Wine lovers eschewing overly oaked whites in the summer months often gravitate towards the opposite extreme—reaching for aggressively acidic wines like New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. Zesty and undeniably quaffable, these wines have a consistency and reliability that’s both a blessing and a curse for those seeking to avoid oeno-ennui. Try also getting your fix from one of these worthy alternatives:
A few short years ago, Albariño wasn’t on most wine drinkers’ radar, let alone on their racks. Indeed, about the only place you could find it was on the “interesting bottles” section of the most extensive restaurant lists. But thanks to its vibrant acidity, minerality and peach notes, this Spanish native from the difficult-to-pronounce Rias Baixas (REE-as BUY-zhas) region is becoming a fast favorite to enjoy with everything from tapas to tuna tartare. Look for the 2008 Pazo Señoráns Albariño ($16).
Though its exact origin is unknown—most likely Portugal or Spain—this crisp white is now widely grown on the French island of Corsica and the Italian island of Sardinia. Vermentino has an attractive balance of luscious fruit and mouth-watering acidity, with a pleasant hint of bitter complexity. Residents of both islands sip it with the local catch, so try a bottle of Argiolas Vermentino di Sardegna Costamolino ($15) with some freshly shucked oysters or simply grilled fish.
Grown in the Piemonte region of northwest Italy with the Cortese grape, Gavi is acidic yet fruity, dry and balanced, with a steeliness not often found in Italian whites. Fantastic with seafood, it also partners well with pasta with cream- or lemon-based sauces, grilled vegetables or chicken Caesar salad. Check the wine store shelves for Banfi Gavi Principessa ($12).
Chameleon-like Chardonnay is almost unrecognizable when it doesn’t meet up with an oak barrel. Instead of toasty notes and a soft, buttery mouth feel, unoaked (or “unwooded”) Chardonnay remains crisp, with flavors ranging from apple and pear when it’s grown in a cooler region, to peach, apricot and even tropical pineapple and mango in a warm climate. So versatile with food, these wines will make converts of even the most devoted “Anthing-But-Chardonnay”-ers. Try the 2007 Domaine Chandon Monterey County Unoaked Chardonnay ($20).
Kelly Magyarics is a wine and spirits writer, and wine educator, in the Washington, DC area. She can be reached through her website, www.trywine.net.