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Friday, July 10, 2020

5 Summer Whites You May Not Know

Summertime, summertime, sum-sum summertime as the song goes. When I think of hot July weather I think of think of refreshing white wine.  None of these five wines are well known so they all offer terrific value.  The five can be served as an aperitif but can also transition to dinner as they are all summer-food-friendly.   Two are from Spain, two are Italian, and there’s even an Austrian wine represented in the bunch.

Listed in no particular order….


This grape is the poster-child  of summer whites.  It is grown in Spain’s northwestern province of Galicia (although some are attempting to grow this varietal in California). In some ways resembling a Sauvignon Blanc because of its citrus profile, Albarino has some Viognier-like characteristics due to its peach and apricot flavors.  But Albarino is more than fruit.  Adding to its complexity are often layers of minerals.   For me, this varietal screams summer. 

Some of my favorite producers of Albarino are Pazo Senorans, Eidos, Forjas de Salnes and  Pazo de Fefinans.  All of these “bodegas” are located close to the sea in Galicia.   As Albarino is an unknown varietal to most Americans, prices reflect the supply and demand price of about $20----a terrific bargain any time of year.


I can’t get enough of this varietal.  Whenever it’s on a summertime wine list, I immediately gravitate to it.  My first taste of the varietal was >25 years ago in Carmel at a restaurant which had a highly rated Wine Spectator wine list.  It was a hot summer day’s lunch and this wine was one of many being featured by the glass.  It was love at first sip for me.

Greatly under-rated, Vermentino has many similarities to an Albarino, Sauv Blanc or a Gruner Veltliner (below).   All three wines have a similar body, are highly aromatic, and have some common taste profiles of citrus and stone fruit.  Vermentino, however, often adds a characteristic almond profile and even floral notes.

Because Vermentino is so unknown, you can find these high quality wines for a great value. The best Vermentino comes from Italy’s island of Sardinia, as well as the Tuscan and Ligurian coasts.  The highest rated comes from these following Sardinian producers: Surrau, Capichera, Andrea Ledda, Delogu and Pala.  Bravo!

Gruner Veltliner

This grape was mentioned above and is one that has some commonalities with Vermentino in flavor.  Gruner, like Vermentio, offers citrus but it tends to lean more toward limes in grapes that are less ripe.   Riper grapes yield intense lemon flavors, whereas really ripe fruit catapults the Gruner’s flavors to peach and apricot.   As Gruner is the white flagship grape of Austria, climate can make a huge difference in the flavors of this varietal.

Like Vermentino and Albarino, Gruner is a great value.  When I’m dining in a Michelin star restaurant in summer and I don’t want to drop a couple of hundred dollars on a white wine,  I always turn to the Gruner (or Austrian) section of the wine list.  Sommeliers love this varietal, so there are always some carefully chosen gems.  Because of its bracing acidity, Gruner pairs beautifully with many foods. 

Fave producers?  Check out Ott, Hirtzberger or Castle Gobelsberg.

Friuli-Venezia Giulia

All the wines above have been grape varietals, whereas these are wines from a wine region located between Venice and the Austrian border.  I call this district Italian White Heaven.    Some white grapes here are unknown outside of the district.  For example, ever heard of “Ribolla Gialla?”  This ethereal grape used to be used for blending with other local varieties until savvy winemakers thought of treating it like a Chardonnay by using malo-lactic fermentation to soften its acidity.  Ribolla Gialla makes a killer, complex white wine.  Producers worth seeking out are Primosic and Biancosesto.

The Friuli-Venezia Giulia’s Pinot Grigio is like none of the other insipid renditions in Italy.  Pinot Grigio here is magic.  Think full-bodied, complex wines with summer stone fruit flavors.  Look for Torre Rosazza’s version.   Paradiso.   


This list began with three relatively unknown white grape varieties, then moved to a wine region.  The last wine of the five summer whites is a blended wine from the island of Mallorca, Spain.  Nounat is simply the island’s best white. Made by the Binigrau winery, this complex wine is made from the island’s indigenous Prensal Blanc, with Chardonnay added for great structure.   Be prepared to be seduced by the old Mallorcan’s aromatics and flavors of pineapple, bananas, pears and almonds.  When mixed with ripe Chardonnay grapes it becomes exotic fruit nirvana filled with deep layering.

Nounat is available at east coast wine shops and online.  Order a case.  It will be the best $25 bucks a bottle you’ll spend for the summer.

These may be wines you don't know, but you should get to know each one of them.  Happy summer sipping.  

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