans feel that wines made from Arneis equal or better those from Gavi. North of Barolo, Roero DOCG producers make reds and whites. At the moment though, the DOCG is becoming known for its Arneis wines. Producing wines with more medium-full body than Gavi, and with greater heft, Arneis shows complex aromas and slightly richer palate flavors than Cortese. Arneis produced outside the Roero zone comes from the larger Langhe designation. Almond and honeysuckle aromas, with apple and pear flavors, show an enticing herbal edge. Arneis wines pair with casual fish tacos, pork or veal cutlets with sage, and figs, prosciutto, and soft cow or goat cheeses. Wines to look for: Vietti Roero Arneis 2016, Guidobono Roero Arneis 2016, Ceretto ‘Blange’ Arneis Langhe 2014, Bruno Giacosa Roero Arneis 2015 and Pelassa San Vito Roero Arneis 2015.