I’m asked many times “are you a red or white wine drinker?” My answer is, of course, both, but as the weather warms I admit I veer more to white as an everyday beverage. These are a few of my top picks for refreshing white varietals.
Chardonnay is a love-it-or-leave-it grape variety for most consumers. It’s known as the “King” and also “the Coca-Cola of the wine world.” It didn’t get its reference to “King” in the wine Hall of Fame for nothing. Chardonnay tops the list for the most consumed grape variety, topping even the most popular reds. It comes in all shapes and sizes. In warmer growing conditions it exhibits flavors of ripe, tropical fruits such as pineapple and mango, notes of pear and stone fruit. In cooler climates such as France’s Chablis, the wines are more delicate and citrusy, with a slight honey character.
- 2014 Bogle Chardonnay, California (about $12 retail)
- 2014 Force of Nature Chardonnay, California (about $24 retail)
Viognier is another of the underrated white grapes that is beautifully aromatic and can be an ideal blending partner for chardonnay. On its own, it’s much different from the tropical smells of chardonnay and overflows with intoxicating aromas of apricots, fresh flowers and oranges. On the palate it is fuller-bodied than most whites, but with a well-balanced mouth feel and low acidity. France’s Rhone Valley is known for its viognier, but there are many newcomer wine regions in Chile, Australia and South Africa producing exceptional wines.
- 2014 LaPlaya Estates Viognier/Chardonnay, Chile (about $9 retail)
- 2013 Calera Mount Harlan Viognier, California (about $38 retail)
Chenin blanc has been referred to as “handier than a Swiss Army knife” by many, simply because it adjusts to almost any production method, be it sweet, dry or even fizzy. It shares many similarities to sauvignon blanc, with its refreshing green apple and fresh herbs. It’s at home in France’s Loire Valley, where the style can be racy, dry, luscious, sweet or with a frothy fizz. You can also find chenin blanc in the vineyards of South Africa, where it once accounted for a staggering quarter of all grapes grown and wine produced.
- 2014 Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc, California (about $12 retail)
- 2014 Dry Creek Chenin Blanc, California (about $16 retail)