Jim Nejaime: 12 winning white wines you'll be sipping all summer
We taste literally hundreds of new wines each year in order to find the best of the world. We've done the triage — enjoy the fruits of our labor.
These highly recommended Top Picks are from grapes and regions that are not easily found. No heavy, buttery, oak-aged Chardonnay here — these whites are meant to refresh, relax and all have the following attributes:
- Great values, from hidden corners of the wine world;
- Taste great chilled; and
- Easy drinking, with perfect balance.
These extraordinary quaffs include gems from Austria, South Africa, Loire Valley, Sardinia, Spain and Portugal. The key to these, and any great wine, is balance. To note that a wine is delicious and balanced is the greatest compliment you can give to any winemaker. Winemakers' holy grail is to find the balance of exuberant, beautiful fruit of the vine with a backbone of just the right amount of delicate, dry acidity. When this balance is achieved, the wine will sing!
All of these wines are at their best with a chill on them. They should be served at about 40 degrees F. Since life sneaks up at times, and none of us own an expensive quick-chilling machine, it is important to let you know the quickest, safest chill method. Not the freezer, since the bottle can easily be forgotten, freeze and pop the cork or break. Also, it is not the quickest method. The faster, safe way is to put the bottle into an ice and water bath. Spin the bottle a bit, and in 20 minutes you'll have a perfectly chilled wine, with no danger of it freezing.
Top White Wine Discoveries
1. BAYTEN SAUVIGNON BLANC CONSTANTIA 2016 (South Africa)
Rated 92 points, "Outstanding" by The Wine Spectator. This white from the Buitenverwachting Winery is one of the best Sauvignon Blanc values we've ever tasted. Refined, with flavors of white peach, gooseberry and verbena. Complex nose of orange blossom, stone and tropical fruits. Finishes with long, dry finish. Our top new Wow Wine. ($13)
2. GOBELSBURG GRUNER VELTLINER KAMPTAL 2016 (Austria)
We love this indigenous Gr ner from the soils along the Danube River of Austria. It is beautifully high-toned, complex and a favorite of top restaurateurs. Match this to any well-seasoned dishes, and you'll be in heaven. ($17)
3. KING ESTATE PINOT GRIS 2015 (Willamette Valley, Oregon)
A clonal cousin to ubiquitous Pinot Grigio, this Gris showcases the elegance and textural beauty that this grape achieves in the great Yakima Valley wine region. Enticing bouquet, melon and tropical fruit notes, with luscious flavors of pear and white peach in the balanced, dry finish. Perfect with marinated, grilled chicken. ($19)
4. LICIA ALBARINO 2015 (Galicia, Spain)
The classic white grape of Northwest Spain's Rias Baixas wine region. This is beautiful paring with fresh clams, mussels and oysters. Vibrant, notes of fresh green apples, herbs and citrus. Singingly dry, refreshing finish. A must try. ($14)
5. KONO MARLBOROUGH SAUVIGNON BLANC 2016 (Marlborough, New Zealand)
Rated a Top 100 Wine by The Wine Spectator in the previous vintage. Great aromatics of citrus, gooseberries and passionfruit with classic ripe fruit flavors and a long, beautifully crisp finish. A wow wine for sure. ($10)
6. KRUGER RUMPF ESTATE RIESLING TROCKEN 2015 (Nahe Valley, Germany)
You don't know what you're missing if you don't try this dry Riesling. It matches like no other wine to blackened seafood or any highly seasoned dishes. Unique, intensely perfumed and expressive. Jasmine and marmalade notes with stone fruit flavors and dry, mineral notes in the finish. ($18)
7. DURAND RESERVE SANCERRE 2016 (Loire Valley, France)
We all love Sancerre, and this new vintage of Durand Reserve is our absolute best value from this great region. Classic, elegant, dry and gem from the Loire Valley. ($17)
8. ARGIOLAS COSTAMOLINO VERMENTINO 2016 (Sardinia, Italy)
Aromatic white beauty from Sardegna, Italy. Vermentino is perfect with seafood appetizers, grilled sea bass or a well-crafted cheese plate of Tallegio, Asiago and Langa la Tur. ($12)
9. ARCA NOVA VINHO VERDE 2016 (Portugal)
Summer isn't summer without cold Vinho Verde! The famous green wine of Portugal has explosive citrus flavors, a hint of frizzante and a dry finish that matches Mediterranean and Asian cuisine. ($11)
10. PASCAL JOLIVET `ATTITUDE' SAUVIGNON BLANC 2016 (Loire Valley, France)
This is a baby Sancerre and an exceptional value, from just outside the village of Sancerre. Same great grapes, soil and from a top Sancerre winemaker. ($13)
11. MONTENIDOLI VERNACCIA DI SAN GIMIGNANO 2014 (Tuscany, Italy)
Many travelers know the famous towered Tuscan town of San Gimignano, and it's delicious, indigenous grape Vernaccia. Montenidoli has produced the best we've ever found. ($16)
12. DOMAINE DE CHARMOY PETIT CHABLIS 2015 (Burgundy, France)
This Chablis is a 100-percent unoaked Chardonnay that showcases the classic, flinty, minerality and pure, singing fruit of the region. Clean, fresh and an amazing value from a renowned domain. Hard to believe we have an outstanding white from the famed Burgundy region at this low a price. ($18)
Serving any of these Top White Wine gems will make you a wine-maven hero at your next gathering!
Jim Nejaime is the owner, importer and wine buyer at SPIRITED Wines in Lenox, who is a passionate wine merchant traveling the world to find great wines since 1979.
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