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These lighter white wines are hardly lightweight

In these hot summer months, TODAY wine columnist Edward Deitch enjoys three refreshing whites that match well with food and are not too high in alcohol.
/ Source: TODAY

I don’t know about you, but I am definitely not in the mood for big, heavy white wines right now. Temperatures have been in the 90s here in New York, and that means eating — and drinking — lightly. For me it’s a signal for refreshing whites that are not too high in alcohol and that are easy on the oak.

Chardonnay, especially the rich, buttery style that is ubiquitous in California, is off my radar for the time being. Instead, I’ve been on the prowl for interesting lighter whites that match well with food and are relatively inexpensive. Fortunately, they are not too hard to find.

A good place to start is Starborough’s 2008 Sauvignon Blanc from the well-known Marlborough region of New Zealand. With a suggested price of $15 (though you’ll find it for a couple of dollars less), this widely available wine has aromas of citrus and cut grass and a zippy tartness in the mouth. Notes of lime, gooseberry, a touch of fresh ginger and a layer of cream on the finish combine to make it a nicely balanced example of New Zealand sauvignon. Clams and oysters come to mind. Imported by Starborough Vineyards, Healdsburg, Calif.

For something quite different, the Jurançon appellation in southwest France, in the Pyrenean foothills not far from Spain, offers distinctive and original wines. The 2007 Jurançon Sec from Château Jolys is subtle on the nose and in the mouth with lemon, honeysuckle, herbal and floral notes. I liked the slightly rustic, earthy character of this wine, which was $14. Jurançon is made in a range of sweetness levels and “sec” refers to a dry style, in this case very dry. Petit manseng is the main grape in the blend, along with a small amount of gros manseng. Try it with simple fish recipes and a range of appetizers. Imported by Baron Francois, Ltd., New York.

From France’s Rhône Valley, Jaboulet’s 2008 Côtes du Rhône “Parallèle 45” is a winning blend of four white Rhône varieties: grenache blanc, marsanne, viognier and bourboulenc. The fruit shows beautifully in this vintage, with apricot, pear and pineapple notes, making this a delicious value at $13. Consider it with fish, chicken and pork dishes and as an aperitif. Imported by Frederick Wildman and Sons, New York.

Each of these wines is impressive in its own way. Together, they demonstrate the range and complexity that can be found in lighter white-wine styles. They’re perfect for summer and, with their very moderate prices, should be especially welcome this season.

Edward Deitch is the recipient of the 2007 James Beard Foundation Journalism Award for Best Multimedia Writing. He welcomes comments from readers. Write to him at