/ story and photography by Pete Martin

I’m ready to get out and I bet you are, too. As many of us emerge from this past year, I envision a summer filled with impromptu get-togethers of good friends, tasty food and easy to drink wine.

Summer in the South can be hot, humid and generally sticky, which makes it important to bring or serve a suitable wine. Some lighter reds can work, but crisp, refreshing whites are often the best option. The good news: many of these wines can be found almost anywhere at prices that are so affordable you won’t feel guilty pouring with abandon.

We’ve got you covered with five great-value whites that are widely available, from local wine shops to your favorite grocery store. They are sure to hit the spot at your next summer gathering.

 

Acrobat Pinot Gris, $12

Pinot gris may not be top of mind when buying wine, but maybe it should be.

It’s one of the most food-friendly wines you can find, it’s affordable and most people like it when they try it. In Italy, the grape is known as pinot grigio, and the wine is much lighter. The Acrobat hails from Oregon and has fresh, bright, crisp flavors of honey, pear, apple and lime. The wine’s medium body, touch of sweetness and crisp acidity is perfect on its own, but complements spicy appetizers, seafood and grilled meats and vegetables exceptionally well. At this price, you can
keep a bottle or two on hand.

 

Loosen Bros. Dr. L Riesling, $12

A great opportunity for people unfamiliar with German wines.

Loosen Bros. makes a variety of wines at different price points. The Dr. L rieslings are the winery’s value-focused bottlings. They are low in alcohol and available in regular, dry and sparkling. The “regular” version I tasted is a bright, fruit-forward wine, with flavors of stone fruit, peach, cantaloupe and honeydew. Although this wine is billed as medium-dry, I found it to be sweet, but I think it would pair splendidly with salmon or lobster.

 

Au Bon Climat Santa Barbara County Chardonnay, $22

Don’t let the price fool you; this is better than many chardonnays at twice the price.

A few years ago, I met Jim Clendenen, Au Bon Climat’s owner and winemaker, and had the opportunity to talk with him over a lunch he personally prepared for his employees and guests. Clendenen, who recently died, was perhaps best known for his pinot noir but he also produced incredible chardonnay, clearly influenced by his years working in France. Au Bon Climat focuses on creativity, credibility and consistent quality, rather than appealing to critics. The entry-level chardonnay presents a light, golden-green color, a nose of subtle oak and refined flavors of lemon-lime and vanilla. Pair it with fish, poultry or light appetizers.

 

Loveblock Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough, $17

Subtle enough to pair with many foods, but bold enough to stand up to strong flavors.

Chances are you are familiar with Kim Crawford. His wines, launched in the mid-1990s in New Zealand, quickly became well-known. Crawford sold his namesake winery and now, with his wife, Erica, owns Loveblock Vintners. Rather than simply produce another big, aromatic sauvignon blanc, he opted to produce wine with a more elegant style. Here, you’ll find aromas of apple and peach, a long mouthfeel, hints of stone and soil, and a moderately heavy body. What you won’t find is an overly grassy quality.

 

Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc-Viognier, $15

Share this highly versatile, easy-to-drink wine with your friends.

This wine started life as an experimental blend back in 1995, and eventually became one of the most popular wines in the Pine Ridge portfolio. The winery is based in Napa, but it sources the chenin blanc for this wine from the Clarksburg appellation near Sacramento and the viognier from the Lodi region. An aromatic nose of honey, lemon and lime is followed by a modestly sweet, crisp and fresh wine with flavors of pineapple, apricot, lemongrass and stone fruit. Sweet-tart fruits and melon round out the finish. Pair it with appetizers, salads, seafood and slightly spicy dishes.