In the hope of a hot summer, we asked five of our contributors from around the
world to recommend five easy-drinking summer whites for the garden – plus one special occasion white – with a twist: no Chardonnay allowed. STEVEN SPURRIER (UK), RICHARD BAUDAINS (Italy), HUON HOOKE (Australia), NORM ROBY (US) and CH’NG POH TIONG (Singapore) select 30 wines ready to drink now, for those lazy afternoons.
Some white wines are best drunk in the summer – those from the Greek island of Santorini, for example. Then there are some, due to their lightness and freshness – a young Muscadet sur Lie or Sylvaner come to mind – that are perfect in the summer, but pretty good all year round.
Summer drinking whites for me are pre-food wines: one might carry the second glass to the table, but their job is to enliven the palate and to remind one how lucky we are that such delicious wines exist and that summer is the perfect time for them.
Curiously, they do not have to be particularly low in alcohol, for if the natural alcoholic degree brings proportionate flavour, then they will be sipped, not quaffed. But they do have to have more than a zing of acidity and they must be as young as possible, with an appetising crispness that calls for green olives or roasted almonds, although of course potato crisps will do.
Fattoria di Magliano, Vermentino della Maremma Toscana, Pagliatura IGT
The Vermentino grape manages to blend florality, lushness of fruit and crisp acidity. This is a very grand version – captivating and classy. £11.50; L&S
Hidalgo, La Gitana, Manzanilla
Spain’s largest selling manzanilla. A hint of fresh almonds, a touch of ‘flor’, a touch of nutty complexity and bone dry on the finish. £5.99–6.75; BBR, Evy, GGR, Maj
La Grille, Sauvignon Blanc 2004
Has all the lively, blackcurrant and lime fruit of the grape and none of the aggressive grassiness of many examples from New Zealand. £5.99; Sai
Josmeyer, Mise du Printemps, Pinot Blanc 2004
Pinot Blanc is a wonderful wine. Grapey and peardrop aromas, lively, succulent with complexity. A mouthful of white fruits. £11–14; Brs, Pol, Tau
Weingut Loimer, LOIS, Gruner Veltliner 2004
Pale and very fresh looking, a nose of ripe pears with a little white pepper spice and mouthwatering acidity. Fruity and unassuming. £6.99; Lib
Marcel Guigal, La Doriane, Condrieu 2003
Condrieu is the ultimate summer self-indulgence with its exotic white peach bouquet and unctuous stone fruit flavours. This is regularly the finest in the appellation, its rarity easily matched by its lingering pleasure. £59; F&R
Summer temperatures call for refreshing, easy-to-drink whites. But at the same time, seasonal menus also demand wines with a good dose of character. Italy has never had any trouble supplying reasonably priced quaffing wines for al fresco occasions, but this end of the national production has not traditionally been known for its power to excite the taste buds. Things are looking up, however. The total quality approach which has transformed red wine production in recent years is now filtering down into the dry white category, and native varietals today offer structure, style and individuality, as well as value for money. 2003 is ripe and soft, while 2004 abounds with aroma and freshness. Both are made for drinking now, but do not worry if you over-stock because the dry, still wines will be equally delicious next summer.
Fattoria Coroncino, Il Coroncino, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi 2003
Complex, expressive (mirabelles, orange blossom, hazelnut) and full of energy, this has bags of personality and is great value for money. £6.99; RSW
La Spinetta, Vigneto Biancospino, Moscato d’Asti 2003
Elegantly aromatic, bulging with fruit salad, gently sparkling, beautifully balanced sugar and acidity in a lingering finish. £11.20; Evy
Bisol, Crede, Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Brut
Lovely white mousse. Delicate spring flowers, light and creamy with pears and lemon rind in the finish. Very classy. £7.40–11.99; BoS, Luv
Cà dei Frati, Lugana I Frati 2003
Fresh, appley nose with a touch of grassiness. Juicy palate with a lovely contrast between the fruit and the crisp acidity. £8.95; Imb
Palazzone, Terre Vineate, Orvieto Classico Superiore 2003
A subtle herby nose and ripe peachy palate which finishes long, tangy with a distinctive minerally twist. £6.95; J&B
GD Vajra, Langhe Bianco 2001
Italy’s most significant Riesling by far, combines impeccable varietal character with the complexity, structure and longevity of a terroir renowned for its reds. Succulent and grapey. £20.70; Evy
Sydney summers can be hot and humid, so big wines – especially oaky or high-alcohol wines – are about as pleasurable as tepid beer. What’s called for is crisp, fresh wine. Hunter Valley Semillon and tangy Western Australian Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon blends are ideal, while arguably the best thirst-quencher is Riesling, from the Eden or Clare Valleys and a touch cooler, such as Tasmania or southern Victoria.
These are all good food wines, and still show their full aroma and flavour even when fresh from the refrigerator.
