Come summertime, if I'm not drinking rosé (check out specific recommendations for that here!), I'm almost always drinking white. It's awful hot in my backyard, people. Still, in a previous post I covered red wines that pair nicely with grilled foods because so often you want a big red to go with a big steak. Now it's on to the lighter side of things: white wines to drink alongside all the vegetables, fish, and pork you might be serving up this summer, or even sip as an apertif. Here are eight varietals to look for, suggestions for how to enjoy them, and recommendations for bottles under $20 that you might well give a try.
- Torrontés - Argentina's signature white grape is sort of Viognier-like, with lots of aroma, stone fruit, and floral notes. Try one like Trumpeter Torrontés 2010 (13.5% abv, $10) alongside pork chops or a hearty white fish like Mahi Mahi.
- Pinot Grigio - It's ubiquitous and often disappointingly bland, but a good Pinot Grigio has crisp acid and citrus notes that go nicely with grilled shrimp or other light seafood. Try Bottega Vinaia Estate-Bottled Pinot Grigio 2010 (12% abv, $17.99).
- Vermentino - I prefer this light, crisp, herbal Italian white to Pinot Grigio in most cases, but it can be harder to find in many shops. A natural match for seafood, it comes from coastal regions and islands like Sardinia, from whence Sella & Mosca La Cala Vermentino di Sardegna 2009 (12.5% abv, $11.99) hails.
- Falanghina - This medium-bodied Italian white has some texture along with its crispness and minerality. In its native land it's often served with fritto misto - mixed fried seafood - but I like it with calamari and chicken off the grill. Feudi di San Gregorio Falanghina 2009 (12.5% abv, $15.99) is a very nice one.
- Sauvignon Blanc - Can't argue with a glass of light, grassy, citrusy New World Sauvignon Blanc on a hot afternoon, especially when so many inexpensive bottles are perfect for this sort of everyday sipping. Grilled vegetables go well with wines like Two Oceans Sauvignon Blanc 2010 (11.7% abv, $8.99), but so do deviled eggs. Really!
- Unoaked Chardonnay - When you don't use oak to make Chardonnay - as in the wines of Chablis - you'll get a medium-bodied wine that's got crispness, minerality, citrus, and green apple. It'll go much better with pork, firm white fish, or chicken off the grill than its oaky counterparts would, and prove more refreshing in the heat of summer. You're sure to find decent budget options like Big House Unchained Naked Chardonnay 2010 (13% abv, $9.99) at a shop near you.
- Gewurztraminer - Aromatic, stone fruity, and almost always sporting a big fat lychee note, Gewurztraminer is fun to drink anytime if you ask me. Grilled greens, asparagus, and cabbage are great with it, but it's also fun with grilled pineapple or watermelon when the smoke and the cooking cut down on their sweetness. Helfrich Gewurztraminer 2008 (12.5% abv, $14.99) is a good one from Alsace.
- Albariño - Zippy, crisp, citrusy, mineral, and light, Albariño is Spain's designated seafood wine. It'll go with all the chickens of the sea, and Verdemar Albariño 2009 (12% abv, $9.99) is a fine example.
This is my Martha Stewart Living Radio Blog swan song (meaning that it's my very last post, for those of you who haven't seen Swan Lake). "On the Bottle" was a column about wine and spirits appearing every Friday on this blog. Thanks for reading!