In this era of winemaking, white is golden. There’s more good white wine being made today than ever — all over the world.
In terms of value and breadth of choices, white wines easily out-distance reds these days. That’s especially good news for summer, which is the high season for wearing — and drinking — white.
As a warm-weather selection, chardonnay is the most prominent and popular white. But look for the cooler-climate variety from Washington, Oregon, New York, and Michigan, or the lighter style of French Chablis chardonnays. They’re brighter, crisper, lighter, fruitier, and more minerally than chardonnays from Australia, Chile, and California, which are ponderous and much heavier. Many are higher in alcohol, making them less pleasant when temperatures rise.
In recent years, pinot grigio has surpassed chardonnay as the most popular white wine in restaurant-dining wine sales. Pinot grigio and its first cousin, pinot gris, are made from the same grape. The difference is stylistic. Pinot grigio (the name is Italian) is made in the northern Italian style: light-colored (almost clear with a greenish tint or a straw-yellow color), young, fresh, and minerally. Pinot gris is a more serious wine, but it’s still light, although it tends to be thicker, richer, and a darker yellow. The model for pinot gris is found in the Alsace region of France, which produces a gris that’s often lightly oak-aged and riper.
The third great summer wine is dry rosé from southern France. It’s rapidly becoming very chic here as Americans discover what has always been the most popular wine in the heat of the French Riviera. Rosé under an umbrella? Yes! These wines are made from red-wine grapes, which, when crushed, are left only briefly in contact with the skins to extract just a hint of pink.
Some suggestions for cool sipping on hot days:
2008 Bel Lago Chardonnay-Pinot Grigio ($15): Crisp, bright, luscious, and summery.
2008 Bel Lago Auxerrois ($14): A superb cool-climate French grape variety, floral and fresh. Summer in a bottle.
2008 Willamette Valley Vineyards Pinot Gris ($15): Melon and citrus notes, depth. Rich and medium body.
2008 Brys Estate Pinot Grigio ($17): Some swear this Michigan wine is Italian. It’s great with fish and salads, lake breezes, and deck entertaining.
2008 Commanderie de la Bargamone ($15): A great example of classic, good, dry French rosé. Light and endlessly drinkable.