24 Dry White Wines to Try When You Don’t Want Just Another Pinot Grigio

Because life's too short to drink bad wine.
Last Updated
Jul 14, 2022

As we swing into summer, we look forward to leisurely lunches, seaside sunsets, and lots of outdoor entertaining at home. Whether friends are coming over for an alfresco feast or you are enjoying a solo night in the garden, you're going to need wine—and plenty of it. Not just any wine: but dry white wines.

"Dry white wines stand out because they pair so well with such a wide range of fine culinary cuisine, as well as comfort foods," sommelier Chris Sawyer explains. Sawyer, a former personal sommelier to the Getty family, is currently the resident wine expert at Melier, a new wine platform changing the way consumers enjoy wine. He's a massive fan of dry white wines for their aromatic qualities and easy drinkability. Not to mention their lack of residual sugar means that they can be paired with everything from poke to pizza. 

What makes dry whites so hot right now? Sawyer believes that we, as a culture, have grown up and expanded our palettes and culinary horizons. "Back in the 1970s, sweet Riesling and sweet Chenin Blanc were all the rage, but look at the food culture we had. It was steak and potatoes, very basic kinds of things. No one knew anything about sushi or Mediterranean-style foods," he explains. "We didn't walk down the aisles at farmer's markets. We've gotten to a different level, and we don't need wines that taste like soda pop anymore." Instead, savvy vinophiles are searching for exciting whites that balance acid, fruit, and minerality. Ready to jump on the dry white wine bandwagon? Here are 24 bottles of delicious whites that are ideal for lazy summer sipping. 

Sauvignon Blanc

The most well-known of the dry white wines is Sauvignon Blanc. "There's a lot of great opportunities to taste Sauvignon Blanc, and the biggest point is they don't all taste alike," Sawyer says. Sauvignon Blanc is an indigenous grape native to the Sancerre region in France, but it's grown extensively worldwide. "The other great thing about Sauvignon Blanc is it's the mother to Cabernet Sauvignon. What would we have done without it? Cabernet Sauvignon wouldn't even exist. That's how big of a deal Sauvignon Blanc is, and I think people are starting to understand this, and its popularity is starting to grow."

He suggests avoiding the green fruit style of New Zealand and instead opting for well-established California producers like Spotswoode and St. Supéry. “St. Supéry makes four different Sauvignon Blancs,” Sawyer says. "They have about 200 acres planted—that is about 8 percent of all Napa Valley vineyards. They care so much about the grape." His favorite? The Dollarhide Estate, which is done in concrete and is "a little bit more complex, one that you're going to pair with a crab dish or a nice soup, and makes you feel sophisticated when you taste it."

White Blends

Many white wine blends are characteristically dry. Look for combinations that incorporate grape varietals native to the Rhone region of France: Roussanne, Marsanne, and Grenache Blanc. Viognier is another white from the Rhone, but it can be sweet, so if you prefer dry styles, look for blends without. "I think Grenache Blanc, a white mutation of Grenache, which is the most widely planted wine grapes in the world, is new and up and coming—it's different with a lot of body and texture." A perfect example of this type of blend is Kita Wine's 2018 T'aya. Made from a Native American Indian female winemaker Tara Gomez, it's zesty, fruity, and creamy.

Another one Sawyer recommends? "One of the best is the Tablas Creek blend. It's a very fancy Rhone-style blend that's fascinating to taste." He loves it for its ability to pair with almost anything. "With this kind of dry aromatic white wine, you're talking about pairing it with a lot of things on the plate. Maybe it's paella, and it goes with everything on that plate: the saffron, the prawns, the mussels, the chorizo." We'll toast to that versatility. 

Pinot Gris

While Sawyer is a fan of Pinot Grigio—"you feel Italian just saying it"—he prefers Pinot Gris, the grape that originated in the Alsace region of France and Germany. It's grown along the west coast in California, Oregon, and Washington. "Pinot Gris is an amazing wine with a higher tone acidity, and they tend to have more body to them and a little bit of structure." They also have a bit of minerality that makes them a stellar choice for pairing with asparagus, a notoriously difficult vegetable to pair with wine. Many well-known producers of Pinot Noir, like Sonoma County's Balletto Vineyards, make Pinot Gris. Another winery that excels at Pinot Gris is Sokol-Blosser. "It's a famous family, and they're celebrating their 50th anniversary this year," Sawyer says of the vintners. "I was blown away by their Pinot Gris. It was so good. I would drink that anytime."

Unique whites

There are also many other white varietals to experiment with—Riesling, Gewürztraminer, and Albariño, to name a few. Be sure to read the label before putting the wine in your shopping cart; it should say that it is dry. The last thing you want is to open a bottle expecting it to be light and bone dry, only to find out it’s a sugar bomb. Sawyer avoids Pinot Blancs because they tend to have an oily texture that doesn't appeal to everyone and highly recommends a lesser-known French white grape, Picpoul Blanc. "It's a very interesting grape to check out right now. It comes from the lower French Riviera, and you can blend it with different things, but it's also terrific by itself." For dry German varietals, look to Oregon or Mendocino's Anderson Valley. "At Brooks in Oregon, they do five to seven different types of Riesling, that are all in the dry range," Sawyer explains. "A lot of the vineyards that they work with are estate or an older vineyard, so they have a lot of character to them."

Chenin Blanc

Chenin Blanc is a white grape from France's Loire Valley with a reasonably neutral palette meaning it can be used in blends for everything from sparkling to dessert wines. "You can make it completely dry, but you can also make it very sweet," Sawyer says, "it's a grape varietal where you can go in both directions." In recent years, Chenin Blanc—by itself—has made a comeback. He advises seeking out the dry styles from California. "Lang & Reed is a fantastic example of Chenin Blanc," says Sawyer. "The winemaker there loves his Chenin. Once you fall in love with it, if you're a winemaker, you're probably going to be committed to it for the rest of your life."

Unoaked Chardonnay

Chardonnay is a surprisingly polarizing white wine grape. You either love it or hate it. However, we don't discriminate against grape varietals and believe that there is a Chardonnay for every palette. For those looking for dry Chard, choose a producer that doesn't ferment the wine in oak. "A Chardonnay that's big, buttery, and oaky has some residual sugar in it, which makes it not dry," Sawyer explains. Luckily, "unoaked Chardonnay has become a phenomenon that is traced back about 15 years." Because more winemakers are doing unoaked variations, consumers are starting to understand what the Chardonnay grape tastes like. Rather than just tasting oak and butter, they find more aromas and complexity. Cuvaison is a Napa winery that makes several types of Chardonnay, including one fermented in concrete eggs, a technique that is typically used to make Sauvignon Blanc.

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