There’s an age-old saying that less is more. That rings especially true when it comes to spending less for more quality wine. The notion of inexpensive yet delicious white wines may seem foreign to those more accustomed to shelling out big bucks for bottles, but believe it or not, there are plenty of stellar wine options currently on the market that don’t break the bank. Here are ten white wines to set the scene for summer that won’t cost more than $20 at retail price.
Is daytime drinking on your to-do list this summer? Then this is the wine to get it done. This Vinho Verde comes from Portugal’s Porto region, and its 11% ABV makes it a wine that you can drink all day if you want, according to Katja Scharnagl, the Chef Sommelier at New York’s prestigious Le Bernardin. “It’s super fun and easy to drink, great acidity, perfect for sunny Sunday afternoons.”
Looking for something zippy and light? Look no further than this wine. It’s a classic Pinot Gris that displays tart fruit notes and nice acidity. An Oregon-origin wine, the grapes are hand harvested, gently pressed, and fermented at cold temperatures, resulting in a smooth wine layered with stone fruit flavors. “This is my patio wine for the summer,” says Ian O’Reilly, an advanced sommelier based in Napa. “A distinct lack of oak — no vanilla, cedar, buttery notes here — and dry finish makes it perfect for a hot day.” This is a summer white that O’Reilly says is best served ice cold.
This zesty Sauvignon Blanc is produced in San Javier, a village in the Rio Negro province of Patagonia, Argentina. It’s a hop, skip, and a jump away from the Atlantic Ocean, which has played a major role in making the wine so fresh. Sauvignon Blancs from this part of the world are similar in style to the zippy wines of New Zealand, but with distinctive tropical fruit and spice. “Citrus fruit flavors, along with a little guava and ginger, makes this wine a standout. The breezy freshness of the Atlantic Ocean comes into play and gives it balanced acidity,” says Odila Galer-Noel, founder of PRonCall.
Verdicchio, the “it” grape of Italy’s Marche region, has all the hallmarks of a quality summer wine. It has an alluring aroma with a perfectly medium body and freshness that makes it a more complex alternative to Pinot Grigio. It’s a style of vino that sommelier and Edgewood Properties Food & Beverage Director Sam Mushman loves to expose people to. “Verdicchio is my go-to Pinot Grigio alternative. I love introducing people to this grape’s layers of flavor, from ripe stone fruit, balanced minerality, and a slight nutty characteristic,” he says.
With a dash of minerality, this wine showcases the complexity of Portuguese wine. It’s a blend of native grapes Bical and Arinto, with a creamy texture and an acidic backbone that balances out all the fruit. Winemaker “Filipa Pato is making really fun and interesting wines in Bairrada, Portugal,” says Amanda Geller, sommelier at New York City restaurant Charlie Bird. “She works with local grape varieties and farms biodynamically.”
Another recommendation of Mushman’s, this golden-hued Godello hails from Spain and is the perfect partner for lobster. Mushman refers to it as the Chardonnay of Spain, because it’s a wine that can be rich and creamy and a little oaky when fermented in oak barrels, or it can taste like a tropical fruit bomb, displaying nothing but the grape’s natural flavors, when fermented in stainless steel, like this one here. “It showcases tropical fruits like pineapple, guava and citrus peel which are perfect summer flavors,” Mushman says.
“Tropical, exotic, and spicy,” says Tahiirah Habibi, sommelier and founder of The Hue Society, adding it’s a wine which will keep fans of white blends satisfied all summer long. “If you’re a sucker for blends like I am, this one will not disappoint,” she says. The wine is a bomb of a blend that includes 55% Chenin Blanc, 15% Chardonnay, 13% Grenache Blanc, 13% Pinot Gris, 5% Roussanne, 4% Semillon, and 1% Viognier. Each batch is fermented separately in French oak before being blended together some two months before bottling.
Produced on the hillside vineyards in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA within Oregon’s Willamette Valley comes this dashingly bright and balanced Chardonnay. “It’s just a fun wine with a ton of minerality to it that reminds you of Burgundian style Chards and fresh melons that will make you think of the summer,” says Alexandra Schrecengost, founder and CEO of Virtual With Us, a virtual tasting company.
From South Africa’s first Black woman winemaker, Ntsiki Biyela, comes this racy Sauvignon Blanc. It’s a wine that’s “layered with fruit and minerality that keeps you wanting more,” says Habibi. Produced in the Stellenbosch region, this is a wine that pairs well with lighter summer dishes, such as fresh green salads and grilled seafood.
Typically, when wine drinkers think of the Spanish region of Rioja, the first thing that comes to mind are red wines made from grapes like Tempranillo and Garnacha. But the white wines of the region — like this blend of Viura, Garnacha Blanca, and Tempranillo Blanco — are definitely worth spotlighting. “The simple fact that Rioja is finally putting attention on whites and now finally producing fresh, fruity, minerally whites is refreshing. Pun intended,” says Galer-Noel. Farming in the high-altitude vineyards, which sit on permeable sandy soil, along with the cool climate influences from the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, results in an elegant white wine that is crisp yet bursting with juicy citrus character.