It was the Persian poet and philosopher, Omar Khayyam, who said that his recipe for a good time was "a book of verses underneath the bough, a jug of wine, a loaf of bread – and thou". It’s a formula which still holds up well nine centuries later, although for outdoor drinking in a warm climate the wine really needs to be chilled – and dry.
Chardonnay, a very versatile grape that can be found everywhere from Chile to California, is perhaps the best-known dry white but others are jostling for a position in the white wine premier league. including that New Zealand favourite sauvignon blanc, the Italian staple pinot grigio, the intense chenin blanc and those attractive upstarts vinho verde from Portugal and picpoul de pinet from France.
Our round-up of dry whites includes all those. Some may be in different guises. Chardonnay, for instance, has always been, as chablis, one of the great wines of Burgundy while sauvignon blanc in France’s Loire valley takes the name of the region where it’s grown, Sancerre.
Others may be less well known. The Italian verdicchio grape makes a wonderfully full-bodied white wine while the sylvaner grape is behind the elegant and sophisticated wine of that name from Alsace.
Happily, the range and styles of dry white wines on offer have never been greater. We look at 15 of them from different parts of the world but all of them offer the enjoyment and satisfaction that Omar Khayyam promised.
How we tested
The vast majority of wines were sampled, slightly chilled, without accompanying a full meal but often with snacks such as salted almonds, roasted fava beans or gourmet crisps. These are the ones worth sipping this summer.
The best dry white wines for 2022 are:
- Best overall – Yalumba organic viognier 2021: £7.49, Waitrosecellar.com
- Best for a party – Chin Chin vinho verde 2021: £12, Claptoncraft.co.uk
- Best for a big occasion – Mirizzi ergo sum castelli di jesi verdicchio riserva classico 2016: £70.95, Independent.wine
- Best for a seafood fest – Berry Bros. & Rudd Albariño 2020: £13.95, Bbr.com
- Best for a touch of class – Moillard-Thomas chablis premier cru 2020: £25.99,Majestic.co.uk
- Best as an aperitif – Domaine Weinbach sylvaner 2020: £13.67, Justerinis.com
- Best for an alfresco meal – Old Vines chenin blanc 2019: £12.95, Corneyandbarrow.com
- Best for a light lunch – Whitehaven sauvignon blanc marlborough 2019: £21, Hometipple.com
- Best with fish – Giant Steps Yarra Valley chardonnay 2021, 75cl: £23, Vinvm.com
- Best for a literary lunch – Tesco Finest sancerre 2021: £15, Tesco.com
- Best for a sunny afternoon – Bottega Vinai pinot grigio 2021: £12.50, Ampswinemerchants.co.uk
- Best for supporting a good cause – Babich organic marlborough sauvignon blanc 2021: £9.99, Waitrosecellar.com
- Best for a curry night – Rippon gewurztraminer 2020: £25.95, Leaandsandeman.co.uk
- Best for drinks with friends – Les Hauts De Morin-Langaran picpoul de pinet 2021: £12.99, Laithwaites.co.uk
- Best for something different – Schneider gutedel weiler schlipf, weingut am schlipf 2019: £14.95, Swig.co.uk