Wine columns celebrating thirst-quenching selections to kick off summer used to focus largely on an assortment of suitable white styles. But recent interest in rosé has cast a long shadow over the traditional lineup of crisp, mouthwatering whites.
Instagram-friendly and propelled by aspirational lifestyle associations, smart packaging and celebrity endorsements, rosé continues to be a growth category.
It’s been more than a decade since rosé started to outsell white wine in France, due to changes in diet and consumption patterns. Canadians have followed the lead of American and British wine lovers who are drinking more rosé. The trend is driven by younger consumers, but there’s been a spike in interest across the board. The downside for rosé continues to be its close association as a summertime wine as opposed to an all-season, year-round option.
When it comes to summer sipping, however, I’m here to remind you about how many white wines are ready and waiting. Electric examples of sauvignon blanc, bright and balanced chardonnays and other dry whites with vibrant acidity are just the sort of fresh wines to relish in the coming months. Even richer and more complex styles of chenin blanc and white blends deliver freshness as well as intensity, which makes them enjoyable patio, deck or poolside options.
Leading the list of this week’s recommended wines are two outstanding selections from Blue Mountain, one of British Columbia’s original estate wine producers, which continues to excite. Ordinarily, after tasting through a range of new releases from a winery, I look for the bottle that truly stood out to share with you. In this case, I couldn’t select just one. Both impressed with the sort of character and quality to make them ideal bottles to have on hand for summertime enjoyment – and beyond.
Blue Mountain Vineyard and Cellars Reserve Chardonnay 2017 (Canada)
Founded in 1991 by Jane and Ian Mavety, Blue Mountain Vineyard and Cellars continues to be one of Canada’s top wineries. This estate-grown chardonnay is produced with grapes from vines ranging in age from 11 to 28 years and fermented and aged in a mix of French oak barrels of varying sizes and stainless-steel tanks. Blue Mountain’s reserve label was blended 10 months after harvest and received extended aging in bottle prior to release. The resulting wine offers terrific freshness, fruit intensity and balance. It’s really delicious now, with potential to hold over the next four to six years. Available direct through bluemountainwinery.com, $33 in Alberta.
Blue Mountain Vineyard and Cellars Reserve Pinot Gris 2017 (Canada)
Made with grapes from 31-year-old vines, this expressive and enjoyable pinot gris ranks as one of the Okanagan’s best. Its juicy and bright personality and refreshing character contribute to its immediate appeal. Thirty per cent of the blend was fermented and aged in oak to contribute to the wine’s weight, creamy texture and complexity. That barrel portion also rounds out the mix of juicy orchard fruit and subtle floral notes. The refreshing character and long-lasting finish makes this a terrific wine to enjoy now. Drink now to 2022. Available direct though bluemountainwinery.com, $33 in Alberta.
Cuatro Rayas Vendemio Nocturna Verdejo 2018 (Spain)
The verdejo grape is native to Rueda, Spain’s largest white wine producing region, which produces bright and pleasurable wines that are comparable to sauvignon blanc. The region’s characteristically hot days and cool evening temperatures have inspired winemakers like Cuatro Rayas to harvest at night to help preserve the grapes’ acidity. Boasting more concentration character then many verdejos, this is a terrific introduction to the charms of this unique variety. Drink now. Available in Ontario.
Flat Rock Cellars Unplugged Chardonnay 2019 (Canada)
Unplugged is Flat Rock’s unoaked chardonnay label, which consistently offers a fresh and fragrant white wine with attractive earthy and toasty accents from aging with the dead yeast cells (also known as lees) after fermentation is complete. The newly released 2019 vintage makes the most of its pleasing fresh apple and lemon-lime aromas and flavours. Drink now to 2022. Available in Ontario and direct through flatrockcellars.com.
Inniskillin Niagara Estate Pinot Grigio 2019 (Canada)
Thanks to appealing wines like this, pinot grigio/pinot gris has become the fifth-most-widely planted grape variety in Ontario. One of as many as five styles produced by Bruce Nicholson and the winemaking team each vintage, including a fragrant riesling/pinot grigio blend and two rich barrel fermented models labelled as pinot gris, the entry-level pinot grigio is made in a fruity and crowd-pleasing style. This offers a range of apple, citrus and tropical fruit aromas and flavours as part of a refreshingly juicy and balanced wine. Drink now. Available in Ontario at the above price and direct from inniskillin.com, $15.05 in Quebec, $15.50 in Prince Edward Island, $18.99 in Newfoundland.
Julia Florista White (Portugal)
The colourful label, which pays tribute to celebrated Fado singer and historic figure Julia Florista, stands out on store shelves but is short on details. Look all you want, there’s no mention of grape variety or vintage date. Anyone who takes the chance is rewarded with a crisp, lively and refreshing white wine that offers an exotic mix of tropical and floral notes, suggesting the use of a perfumed muscat grape variety in the blend. Drink now. Available in Ontario.
La Crema Sonoma Coast Chardonnay 2018 (United States)
La Crema consistently delivers a range of ripe and rewarding chardonnays including this popular Sonoma Coast label, which offers expressive fruit and well-defined oak notes on the nose and palate. The smooth texture and persistent finish add to the appeal. Drink now to 2023. Available in Ontario at the above price, $31.99 ($28.99 until July 4) in British Columbia, various prices in Alberta, $29.99 in Saskatchewan, $29.07 in Manitoba, $27.20 in Quebec, $35.99 in New Brunswick, $34.29 in Prince Edward Island.
Little Engine Sauvignon Blanc 2019 (Canada)
There’s no mistaking the grape variety here. The mix of refreshing citrus and fleshy peach and stone-fruit flavours with some attractive herbal green notes are textbook sauvignon blanc. But this isn’t the austere or electric Marlborough model. It’s more substantial and layered, with a satisfying juicy finish. Drink now to 2022. Available direct through littleenginewines.com
Robert Mondavi Winery Napa Valley Fumé Blanc 2018 (United States)
Marked by ripe citrus flavours, a concentrated and creamy palate and refreshing finish, Mondavi Fumé Blanc comes in a consistently engaging style. A blend of sauvignon blanc with sémillon from the To Kalon vineyard surrounding the winery in Oakville and Wappo Hill vineyard in the nearby Stag’s Leap District appellation, this was barrel-fermented for more richness and complexity. Drink now to 2023. Available in Ontario.
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