Lowish alcohol white wines ideal for summer evenings

First published in The Irish Times, Saturday 28th May, 2022

The Irish summer is notoriously unreliable, but we are a positive nation and always try to suck up every last minute of sun. As temperatures rise and we venture outdoors to enjoy the sunshine, we start seeking out more refreshing, lower alcohol wines to drink alongside summer salads and lighter fish and chicken dishes.

We are looking for enticing vivid, citrus-laden crisp wines with bright flowing fruits, wines that will satiate and quench our thirst. Alcohol levels for red wines seem to be on a steady increase, but it is still relatively easy to find lowish alcohol whites, ideal for those long summer evenings.

Don’t ignore richer white wines completely though; with more substantial dishes, they can really shine. A Chardonnay, Viognier or Rhône-style blend, especially those with a little oak ageing, can provide an excellent partner for salmon, chicken and pork served with creamy sauces, barbecued white meats and fish, as well as mild curries.

Our go-to white wines are Marlborough Sauvignon, Rías Baixas and Pinot Grigio from the Veneto, all great options. Check the label for alcohol levels, as they can vary in strength, remembering that producers are allowed a leeway .5% either way. There are plenty of alternatives though.

I am always drawn towards Italian white wines, most of which are 12.5% or less. This includes Soave and the nervy fresh wines of Trentino and Campania. As well as the Ribolla Gialla featured here, I would be tempted by the i Clivi Ribolla Gialla (€22.50, 64 Wine) for a special occasion.

Elsewhere you could look out for most dry or off-dry Riesling from Austria, Germany, Alsace or Australia, Grüner Veltliner from Austria, or fresher unoaked Chardonnay. Portugal and Spain offer plenty of choice. Alvarinho and Vinho Verde from Portugal are made for summertime drinking.

The green verdant Loire Valley in France produces a bevy of summer whites, often at great prices, from Muscadet to Sancerre, including many great Sauvignon Blanc. Don’t ignore other grapes such as Chenin Blanc and Melon de Bourgogne.

Here are four different countries and four different grapes featuring as wines of the week, and no Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Albariño, Riesling or Chardonnay among them.

Ribolla Gialla 2021, Venezia-Giulia, M&S Found, Italy 12%, €11 Light crisp orange peel and pears with subtle almonds. This would be great with herby pasta dishes, or clam linguini. From: Marks & Spencer

Domaine du Haut Bourg Pavillon 2020, Muscadet Côtes de Grandlieu sur lie 12%, €17 A very moreish summery Muscadet with succulent sprightly pear and apple fruits finishing dry. Perfect with a bowl of mussels, cold shellfish, or creamy goat’s cheese salads. From:Wines on the Green, D2.

Wagner Stempel Sylvaner Siefersheim 2021, Rheinhessen (organic)12%, €22.50-23 A joy to drink; pure limpid pear and apple fruits scented with fresh herbs and a thirst-quenching citrus. Drink it by itself or with al fresco salads and picnics. From: 64 Wine, Glasthule; Blackrock Cellar.

Xisto Ilimitado Branco 2020, Douro Valley, Portugal 12.5%, €24 Zesty and bright with lively stone fruits, pears and a strong mineral backbone. Wonderful wine; I can see myself sipping a glass of this looking out over the Douro Valley. Try it with grilled oily fish including salmon, or chicken salads. From: 64 Wine, Glasthule; Sweeneys D3;; Pinto Wines, D9; Baggot Street Wines, D4; Blackrock Cellar, Blackrock; Loose Canon, D2; Green Man Wines, D6; Lennox Street Grocer, D8; Lilith, D7.

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