Summer whites on track

One lesson from eight years of wine writing is recommending types and style of wine instead of specific bottles. Many often think of summer as a time for big Cabernets, Syrah or Malbec with outdoor grilling.

The annual pitch for readers to try dry Rose was the previous Grape Sense column. Today, the topic is summer white wines by varietal and style. A good, chilled, white wine is great with summer foods and perfect for late evenings on the patio or porch.

Let’s start with French whites. One of the greatest values of the wine world is Bordeaux white wines. The traditional white Bordeaux is a mix of Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon and/or Muscadelle. Sémillon is used in dry and sweet wines in the south of France.

It seems odd that a region known for the world’s most expensive reds would offer up the most drinkable and affordable whites, but that’s just part of the paradox of French Bordeaux. It’s unlikely you’ll find Bordeaux Blanc in most liquor stores. But better wine shops will have a few different labels. Really good Bordeaux Blanc is often found for $10 to $18.

The wines are refreshing and often described as light and fruity. White Bordeaux pairs really well with salads, seafood-stuffed ravioli, grilled tuna or shrimp, and try it with asparagus or sushi.

A personal favorite is the Bordeaux Blanc from Entre-Deux-Mers and the Saint Emilion region. They’re light and refreshing, perfect for a hot summer day. Just look for Entre-Deux-Mers on the label.

Oregon Pinot Gris is much easier to find in the Midwest than Bordeaux Blanc. Pinot Gris is equally affordable with plenty of choices in most wine shops. The most notable characteristic of Oregon Pinot Gris is a bright and pronounced acidity. That makes the wine a good pairing with seafood. Most bottles offer bold tropical citrus flavor with balance achieved from that pronounced acidity.

Most Oregon Pinot Gris wines are in the $14 to $20 range. For years, Oregon winemakers had a hard time giving the stuff away. But in more recent years, many wineries have upped their Pinot Gris production. Chardonnay also has been hot in the Willamette Valley. Most are made in a Burgundian style with little or no oak.

The classic Oregon Pinot Gris or the stylistic Oregon Chardonnay are great summer white wines.

Finally, a plug for Indiana. One of the most underappreciated whites is the hybrid grape Vignoles, originally from France. Vignoles is grown and produced by many Hoosier winemakers. The wine scares some people off because it’s often categorized as a semi-dry or semi-sweet wine. When Vignoles is well made, the wine has pronounced fruit with a dry finish.

On the palate, Vignoles offers up hints of pineapple, melon, peach and if you concentrate on the mid-palate and finish you might find a hint of banana. Vignoles won the Indy International Wine Competition top wine in 2012 and 2013.

Howard W. Hewitt, Crawfordsville, writes every other week about wine for more than 20 Midwestern newspapers.