Some of the most interesting and refreshing white wines I’ve tasted this summer depart from the familiar — ranging from a verdejo from Spain to a Virginia sauvignon blanc that can hold its own among sauvignons from just about anywhere.
But first, let me tell you about a top value from France. When it comes to Muscadet, from the far western end of France’s Loire Valley not far from the Atlantic Ocean, there’s a group of small producers who make highly distinctive wines, and then there is everyone else.
Among the distinguished group is Jo Landron, who grows the melon de Bourgogne grape (the sole variety of Muscadet) organically and biodynamically. He produces a range of Muscadets that reflect the terroirs of his individual vineyard sites, all with an emphasis on capturing the minerality of the soils.
Landron’s 2012 Muscadet de Sèvre et Maine “La Louvetrie” is at once refreshing and refined with a richness that belies Muscadet’s image as a simple fish and oyster wine. The mineral component is in the background in this one as ripe pear combines with subtle lime, a hint of white pepper and a slight brininess. It’s around $14 or so and a summer must have.
When browsing around wine stores, I am pulled toward bottles from lesser-known areas. A good example is Avelino Vegas’s 2013 Abadía Real Verdejo-Viura blend from the large Castilla y León region in northwest Spain. This $9 bargain combines two of Spain’s leading indigenous white grapes into a bright and fruity summer delight with white peach, pear, tropical fruit and subtle vanilla notes. Factor in a case discount and it becomes unbeatable at $8 or less.
Gavi is one of the best-known whites from Piedmont in northern Italy, though perhaps still under the radar here. An excellent example of the wine, which is made from the cortese grape, is Stefano Massone’s 2013 “Vigneto Masera” Gavi, with notes of green apple, a hint of pineapple and lemon-lime on the finish. Bright acidity and some minerality complete the picture in this impressive $12 value.
I am always on the hunt for good sauvignon blancs and was delighted the other day when I opened one from Virginia, Stinson Vineyards’ 2013 Sauvignon Blanc. Virginia has a thriving wine industry, and the fruit for this one is sourced from Muse Vineyards in Woodstock on the North Fork of the Shenandoah River in northern Virginia. Lemon-lime and green apple notes are punctuated by a subtle herbal and floral backdrop. It’s an elegant and impressive wine with just 150 cases produced and available from the winery for $23.