Summer White Wine

Every year at this time, wine columnists and wine shop newsletter writers give us many reminders about the warm weather and the appropriateness of white wine, about the coming thirst and the need to quench it. This annual round of announcements can seem a little clichéd, but it certainly makes sense, and many of our customers are comfortably guided by it. It also presents an opportunity for those of us who promote and sell wine.

This annual reminder prompts us to exercise our knowledge and lead our customers into a wider, more enjoyable world of white wine. The variety is huge (too much to explore in one mere summer) and potentially good news to the customers who think the only whites are Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, and Riesling.

A whole world of crisp, thirst quenching whites: don’t sweat the details – enjoy the variety!


To less experienced wine drinkers, stepping beyond the whites listed above and toward more variety can be like going to a party and having to learn a lot of new names, including many foreign ones. “Verdicchio? Vernaccia? I’m sorry your last name is Castelli di Jesi? No. Oh, excuse me. Hello, Chardonnay! It’s good to see you!”

Experiencing new whites should and can be a pleasure, not a task.

In addition to those who feel overwhelmed by the vast selection, there are too many customers out there who think that red wine drinking is a higher plane of existence. They actually think that choosing white wine is something of a step backward. Others find white wine boring, due to limited experience with cloying styles of Chardonnay and meaningless, mass-produced Pinot Grigio. These drinkers do not know about the better white wines they are missing and they need to be taken there.

Good wine knowledge, passed on in manageable doses, can help reverse those perceptions, especially since people take pride in what they know. Simply practice taking care and having patience as others learn. Keep that party analogy in mind – how many names can you learn in one evening?


An exploration of this year’s countless new releases of pleasing, crisp whites can be done a country or region at a time, quenching one bout of thirst at a time.

AUSTRIA – Gruner Veltliner could easily be everyone’s favorite white. The acidity and its refreshing flavor, with light citrus notes and some cool minerals, are just right for a lunch out in the sun. Austria’s Berger Winery supplies their 2009 vintage in a generous one-liter bottle.

AUSTRALIA – Sometimes bottled by itself, and sometimes blended, Verdelho is another fast-track favorite. It can smell like little honeyed white flowers and offer hints of lime and pineapple on the tongue. Native to Portugal, Verdelho flourishes in Australia; the 2009 label from Woop Woop is loaded with nuances of tropical fruit.

ITALY – Near Naples, they grow and bottle Falanghina, a mineral-rich, crisp white that can sometimes break the rules and age long-term. The 2008 Falanghina from Terredora Winery has a very appetizing nuance of apricots. While there is an enormous variety of great whites from this ancient country, the Italians must still fight some white wine stereotypes left over from the 1970s (thanks to cheap bottles of Soave, and more recently to a glut of cheap Pinot Grigio).

NEW ZEALAND – Sauvignon Blanc, one of the classic whites of Bordeaux, found new life – exciting life – in the Marlborough region of New Zealand. Typically loaded with flavors of grapefruit, or otherwise known for a grassy, herbaceous character, Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc can be sold with the word “zing” in the sales pitch. The 2009 from Villa Maria is layered with flavors, even a hint of orange, and wouldn’t just complement an indulgent summer lunch, it would steal the show.

SPAIN – From the Rueda region in north-central Spain, Verdejo is not to be confused with Spain’s white Viura. Verdejo is fuller-bodied than Viura, a little more in the direction of Chardonnay but certainly not the same. The 2008 Ovacion Verdejo from Viña Bajoz is 100% Verdejo and a delightful choice for a warm weather dinner of grilled white meats and fish.

Taking just a few steps away from the usual whites and into the world’s wider variety is a move toward increased enjoyment and bounty in the summer wine glass. Yes, it is time for the cool, crisp whites of summer, and time to share the pleasures.