White Wines for Summer Sipping

A glass of white wine in a man's hand.

By Jim Peterson

Wine Enthusiast & Instagram Wine Influencer

There are a multitude of white grape varietal wines to enjoy during the summer months. It can be a bit overwhelming at times, staring at a shelf of white wines, trying to decide which bottle you should choose. What’s the best way to narrow the choices down to a select few that are most likely to please the palate? My favorite white wines for the summer are typically dry and crisp, often with tropical notes to evoke that island vibe while refreshing me and helping to survive the summer heat. With that in mind, let’s explore some of my favorite selections for summer sipping.



The many styles of Sauvignon Blanc (aka Sav Blanc) are at the top of my list for summer whites. I’m not sure there is a more refreshing white wine than a crisp, ice-cold Sauvignon Blanc when sitting out by the pool or outside on a hot, summer day. I would guess most people first think of the mouth-puckering, citrus-infused wines from New Zealand with the classic green apple and tropical profile. While there are seven regions in New Zealand that produce Sav Blanc, about 90% comes from the renowned Marlborough region. My longtime favorite New Zealand white is Cloudy Bay, but there are many others you can find on the shelves with similar characteristics.

I would not be shy about exploring the varying California Sauvignon Blanc wines either. Some producers use a hint of oak to tame the grape’s overt character, but I think it adds a layer of complexity without losing the vivacity. I tasted two fantastic examples on my visit to California last year – beautiful Sav Blancs from Merry Edwards in Sonoma and Sinegal Estate in Napa Valley. These are both slightly higher end, but well worth it. On the value side, I’ve mentioned it before, but try the Ferrari-Carano Fum Blanc. It is super easy to find and always tasty.

Let’s go to France next. I have been drawn to the white wines from Bordeaux going back over 25 years now. The classic white Bordeaux has a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon, but Sav Blanc rules. My all-time favorite is Château Carbonnieux from Pessac Léognan in Graves. My first taste was the 1995 vintage and I have been hooked ever since. The best white Bordeaux will even age well. I recently tasted a 1990 Carbonnieux – over 30 years old and still delicious. There are many excellent white Bordeaux in the value price range too, and most wine stores will have a nice selection. They are great as an aperitif or with an elegant appetizer course.

To wrap up the Sav Blanc recommendations, let’s go back to the Loire Valley in France. The regions of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé produce some of the most stellar Sauvignon Blanc in the world. There is an elegance about them I find impossible to resist. You can still get the flavors of green apple or pineapple, but there is a mineral characteristic imparted from the limestone soils that puts it all in balance. It’s Sav Blanc with a French flair. Take a chance when you see Sancerre or Pouilly-Fumé on the label.



The Arneis grape is grown in Northern Italy in the region of Piedmont. It was nearly extinct until 1967 when Alfredo Currado, enologist and owner of the Vietti winery decided to reintroduce this wine. The most famous of the Arneis are from Roero (Roero Arneis on the label), but you may also see Langhe Arneis too. I love love LOVE to sip Arneis. The limestone soil adds minerality to the wines, so Arneis is a perfect complement with seafood meals of shrimp, lobster, or white fish. As for recommendations, the red/white checkerboard capsule on the Vietti Roero Arneis bottle is unmistakable, so grab it if you see it. My other favorites include Morra, Marchesi Incisa della Rocchetta, Marco Bonfante, and Malvira’.


There are two fun summer white wines made from the Albariño grape. The first is from Spain, and the best ones are from Rías Baixas (Ree-as Buy-shas) in the coastal region of Galicia. To be labeled a wine from Rías Baixas, all wines must pass a tasting committee. This helps ensure you are buying quality wine. Rías Baixas has five sub-zones, and there can be subtle differences amongst the wines produced. Generally, though, most Albariño are characterized by crisp, elegant, dry wines with aromas and flavors of lemon, melon, pineapple, or honeysuckle, often with hints of salinity on the finish. This makes for a perfect pairing with all sorts of seafood dishes – from raw oysters to fish tacos to broiled or grilled white fish.

The second area is in Portugal, where the grape is called Alvarinho and the wine is Vinho Verde (veeng-yo vaird). I have a fondness for Vinho Verde because I first discovered it back in 1995 on our stopover in the Azores (Portuguese islands in the Atlantic) when flying our A-10s back and forth from Kuwait. Here was another wine I would sneak back home in my travel pod. The Vinho Verde wines are typically lower alcohol and have a slight effervescence that is unbelievably refreshing during the summer. I first thought it was “green wine” because there seemed to be a tint of green. However, the “green” refers to the region’s year-round verdant nature. When tasting Vinho Verde you might find citrus flavors of grapefruit, lime, or lemon, plus some honeydew melon and honeysuckle can show up. These are great party wines for a fun day by the pool.



I wouldn’t blame you if you have never heard of Txakoli wines. These obscure whites are made in the Basque region of Spain mainly using the Hondarribi Zuria grape. Like the Vinho Verde wines, there is often a slight fizz with these wines that brightens the mood. To see something fun, search “pouring Txakoli wine” on the internet and check out the unique way these wines are served in Spain – with a high pour to ignite the bubbles and release the wine’s aromas. Are you brave enough to try this at home? Even without the traditional “high pour” these wines are extremely enjoyable and worth seeking out. They are crisp and refreshing with floral, citrus, and herbal aspects.



I can’t move on from Spain without mentioning the most popular white wine in Spain – Verdejo. Some of the best Verdejo comes from the Rueda region, and the bottles will be labeled as “Reuda Verdejo.” You will sometimes see fermentado en barrico on these bottles, which means the fermentation occurs in the barrels. This adds a bit more texture and complexity to the wines. There are a few different styles of Verdejo, and they are often differentiated by the bottle type used. The leaner style of a straightforward citrusy, dry wine usually has a high-shoulder bottle like Cabernet Sauvignon. The rounder, softer, almost creamy style will use a low shoulder bottle like a Pinot Noir. It’s a helpful way to point wine lovers in the direction of their palate preference. Given so many in Spain love Verdejo, how could you go wrong?



I can understand if you’re wondering about some white wines I did not mention. I have written about great white wines like Chablis, German Riesling, Oregon Chardonnay, and Etna Bianco in prior articles. And a wine like Pinot Grigio, while nice for the summer, is so ubiquitous that most people have probably tried it. One of my goals is to help my readers discover new wines. Plus, I think it’s always fun to surprise your family or guests by serving them something they may have never tried or didn’t even know existed. For added fun you might consider serving it to them blind to see their reaction before revealing the bottle.

Just know I only recommend a grape or style of wine when I have convinced myself it’s worth recommending. You might say I have tried more than enough of these white wines to be convinced. Now it’s your turn. Let me know how it goes. Cheers!

Follow Jim on Instagram, @tx_wine_pilot, for more wine tips and reviews.


Jim Peterson is a retired U.S. Air Force officer who mainly flew the A-10 fighter jet. He has ties to the wine business going back over 25 years and is an avid wine collector. His extensive wine knowledge includes travel to many wine regions, tasting many of the world’s top wines, and ongoing personal wine exploration. He has cultivated a large following on his Instagram account, @tx_wine_pilot.