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From a distance, the unsuspecting wine drinker might make the mistake that people who drink only red wine have all the fun. But red wine just can’t compete with the “fun” factor that comes with enjoying a fabulous white. What do you think they’re drinking on those multi-million dollar yachts or poolside at every Relais & Châteaux resort?
From ever-popular chardonnay to zesty pinot gris and evergreen sauvignon blanc, the predominant flavors of great white wines are bolstered less from summer’s red fruits and more by the yellow fruits of autumn. Citrus pervades the palate, and even herbs make regular cameos. And of course, white wines are best served chilled, making them ideal for warmer months.
Exquisite white wines are produced worldwide, and to make the task of picking the right one easier, here are some of the best white wines to drink now.
Best Overall: Dragonette Cellars Sauvignon Blanc Happy Canyon
Dragonette Cellars winemaker Brandon-Spark Gillis seems only capable of making world-class, complex, utterly lip-smacking and satisfying wines. He also has the good fortune of working with vineyards that lie atop ideal marine and sandy soils where warm days are bookended by cool mornings and evenings—the perfect growing conditions for making exceptional sauvignon blanc. Tack on a year of a particularly cool growing season, and you’ve got lightning in a bottle (that you can drink).
Expect flavors of crisp apple, pear, peach, lemon, minerals and delicate herbs. This is a beautifully dry wine with a crisp and refreshing finish.
Best California: 2016 Liquid Farm Golden Slope Chardonnay
James Sparks, Liquid Farm’s award-winning winemaker, got his start making wine for Dragonette Cellars and has made a name for himself striving for purity, typicity, and minimalist expression of his vineyards. (Incidentally, Brandon Spark-Gillis made the first Liquid Farm wines, and James is his brother-in-law). The 2016 Golden Slope Chardonnay is an excellent example of Sparks’ finest achievements in winemaking and you’ll want to dive in to see what all the fuss is about.
Notes of honey-drenched apples, vanilla, and salted French butter are underscored by marzipan-like nuttiness. Bold and zippy, this wine has a full-bodied minerality and nominal staying power.
Related: The Best Wines
Runner-Up, Best California: 2017 Benovia La Pommeraie Chardonnay
Mike Sullivan, winemaker and co-owner of Benovia, has lived a life devoted to working hard and making quality wines since he was a teenager. This 2017 La Pommeraie Chardonnay is what happens when professional expertise meets high quality—a proud representation of Sonoma County at its best.
Find heady aromas of lemon, lime, and pineapple in the forefront, with pear, oak, and lemon curd to follow, and flavors of orange peel enrobed with caramel. This wine is bold with a sturdy structure and mild acidity, and it settles over the tongue like a sweet, heavy blanket.
Best Oregon: Cristom Pinot Gris
Oregon is full of wonderful surprises, including Cristom’s zingy pinot gris. Cristom’s not-so-secret weapon is the power of its vineyards, densely-packed with vines atop ancient flood deposits from the end of the last ice age. The result is like a brisk walk in the woods after a rain.
With its attractive light gold color, this bottle hosts refreshing aromas of spiced pear and honey with flavors of pear, green apple, minerals and melon. Dry and crisp, this is a light and refreshing wine.
Related: The Best Pinot Grigios
Best Washington: Seven Hills Winery Sauvignon Blanc
Casey McClellan at Seven Hills showcases his decades-long expertise as an esteemed winemaker in this flashy sauvignon blanc. Walla Walla Valley is known for its sundry microclimates and soil types, producing distinct wines that pop right out of the glass.
The word you’re looking for here is zesty: tangerine, grapefruit, pineapple, honeysuckle, and a sprinkling of jasmine and basil leaves. Dry and mildly sweet with a sturdy acidity, this bottle is best paired with baked salmon.
Best Italian: 2018 Antinori Castello della Sala Cervaro Chardonnay
Having been in the business since the late 1300s, you can always trust the Antinori family to deliver amazing wine. And like the Antinori family who grew grapes in their Tuscan vineyards for multiple generations, this knockout 2018 Chardonnay fully encapsulates their style of winemaking: innovative, genuine and timeless.
This is a textured wine with notes of green apple, pear, vanilla, oak, hazelnut, and peach, along with an even acidity and a buttery finish. It's delicious now, but the flavor will improve over the next few years. As excepted, this beautiful Italian wine pairs well with pasta dishes.
Best French: Domaine Belle Crozes-Hermitage Les Terres Blanches
Domaine Belle’s history dates back to feudal times, but all these years later, they’re still one of the most impressive winemakers cultivating the land of the Northern Rhône Valley. Just two white grapes are permitted by law to be grown in Crozes-Hermitage: marsanne and roussanne, of which this blend is comprised of 70% and 30%, respectively.
