While we relish the occasional splurge-worthy wine, let's face it: we're likely sipping on more reasonably priced, everyday wines that tend to fall in the $10-$15 range. So without further ado, here are our favorite white-wine picks that won't break the bank.
What will you be drinking this Labor Day weekend?
Photos: Anna Monette Roberts
Over Labor Day weekend, while everyone in America is plotting a grillout menu or basking on the beach, I'll be somewhere in the southern region of Germany tasting Riesling with the Wines of Germany. Of course, to get myself into the spirit, there's only one thing I could possibly be drinking: Riesling, the varietal that put Germany on the wine map.The Sugar HQ Riesling of the moment? The 2011 Armand Riesling Kabinett from Reichsrat von Buhl ($20). Despite its modest price tag, the wine hails from one of the most respected wineries in Germany, von Buhl. In our tasting, its green-tinged straw hue belied the dynamic aromas inside the glass — notes of peach, nectarine, vanilla, lemon-lime, and even pear. The aromas gave way to a zingy sip of white stone fruit with a lot of acidity and a lingering, well-balanced finish.
This wildly quaffable bottle isn't just ideal for a sendoff to Germany; it also makes for a pick-me-up at the end of a warm Summer night, preferably with a strong, creamy cheese or a light fruit dessert.
Photos: Nicole Perry
I'll admit, I'd never have thought to buy Georges Duboeuf's 2011 Domaine Les Chenevières Mâcon-Villages: as someone who lacks patience as a virtue, the wine has far too many accented and unpronounceable descriptors for me to bother even pulling it off the shelf when, say, a California Chardonnay is also staring back at me.
But now that I've tried it, I absolutely would: from the minute the pour hit my glass, I knew this wine and I were destined to be friends. The glass had such a saturated straw hue, it was like Rapunzel spun gold! One sniff brought a bevy of aromatics — nuts and fruit like apples and pears, and floral notes, like rose petals — followed by a creamy mouthfeel, citrus midpalate, and a long, lingering finish.
I wasn't the only one: "This is maybe the best wine I've ever had. I want to drink it all day, every day," another taster told me. "It's the type of dry white I'm always looking for: dry with a very slight sweet aftertaste," she explained. Everyone was shocked to find out its sticker price was a mere $14, and we all agreed that despite having a mouthful of a name, this white Burgundy is well worth seeking out.
A few notes on the rather unwieldy name: Domäne Wachau is located in Wachau, a wine-growing region whose steep and rocky terraced land is ideal for the cultivation of Grüner Veltliner grapes. Federspiel denotes the must weight, or sugar percentage of the grapes upon harvest, and indicates a wine with low to moderate alcohol (11 to 12.5 percent) and a dry to off-dry finish. Lastly, Terrassen simply indicates that the grapes were grown on terraced land, which generally produces wines with subtle minerality, thanks to the rocky soil.
Luckily, the anticipation was well-warranted. I loved this Gruner's perfume of crisp Fall fruit and grass, as well as its minerality; the slight effervescence made the wine remarkably sippable. I wasn't the only taster coming back for seconds: one taster even proclaimed the vintage to be her "favorite thing ever." The verdict? A resounding win with great value.
Truth be told, I could easily down a bottle of this wine solo (though I wouldn't recommend that), but I would wager that it would come to life when paired with spicy-sour-sweet Thai food or briny shellfish. I'll be sipping on mine while supping on fruits de la mer — specifically moules à la marinière.
"Tastes like flowers," one sipper said, and the comment was right on the nose (no pun intended). We came up with a laundry list of descriptors for the bouquet, as there were so many: apricots, fuzzy peaches, lime; honeysuckle, jasmine, rose; toasted hazelnut. The dry white's full-bodied mouthfeel almost had me thinking I was drinking a Pinot Gris, only this had a long, bracingly crisp finish that made it more refreshing than its counterpart.
Next time you find yourself on the hunt for a Pinot Grigio, go out on a limb and try a Torrontés instead; pair it with nutty crackers and a rich, semihard cheese, and you'll be more than picnic-ready. Have you ever tried this varietal?
Vinho Verde often has a little bit of prickliness to it; because the wines are young, Portuguese winemakers pump carbon dioxide in the bottles to keep them fresh. This was no exception: it was effervescent in a thirst-quenching, Sprite-can-opening kind of way. It didn't go straight to the head, though, like its bubbly brethren are wont to do. I enjoyed it solo, but dreamt of sipping it on the hottest of days, outdoors at a late-Summer music festival like Lollapalooza. Now if I could just nab a ticket . . .
One of these wines is Wyndham Estate's Bin 222 Chardonnay. Like a charred cob with a knob of sweet cream, this white is buttery, caramelly, and sweet on the side of the palate; it finishes warm, with hints of hazelnut and cardamom.I'll be the first to say I'm not a fan of oaked Chardonnays, but this rendition was admittedly pretty easy to drink. Others quickly concurred: "I'm not a fan of the varietal — particularly oaked Chardonnays — but this is actually nice," one taster said. "It's a nice blend of dry and sweet flavors. I really love this," another added. And just about everyone was shocked to learn of the wine's $10 price tag: we were easily willing to pay $20 for a bottle of this!
We're dreaming of enjoying it again very soon on a relaxed night at home, when we're looking for a wine to make the meal but that won't break the bank. Oh — and with some of our grilled corn on the cob, of course.
Photos: Anna Monette Roberts