The Bar Code: Expand Your White Wine Repertoire This Summer

There is a widespread and largely inaccurate belief that sommeliers and other wine directors are total snobs about wine. While there is some truth to that—often reinforced by particularly arrogant members of the industry—it’s also true that most wine experts I know love drinking cheap whites and rosés outside during the summer. Sometimes we even put ice cubes and soda water in our glasses!

After all, summer wines are a bit like summer romances: They may not last forever, they might be a bit superficial, but they’re remembered fondly and are a hell of a good time. Serious, intellectual, meaningful wine makes sense in cold, gray, contemplative months, but when the sun shines, it’s time to cut loose, have fun, and find what we wine professionals call “porch pounders.” Trust me, it’s a very technical term.

Fortunately, we live in a golden age of inexpensive and utterly quaffable whites and rosés from virtually all corners of the globe. The French have been exporting veritable tankers of well-priced rosés from the Languedoc (in particular the regions of Minervois and Corbières), the Loire Valley, and pretty much the entire country.

Let’s say that French wine seems too pretentious for you, though. Fortunately, most of the rest of Europe has been chugging truly heroic quantities of perfectly decent white wine for centuries. The Italians in particular are masters of the style. Sure, you might be familiar with pinot grigio, but there are so many wonderful light, crisp whites to try. In particular, vernaccia, vermentino, and verdicchio (yes, an awful lot of V’s) can all be found for $10–$12 on most store shelves.

Spain and Portugal get in on the act as well: you might be familiar with Portuguese vinho verde or the Spanish albariño, but the Spanish txakoli (pronounced cha-coh-lee) is a Basque wine with bright acidity and a slight effervescence that’s reminiscent of vinho verde. It too is very reasonably priced, though you might need to go to a specialty shop to find it.

One area where you might call me a snob: It’s been really hard for me to find domestic whites and rosés that can match Europe’s combination of drinkability and price. Sometimes centuries of tradition and experience does give a region an advantage, and while the U.S. will surely catch up at some point (and mostly has in most other styles), I don’t want to wait for some far-distant summer. I want to drink wine in the sun now!

Inexpensive whites and rosés are also the perfect basis for one of my absolute favorite summer drinks: sangria. While it’s most commonly made with red wine, I find it even more delightful when it’s lighter and more refreshing. Whites and rosés lend themselves to some of Washington’s most delicious produce, including white peaches, Rainier cherries, and apricots. Sprinkle in a few fresh strawberries or raspberries and a splash or two of an inexpensive French or Spanish brandy, and you are ready to grab your summer by the glass.

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