White wine lovers rejoice! The market is full of some tremendous values in the white wine arena. From single varietal wines to beautiful blends, there truly is something for everyone. Many of the white wines on our Best White Wines Under $20 list carry a good bit of vibrant, mouth-watering acidity, making them particularly perfect for pairing with food. From the gorgeous, perfumed nose of Torrontes, Argentina’s stellar white wine grape, to the sweeter side of a well-priced Washington Riesling, the generous styles and impressive range of quality-conscious white wines continues to make buying good wine at a reasonable price easy to do.
When it comes to California Chardonnay there is plenty to choose from, especially in the under $15-20 price range. With the regional Chardonnay pendulum swinging from over-oaked to stainless steel fermentation and back again with increasing intensity, Rutherford Ranch strikes an impressive balance between the unmistakable rich, creamy textures afforded by subtle oak influences and the vibrant, fresh acidity that showcases tremendous food-pairing versatility and highlights Granny Smith apple, ripe peach and citrus undercurrents. Rutherford Ranch delivers a crowd-pleasing Chardonnay that packs considerable quality into a well-priced, well-distributed bottle.
Pine Ridge Chenin-Viognier 2014 (CA) $14
Fresh-faced with brilliant perfumed aromas of citrus and floral nuances, the Pine Ridge Chenin-Viognier takes the lighter-bodied style and vibrant acidity of the Chenin Blanc grape and fills it out with the opulent, rich structure of Viognier. This delicious grape duo blends a load of citrus and tropical fruit vibes on a dry palate profile and wraps up with an engaging finish, which is incredibly food-friendly with everything from tricky appetizers to all things shellfish and pasta with cream sauce.
Plenty of peppy peach and lemon-lime citrus carry the inviting aromatic introduction of the popular Kung Fu Girl Riesling. Leaning towards the sweeter side of the Riesling spectrum (but not in the unctuous, syrupy danger zone), this Washington born 100% Riesling keeps things fresh with zippy acidity and forward fruit character. Perfect for pairing with spicy Asian fare, savory seafood picks or sipping solo sans food, Charles Smith makes a terrific every day, go-to, value-driven Riesling that holds its own time and again.
A classic New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc from the famed Marlborough region with telltale grapefruit aromas that pounce out of the glass and make a delicious second debut on the palate. Citrus-centered fruit wrapped around a tight core of refreshing acidity and a crisp, dry finish give this Sauvignon Blanc a versatile food pairing appeal that partners well with fresh oysters, summer salads, grilled shrimp and a variety of easy appetizers.
This distinctly sweet treat is one of the reasons that Moscato mania has gripped the nation. Paolo Saracco Moscato brings delicious balance to the sugar and acidity levels, while keeping alcohol in check at only 5% abv. A pretty, lively and refreshing white wine with fine sparkling bubbles that shows well by itself as a solo sipper or when partnered up with light appetizers and brunch fare.
Pinot Gris makes a marvelous meet and greet when it comes to Alsatian Pinot Gris. This ambitious ambassador is eager to impress with all kinds of apple-driven overtones and some nutty nuances on the nose. The marked minerality is two dimensional – gracing the aromas and coming full circle on the palate profile. With a little time in the glass, rich dense peach and tropical fruit components give way to a creamy textures, a rich round mouthfeel (thanks to natural malolactic fermentation and extended time on the lees). The finish is deliciously dry with considerable endurance. This Pinot Gris rocks with everything from herbed-stuffed poultry picks to Fettuccine Alfredo and simple shellfish appetizers. Fun to note that Domaine Zind Humbrecht uses certified organic and biodynamic fruit from some of their best vineyards to craft this particular Alsatian Pinot Gris.
*Pinot Gris (France) and Pinot Grigio (Italy) are technically the same grape, but styles vary widely with French Pinot Gris often catering to more rounded, fuller palate profiles and Italian Pinot Grigio running lean and crisp.
Alamos Torrontés 2014 (Argentina) $12
Torrontés is Argentina’s premier white wine grape. Coveted for its bright nose, lean lines and moderate acidity, this delicious South American white wine find is perfect for people looking to discover wines well off the beaten path, varietals that speak intimately of a particular place.
The 2014 Alamos Torrontés shows intense, floral aromas playing tug of war with the zesty citrus character of ripe tangerine. To say this wine is well-perfumed conveys a dramatic understatement; it literally charges into a gorgeous aromatic heap reminiscent of summer in full swing. Expect a crisp, dry, medium-bodied style on the palate with mandarin orange and lemon-lime flavors vying for attention.
The Alamos Torrontés showed exceptionally well with a mixed green salad, carrying walnuts, blue cheese, cranberries and apples with an apple cider and olive oil-based dressing. Likewise, this Torrontés could handle plenty of shellfish, grilled fish and even some spicy Asian fare. Drink well-chilled and within a year, max two of its vintage date.
Vinho Verde, Portugal’s popular (and ultra cheap) white wine, literally means “green wine,” a descriptive nod communicating that this particular (greenish hued) white wine should be consumed sooner rather than later, while the fun, fresh sometimes fizzy face shines through. Light, crisp and brimming with lemon-lime zest, this Vinho Verde stuns with lively acidity, lower alcohol levels and dazzling forward fruit. Must try with oysters on the half shell, grilled shrimp drizzled with lemon juice and summer salads with a light vinaigrette dressing.
The bright, crisp Albarino grape hails from the northwest corner of Spain’s Galicia region known as Rias Baixas. Burgans Albarino spotlights all that is adored about this unique grape – ripe peach with orange blossom aromas, dazzling acidity that’s perfect for pairing with local seafood and ongoing fresh-sliced lemon wrapped in steely minerality on the finish. A great price on a less familiar grape varietal, makes this wine a top find for pushing the international wine adventure up a notch.
An ultra fresh white wine grown and bottled in Portugal’s Vinho Verde region (spanning the northwest corner of the country), this bottle is not just another pretty label (though Pinterest people will battle for the empty bottle). Light-bodied with a crisp citrus-laden profile, and lower alcohol levels, this Portuguese white is picture perfect for pairing with all sorts of seafood and shellfish.
Urge to Splurge? Whenever I run a comparative wine tasting, I love to serve one of several Chardonnays in the over $20 range especially to folks with low expectations of the grape. Some of my favorites in the white wine splurge category include: Grgich Hills Napa Valley Chardonnay, Chateau Fuisse Tete de Cru Pouilly-Fuisse from Burgundy, La Crema Russian River Chardonnay, Beringer Private Reserve Chardonnay, Catena Alta Chardonnay from Chile, and New Zealand’s Kumeau River Mate’s Chardonnay.