When full-bodied reds just won’t do, turn to crisp white wines to cool you off
I simply adore big, bold red wines. But on sticky, humid summer days when the mere thought of walking outdoors has your freshly styled hair wilting, I just don’t find as much pleasure in a glass of robust Zinfandel, with its intensity and high alcohol content, as I would like. So for me, the ideal wines to beat the summertime heat are easydrinking, delicate, dry whites with crisp, lively acidity. I affectionately refer to these as porch wines.
While there are seemingly endless options that fall under this light white wine category, coming from virtually every wine producing region of the world, I’ve narrowed my selections down to two distinct grapes: Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris.
While Chardonnay is the most popular white grape in the Unites States, Sauvignon Blanc runs a distant second. Brought from France to California in the late 1870s, this delicate grape with a distinct aroma is the main white varietal used in the Bordeaux and the Loire Valley. Robert Mondavi played an instrumental role in bringing Sauvignon Blanc to the forefront when he coined the name Fume Blanc, named for its smoky quality. Initially Mondavi labeled the delicate white wine as Sauvignon Blanc. Sales were poor so he created the name Fume Blanc and sales took off. You will still find some California wine producers who label their Sauvignon Blanc as Fume Blanc, but keep in mind that they are one in the same.
Today, Sauvignon Blanc is grown worldwide and has experienced great success in New Zealand. While the grapes’ characteristics vary somewhat from region to region, typical aromas include freshly cut grass, herbs, tart apples, smoke and citrus fruits. I personally find Sauvignon Blanc at its best when it sees little or no oak aging. Some producers, mainly in California and Australia, opt to age in oak, which leads to a richer, rounder, more Chardonnay-like wine. In general, Sauvignon Blanc should be enjoyed young; its crisp, lively acidity is the perfect companion to seafood dishes, yet it can easily stand up to rich, creamy sauces and spicy cuisine.
Another refreshing summertime favorite is Pinot Grigio, the number one imported grape variety to the United States. A mutation of the red noble grape Pinot Noir, Pinot Grigio is also known as Pinot Gris in France, California and Oregon. It is also produced in Germany, Eastern Europe, Mexico, Australia and New Zealand, where the names are used interchangeably. The grape is somewhat of a chameleon, as it is capable of producing an incredibly broad range of wines from light, crisp and dry to round, full and complex.
Pinot Grigio has endured a bad reputation, as the typical wine produce in Italy is rather mundane and flavorless. However, over the past several years, contemporary winemakers and technological advances have lead to bigger and better Pinot Grigio wines. Winemakers in Oregon (where it is called Pinot Gris) have become enamored with the grape and are producing some exceptional examples. Flavors range from tropical fruit, melon and pear to zesty citrus fruits; some offer a hint of mineral or limestone. Because they tend to have very crisp, bright acidity, Pinot Grigio pairs well with seafood, chicken, pasta and cheese.
Perfect Summertime Wines
Artesa Reserve Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley
Round and lush, this California Sauvignon Blanc has a beautiful bouquet packed with kiwi, melon, lime and a tinge of honey. On the palate, it is supple, fresh and clean with perfectly balanced acidity.
Brancott Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc
Hallmark aromas of fresh herbs, cut grass and lime zest leap from the glass of this exceptional New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. Concentrated flavors of ripe peaches, apricots and melon are accented by refreshing acidity.
The Crossings Sauvignon Blanc
This delightful wine from New Zealand offers an aromatic bouquet of tropical fruits accentuated by a slight flinty note. Ripe, rich flavors of melon and peaches are accented by crisp, lively acidity and a lingering finish.
J Wine Russian River Valley Pinot Grigio
From the folks who bring us J Sparkling wine comes this wonderful California Pinot Grigio. Delicate, clean and crisp, it emits aromas of grapefruit, smoke and honeysuckle, with fruit-driven flavors of ripe melon and zesty citrus fruits.
Kris Pinot Grigio
This pale yellow Italian Pinot Grigio emits enticing aromas of lemon peel, flowers, honey and apricots. It is clean, elegant and refreshing, with delicate flavors or citrus fruit, honeysuckle and limestone.
Coppola Bianco Pinot Grigio
An incredibly delicate yet vibrant California Pinot Grigio with tropical fruit, melon and floral aromas. On the palate it offers crisp, fresh flavors of grapefruit, fresh pear and lemon zest.
Sparr Pinot Gris Reserve
From Alsace, France, comes this delightful, richly textured wine, which emits lovely aromas of pear, peach, honey and apricot. The ripe fruit flavors and mouthwatering acidity are harmoniously balanced.
Montinotre Pinot Gris
This pleasant Pinot Gris from Oregon boasts scents of green apple, pear and lime with a slight herbal element. It offers fresh, lively flavors of peaches and fresh herbs with a crisp, dry mineral-tinged finish.