This is the time of year I select my “house whites”: one, two, maybe even three white wines that will tide me through the summer as thirst quenchers and first-course wines, suitable for lighter foods or patio snacks before the main course. This is not to say I don’t like rosés – see my July column in The Washingtonian – or even reds – see my August column! But I tend to follow the maxim, “Never a white without a red to follow, and never a red without a white before it.” Even in summer.
So what makes an ideal “house white”? Preferably something inexpensive, with crisp acidity to refresh the palate and enough fruit to make you take notice without distracting from the conversation of the day or evening. These wines tend to be great partners with olives, salumi, even chips and dip, or ideal on their own.
Here are two suggestions for your “house white” this summer. The first is a downright bargain, worthy of purchasing by the case. The second is a little more expensive, but a dynamite wine and versatile with all sorts of summer fare.
Santa Julia Torrontès 2006, Mendoza, Argentina, $8. Torrontès is an obscure grape from Argentina that is becoming more prominent on our shelves. Yet no winery hits the value/quality quotient quite like Santa Julia, a winery known for value in all its wines. The Torrontès features the exotic fruitiness of a Gewürztraminer without the flowery sweetness. A delightful quaff or appetizer wine. (Imported by Winesellers Ltd, Chicago, distributed by Henry Wine Group; widely available, including Cleveland Park Wine & Liquor, Circle, S&R, and Connecticut Liquor, all in DC, and Rodman's, in DC and Maryland.)
Tegernseerhof T26 Grüner Veltliner 2006, Austria, $14. A deceptive wine – light and refreshing as water, but just as you want to shrug it off there comes an echo of mango, lime and spice with the backbeat of a steel drum and the flicker of a bonfire on the beach. (KWSelections; available at the following stores:The Vineyard, finewine.com, Curious Grape, Planet Wine, The Wine Cabinet, Balducci's and Wegmans.)