A few years ago, the wine wonks at Whole Foods in Tempe turned me on to Vinho Verde of Portugal as the ultimate white wine to beat the heat. It’s low alcohol, dry and tangy palate and gentle effervescence proved ideal for the energy-sapping 115 degree inferno outside.
And the more research I did on white wines from Spain and Portugal and the rest of Europe, the more I came to appreciate their dry acidity, floral bouquet and supreme drinkability on a hot day. There are few turnoffs as big as a mammoth oaken chardonnay, with alcohol approaching 16 percent, on a day in the 110s.
No, light and refreshing Alsace from France, racy Albarino from Spain and bright semillon-sauv blanc Bordeaux are in order when the heat is on. Add some New World whites, such as those of sauvignon blanc from New Zealand and lighter-style California wines, and you can, indeed, stay cool when carrying on with friends and family.
One other white that deserves recognition for its heat-defying properties is any variety of sparkling wine. Most of us reserve these for weddings, winter holidays or other celebrations, and they do own those occasions. But a light, low-alcohol, chilled glass of Italian prosecco on a hot day is hard to beat. There is a dry, refreshing quality that emanates from the fine, fruity bubbles, which shouldn’t be confused with cloyingly sweet spumante sparkling wine also from Italy.
All of this said, it is still possible to enjoy wine while under a heat advisory. And it’s perfectly appropriate to serve it on ice. If your friends find it gauche, it’s time to find new friends. I say chill ’em down and serve ’em up. Here are a few light whites that can take the heat.
Fillaboa 2007 Albarino, Rias Baixas, Spain. Slightly more tropical than last year’s vintage, the wine shows a distinctive freshness that is soft on the palate (some albarinos can have some bite). Citrus and stone fruit comes to the forefront. Awesome with seafood or homemade ceviche. $19.
Souverain 2007 Alexander Valley Sauvignon Blanc, Sonoma. Winemaker Ed Killian says that this year’s release strikes just the right balance between crisp varietal characteristics and the gentle touch of some barrel fermentation. Not a lot, just enough to create a wonderfully balanced wine. Again, grilled fish is a good move here, or chill down and serve on its own. $15.
Sonoma Vineyards 2007 Sauvignon Blanc, Sonoma. Some wines you just like at first blush. From the packaging, to the color, smell and finally taste, some wines just fall into place right away and become part of your repertoire. This is clearly one. The wine bursts with tropical fruit and ripe grapefruit and continues to embrace with each refreshing sip. I like summer whites to be straightforward, uncomplicated and delicious, and this is it. Chill and sip on its own. $15.
Villa Sandi Prosecco DOC Extra Dry Claxa, Italy. I tried this bottle a few weeks ago and recently bought a second just to make sure I nailed it right: I love this delicious, easy-to-drink sparkler. It’s intensely fruity with distinct golden apple notes, and at a mere 11 percent alcohol, it’s well suited to sip poolside. Steamed fish with herbs and lemon makes a good pairing. $17.
White Truck 2007 California White Wine. An amazing value performer among the group. Talk about clean and pure. This enticing blend of sauv blanc, chardonnay, viognier and pinot grigio benefits from each variety’s characteristics without the weight and mask of oak aging. Lovely Santa Barbara chardonnay is married with bright Lake County sauv blanc, which then receives lesser touches of acid and aromatics from Central Coast pinot grigio and viognier. There is a lot going on in this bottle that costs a mere $10. Enjoy.
Got a wine- and spirits-related question you’d like to see addressed in a column? Contact Mark at email@example.com.