Organically farmed grapes are aged in 20% new oak on the fine lees, revealing notes of melon, butter, quince, apricot, fennel and a light touch of honey. Medium-bodied with an edge of sea salt, this is an exceptionally strong white to accompany an array of dishes.
Best New Zealand: Craggy Range Sauvignon Blanc Te Muna Road Vineyard
Off the Tukituki River banks in New Zealand’s North Island lies Craggy Range in Hawke’s Bay, one of the nation’s best climates for cultivating wine grapes. The terroir is key for this sauvignon blanc’s quality that proves Craggy Range is a winemaking force to be reckoned with.
This wine boasts a diverse cornucopia of crisp flavors and fruity aromas like citrus, peach, passionfruit, gooseberry, pear, lime zest and elderflower. It also has a long, dry finish with acidity so gripping, it’s almost as if the wine is tasting you.
Best Value: 2019 Avalon Flint & Steel Sauvignon Blanc
As uplifting as it is delicious, this Napa Valley bargain gets its edge from the 2019 growing season’s moderate temperatures. As the name might suggest, this wine packs a sharp flavor that makes even a modest sip feel like a hearty bite.
Chartreuse-hued and ready to pounce, this wine has herbal aromas of lemongrass and citrus. Flavored with apple, peach and honeydew, it also pairs well with sushi and edamame.
Related: The Best Cheap Wines
Best Under $25: Zocker Paragon Vineyard Grüner Veltliner
The grüner veltliner grape is most commonly grown in and attributed to Austria and other eastern European regions. Still, Zocker Winery in San Luis Obispo, Calif. offers excellent expressions of the grape. The Niven family, who runs Zocker, pioneered the planting of wine grapes in the Edna Valley generations ago, so if anyone knows how to work the land to make some pristine vino, they do.
Expect bright lemon-lime and citrus peel with flinty notes in this wine. Clean and crisp, it's refreshing with a bit of plush mid-palate texture and a remarkably fresh mineral finish.
Best for Sangria: 2018 Flat Top Hills Sauvignon Blanc
The usual suspects used for a white wine Sangria are often from dryer varietals like riesling or pinot grigio, but please turn your attention to this 2018 Sauvignon Blanc from Flat Top Hills. This wine makes for the perfect base for a Sangria concoction with its inertly tropical flavors and aroma. And yes, it’s tasty all on its own.
Find strong aromas of tropical melon, guava, key lime and sweet citrus here. If you don’t use it for Sangria, this wine also pairs stupendously with creamy cheeses. Or, go ahead and pair the cheeses with the Sangria. No one’s the boss of you.
Best Dry: Château d’Yquem "Y" Ygrec Bordeaux Blanc
It’s almost unbelievable but believe it—the best dry wine is made by Château d'Yquem. This is about as rare as they come, so when the opportunity comes along, don’t look at the price, just dive in. It's pronounced "EE-GREK" and culled from the same grapes used to make Château d’Yquem's luscious sweet wine. However, these grapes are harvested early in the growing season when the berries retain remarkably fresh and crisp acidity.
Mostly sauvignon blanc with a bit of sémillon, this is as dry as they come, brimming with tart lemon-lime citrus peel, oyster shells, crushed stone minerality, and a chalky texture with gooseberry, kiwi, green apple, and quince. A stunner.
Best Semi-Sweet: Argyle Nuthouse Riesling
This estate-grown riesling from Oregon’s Willamette Valley is one of the many love-children of Argyle winemaker Nate Klostermann, mentored by Argyle’s esteemed founder, Rollin Sales. To eke out some extra flavor out of their rieslings, Klostermann likes to spend extra time soaking the grape skins—one of the many experimental nuances that make this wine a prize to be cherished.
This wine has a great mouthfeel with a fine blend of orchard fruit and sweet grass. Subtly sweet but with sturdily balanced acidity, it's fresh and long with crushed stone and smoky mineral notes. An excellent bottle for anyone willing to become a riesling convert.
Related: The Best Sweet Wines
Best Sweet: Château d’Yquem Sauternes
This divine French dessert wine is a real beauty. It's a canary yellow blend of the most exquisite sweet grapes from Château d’Yquem's priceless vineyards just outside Bordeaux—an estate with over 400 years of history and a feuding family replete with jaw-dropping tales, all documented in the book “Noble Rot” by William Echikson. Though it's not cheap, this is like luxury in a bottle.
This wine has lush aromas of candied tropical fruits, apricot and candied yellow peach. It's smooth, creamy, and lusciously textured on the palate with remarkable complexity, along with a long, intense finish punctuated by honeycomb, caramel and crushed almonds.
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Jonathan Cristaldi has written about wine and spirits for over a decade. He regularly tastes wines from around the globe and was named a "Wine Prophet" by Time Out New York for his witty and often avant-garde approach to wine education.