Withering heat calls for light, refreshing drinks. And white wines are perfect. We tell you which ones to put in the cart.
By: Isabelle Kellogg
Posted on: August 3, 2023
Nothing beats a glass of chilled white wine (add ice cubes if you must, we all have to bend the rules sometimes) when the heat is unrelenting. We’ve done some hard core tasting to give you some suggestions for quaffing.
An excellent resource tool for white wines and what to drink, The World Wine Guys, "White Wine," published by WW Norton lists white grape varieties sorted A-Z along with history, maps and suggested foods to serve with each variety. At the book launch with the authors, I sampled more than a dozen white wines which were paired with a specially prepared menu. Now being sufficiently “schooled” in white wines, I spent the next few weeks enjoying exclusive winemaker events. So let’s jump in.
Chiara Soldati of La Scolca Gavi dei Gavi wines.
Chiara Soldati, fifth generation wine family member, introduced her La Scolca Gavi dei Gavi wines recently at a glamourous luncheon in Manhattan. Rich in flavor and bouquet, the Grand Cru DOCG D’Antan sparkling wine made from 100% Cortese grapes from Piedmont’s Gavi zone in its luxuriously shaped bottle is reminiscent of premium French Champagnes. A sophisticated walnut and toasted almond finish—characteristics of Gavi grown grapes--gives it extra pizzazz on the palate.
Varvaglione 1921 is one the oldest wineries in Puglia. We sat down with Marzia Varvaglione to taste the recent release of 12 e Mezzo Chardonnay. Expressive aromas of pink grapefruit, violets, lily flowers make this a truly enjoyable white wine for the summer months. A few days later, I was invited to lunch to taste wines with Planeta’s winemaker, Patricia Toth. Sicilian winemakers are ardent supporters of their indigenous grape varieties and I learned that Sicily’s dark lava sand soil, loaded with minerals from eruptions of Mount Etna, helps produce award winning wines like the Eruzione 1614 Carricante Sicilia DOC 2019, named after the fateful eruption in 1614.
At the Rhône Valley AOC association’s “Dinner in White”, more than 50 white wines from producers in Condrieu, Saint-Joseph, Hermitage, Grignan-les-Adhémar, Côtes du Rhône Villages were available for tasting. Rhône Valley white wines, not as well-known as the ppellation’s red wines, are fresh and lively, using native grape varieties and blends from the nearby subregions and diverse terroirs. At the end of the dinner, I indulged in one of my classic favorites, Domaine des Bernardins Muscat de Beaumes de Venise 2022, a gorgeous deep yellow color, bouquet of lightly burnt caramel, mixed with orange and honey that is served with dessert (it only has 15% alcohol by volume surprisingly).
In Spain’s northern region of Galicia near the Atlantic Ocean, Albarino is the indigenous grape used mostly for white wines. There are many white wines to recommend, but the 2022 Mar de Frades (“sea of the monks”) is great for summer quaffing with its lemon, pear, apple, apricot flavors tinged with a bit of saline from the ocean.
Portugal’s Vinho Verde region produces light and slightly effervescent white wines with citrusy, crisp flavors. Named for the region’s forests in the northernmost region of Portugal bordering the Atlantic Ocean, grape wine vines flourish in the granite soil. At a masterclass hosted by the Vinho Verde association, I learned that six grape varieties dominate this DOC region (classified in 1984): Alvarinho, Arinto, Azal, Avesso, Loureiro and Trajadura. Grapes are grown using the pergola system so that grape vines grow upwards on vertical poles for better air circulation and easier picking by hand during harvest.
In Argentina, the world’s most growable and adaptable grape variety, Chardonnay, is appearing as a single varietal wine made by Trapiche for its new Tesoro label. New to the US market, it’s a high altitude, medium body Chardonnay with its zesty lemon and caramel aromas, and slight overtone of buttery creaminess in the finish.
Who says you can’t drink a late harvest white wine with food? Dolce’s winemaker Greg Allen treated a few of us to special lunch with each course paired with a different late harvest wine. This transcended my expectations of pairing late harvest wines only with dessert, or in place of dessert, from appetizer to dessert. The late harvest wines are classic blends of late harvest Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc grapes and are luscious and smooth on the palate with every sip!
Wine should be a discovery and a journey that takes you to regions around the world where tastes and cultures can be different from what we are used to every day. Embrace the experience and try something new!
In addition to a career in communications and marketing focused on the luxury lifestyle sector, including co-authoring and lecturing a case study on French heritage jeweler Mauboussin with Harvard Business School, Isabelle continues to share her experiences about fine art, wine, travel, jewelry and culture as a freelance writer for internationally based digital publications.