Delatite, Riesling 2004
A classically dry, almost austere style that’s very crisp, intense and quite steely. It has minerally, slatey scents. Aus$13.95; +61 3 5774 2911
Ferngrove, Semillon-Sauvignon Blanc 2004
Ripe, smelling of salad and fresh herbs, with the distinctive snow-pea aroma common in WA. Tangy acidity, good concentration and balance. £6.49; GWW, WWL
GD Tyrrell’s Lost Block Semillon 2004
Bracing acidity and crisply delicate fruit, this is an ideal summer drink. Lemon/citrus and green herbal aromas abound. £10; Bre, FWP, Hai, Rac, VdV, Vyd
Geoff Weaver, Lenswood, Sauvignon Blanc 2004
Clean, fresh rock-melon and herbs with lemon/citrus and a hint of lemon. The palate is soft and seamless, finishing dry and lingering. £9.99–10.99; Mar
Peter Lehmann, Eden Valley Riesling 2004
Classically lime/citrusy nose; clean, fresh and crisp with a hint of quince-paste. Intense and crisply dry, with a lively dryness. £7.99; PLW
Viognier By Farr 2003
Unmistakeably Viognier, with rich apricot aromas suffused with nutty, honeyed and spicy inflexions, and powerful, long and rewarding on the palate. £19.80; Tan
The most common problem encountered in the US West Coast when trying to find easy-drinking summertime whites is not one of oak or high alcohol so much as it is sweetness. Though a touch is often welcome, such cloying wines fail to invite a second glass or have to be chilled until ice forms. Lately my first choice for a party-pleasing white is a bright, lively, no-oak Pinot Gris from Oregon. The next stop is Sauvignon Blanc. While some of my favourite Sauvignon Blancs are too pricey, reliable Dry Creek Vineyards’ is an exception in a brisk style and Beringer provides wonderful drinking in a rounder, fruitier style. Otherwise we look for the exceptional Riesling or turn to Rhône-inspired whites. There is nothing better than a flowery-scented, lively Viognier to fit the summer mood to perfection.
Dry Creek Vineyards, Fume Blanc, Sonoma County 2003
Melons, kiwi, and tangy lemon-lime with fruitiness and balance. £7–7.90; CVi, Vnf
Trefethen Vineyards, White Riesling, Napa Valley 2003
Effusive aroma of pine and apples, tight but balanced, long, cleansing.
N/A UK; +1 707 255 7700
Hedges Winery, Fume-Chardonnay, Columbia Valley 2003
Lovely, refreshing, rich fruit, a crowd-pleaser. N/A UK £4.68; +1 425 391 6056
Oak Knoll, Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley, Oregon 2003
Melons, floral and spicy in a pretty, lively package. £7.38 (1996); Wts
Rosenblum Cellars, Kathy’s Cuvee, Viognier, Santa Barbara County 2003
Brimming over with exotic fruit, this ripe, off-dry wine is a party animal. £10.58; VCl
Tablas Creek, Esprit de Beaucastel, Paso Robles 2003
Lush, flavour-packed combo of Roussanne and Grenache Blanc. £21.95; Gdh, Mis
Singapore is summery all year, with two bouts of the monsoon rains in July and December. Whites are fundamental to the climate (and cuisine). I adore high-acid whites that are light and dry, although I am also readily seduced by the little lift of sweetness German Rieslings afford. ‘Light’ is not to be mistaken for ‘watery’ or ‘dilute’ but rather it is the lightness of Vivaldi and Mozart; the lightness of the full moon; and the soft, elegant, irresistible lightness of silk and a woman’s skin.
Ch’ng Poh Tiong
Allias, Vouvray Demi-Sec 2001
Acidic when young, a good Vouvray always has that wild honey/wet wool aroma about it. Sometimes, I detect some flint too. £9.99; Flg
Bruno Cormerai, Muscadet de Sèvre et Maine sur lie 2001
I once had a 1997 from Cormerai that was still layered with delicate ripe appley, minerally fruit. But a zippy two- to three-year-old is just as irresistible on a hot summer day. £5.75; Hai
Château Marjosse, Entre deux Mers 2002
The wine’s perfume of guavas and grapefruit/green limes is subtle. So too the mineral aspect. Freshness is its raison d’être. BdI, F&R
Dr Bürklin-Wolf, Riesling Kabinett 2002
Minerally, floral, fruity and with more lift than a space-bound rocket, the world’s greatest white varietal is one of the ultimate summer whites. £6.94; Tan
Hildago, La Gitana
Delivers up aromas of the sea, as well as the intense taste of Chinese dried prunes. £5.99–6.75; BBR, Evy, GGR, Maj
JJ Prum, Wehlener Sonnenuhr Auslese 1988
Any vintage of this great wine will do although don’t open it too young. The fruit is incredibly pure. Very intense and long, with unbelievable sky-high acidity. The closest thing to Mozart in a bottle. £18.50–21.93; J&B (1989), Loe (1999)
Written by Steven Spurrier, Richard Baudains, Huon Hooke, Norm Roby, Ch’ng Poh Tiong