For the past few summers, white wine has been living in the shadow of pink drinks—particularly rosé, which has enjoyed a spectacular (and well-deserved) comeback. But the pendulum is starting to swing back in the direction of white thanks to new high-acid, food-friendly wines from Europe, as well as the dawning of the realization that cool-climate whites are really delicious.
Don’t worry, you don’t have to give up your pink wine! There’s plenty of room at the table for everyone, and there’s a time and a place for all of the wines. Instead, think of this as a reminder that a glass of crispy white on a warm day is one of those simple pleasures that makes summer even more enjoyable.
Here are our picks for 11 under-the-radar, food-friendly whites that are perfect for spring and early summer drinking.
Spain: Albariño and verdejo
Burgáns Albariño 2020
Albariño, a once under-the-radar crisp white from the northwest of Spain, is beginning to blow up. Most wines, including this one, are citrusy, lively and dry, with an intriguing hint of salt. Burgáns Albariño is made by Katia Àlvarez in Spain’s Galicia, where, by tradition, more than half the winemakers are women. The story has it that the wine trade in this coastal region, also known as “Green Spain,” is matriarchal because the men were too busy fishing to look after the wineries. This wine is born to pair with seafood.
Paco & Lola Albariño 2020
If the polka dots on the stylish label don’t grab your attention, the incredibly sharp and crispy green apple and intense citrus notes certainly will. It’s a wine with a clear point-of-view and crunchy acidity that stands up to the rich decadence of a saucy brunch.
We think you’re about to hear a lot more about Verdejo, a Spanish grape that was typically used to make fortified wine but of late has been increasingly used to make distinct and aromatic wines in Rueda, a central region not far from Madrid. This one has a slightly flowery, lemongrass aroma and tastes like peaches mixed with fresh sage. It’s a great match for a papaya salad or roasted veggies—a tough food for wine pairings.
Portugal: Vinho Verde
Bico Amarelo Vinho Verde
Portugal’s vinho verde (green wine) is a young wine known for being refreshing, lower in alcohol and extremely budget-friendly. This expression from the Esporão winery is slightly more delicate than many wines made in this style, but it still has all the bright fruit and tangy acidity that makes this so approachable and well-loved.
Quinta da Aveleda
Bursting with apples, pears and plenty of grapefruit, this delicious vinho verde is slightly more expensive than the other Aveleda, a fizzy wine—but it’s well worth the extra two or three dollars. We especially love the fact that it’s only 11 percent alcohol, making it one of our top picks for patio afternoons.
Mission Hill Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2021
From one of the Okanagan’s oldest wineries, this sauvignon blanc is an expertly balanced, elegant and light wine that starts with tangy lime and ends on a lovely orange flavour. The “reserve” family of wines at Mission Hill are a little more refined and flavourful than some of the other expressions, but thanks to the leadership of head winemaker Corrie Krehbiel, everything from this winery is pretty terrific.
Tantalus 2021 Bear Chardonnay
This south Kelowna winery makes exquisite whites, including this wild-fermented and lightly-oaked chardonnay—two of the biggest reasons it’s such a vibrant and fruit-forward wine. With fresh crunchy green apple notes balanced with a little melon, this one is a winner with cheese plates.
$23.48 at tantalus.ca; also available at private retailers in B.C. and Alberta.
2021 Family Tree – The Soldier’s Wife Sauvignon Blanc
Henry of Pelham Family Estate’s new line of wines all take their names from ancestors—this one is inspired by a grand matriarch who, way back in the day, managed to bear 14 children. The wine is delicate, straightforward and lightly sweet, and definitely what somms call a “drinker not a thinker.”
$16.95, henryofpelham.com; also at LCBO as of mid-May.
Rosehall Run Unoaked Chardonnay VQA
The vast majority of chardonnay wines are aged in wood, a process that gives them their distinct “buttery” taste and mouthfeel. If you want to hold the butter and learn what chardonnay tastes like before the wood, this gorgeous light and juicy wine—full of pear and apple notes—is just the ticket.
Mile White 2018 by Queenston Mile
With pronounced tropical fruit notes, plenty of crunch and a little taste of honey, this wild blend of five grapes is greater than the sum of its parts. It’d definitely work well with cheese, but could also be paired with a nice piece of salmon, or simply enjoyed on its own.
Benjamin Bridge Tidal Bay White 2020
With tropical fruits, lemon oil, honey and a dash of salt, there’s a lot to love about this beauty from Nova Scotia, including the fact that it’s low-alcohol—just 10 percent! One of the advantages of a cool climate like the one in the Annapolis Valley is that the long growing season and mild temperatures make it easier to produce super-complex, lower-ABV wines.