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15 best dry white wines perfect for chilled sipping on a sunny day

From sauvignon blanc’s to a crisp chardonnay, pour a glass of some of the world’s finest

John Clarke
Wednesday 01 June 2022 12:19 BST
While chardonnay is a go-to dry white, we tried viogniers, chablis and other lesser-known grapes too
While chardonnay is a go-to dry white, we tried viogniers, chablis and other lesser-known grapes too (iStock/The Independent)

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.

Read more:

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

Yalumba organic viognier 2021

Yalumba organic viognier 2021, 75cl, 13.5%.png

Best: Overall

Rating: 10/10

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • Size: 75cl

In the 1970s, the viognier grape was restricted to the tiny appellations of Condrieu and Côte Rôtie in the Rhone region of France. But then word of this highly aromatic and lush white wine began to spread and it took root in the New World, especially in South Australia where Yalumba and renowned winemaker Louisa Rose have produced some of the finest viognier available anywhere.

The secret, says Rose, is to treat a white wine with the same care and attention you would a vintage red. The end result is a huge food-friendly wine bursting with notes of honeysuckle blossom and apricot, tempered by hints of ginger and white pepper. And this example, one of the few certified organic viogniers in the world, is a bargain at this hugely competitive price.

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Chin Chin vinho verde 2021

Chin Chin vinho verde 2021, 75cl, 11.5%.png

Best: For a party

Rating: 9/10

  • ABV: 11.5%
  • Size: 75cl

Vinho verde, the Portuguese style of “green” or young wine, has been around for some time. But it’s taken some astute marketing by UK company Noble Rot and a couple of covid lockdowns for this crisp and dry white from northern Portugal to become a viral sensation and the wine of choice for Gen Z and millennials.

Charlotte Leith, of brand agency Lux, says its natural production eschewing herbicides and pesticides played a part, along with its “bold illustrative style” label and bottle. And the taste must have helped too. Bright, slightly sparkling with notes of green apples and lemon zest, it is the ultimate party wine and at only 11.5 per cent abv, it’s not going to leave you feeling too hazy. So, all we can say is “chin chin”.

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Mirizzi ergo sum castelli di jesi verdicchio riserva classico 2016

Mirizzi ergo sum castelli di jesi verdicchio riserva classico 2016, 75cl, 15%.png

Best: For a big occasion

Rating: 9/10

  • ABV: 15%
  • Size: 75cl

There are times when a big occasion – a wedding anniversary, a christening, a special birthday – calls for a big wine. And this one fits the bill admirably.

The verdicchio grape is grown mainly in Marche in Italy. It’s where, in the Castelli di Jesi wine region, winemaker Gianluca Mirizzi selects, only in the best years, the small bunches of verdicchio grapes that go towards this spectacular wine. After gentle pressing, the juice is fermented at a controlled temperature of 12-18C with indigenous yeasts. The wine is then aged for one year in 8,000l concrete vats. Finally, it matures for a huge 48 months in the bottle, which takes the overall ageing period to five years.

What you’re left with then is a golden-hued, multi-layered and full-bodied wine that has complex flavours of apricot and almonds with hints of pepper and honey and a long and luxurious finish. It’s already won a raft of awards and it’s hard not to see why.

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Berry Bros. & Rudd Albariño 2020

Berry Bros. & Rudd Albariño 2020, 75cl, 13%.png

Best: For a seafood feast

Rating: 8/10

  • ABV: 13%
  • Size: 75cl

Albariño, grown and nurtured in the temperate but lush sea-swept wine region of Rías Baixas in north-western Spain, never fails to impress. This example, a collaboration between Berry Bros & Rudd and Spanish winemaker Sucesores de Benito Santos, has that zingy freshness and saline-like finish that comes from its Atlantic location. Along with peach, apricot and stone fruit flavours there are zesty citrus notes that make it the perfect accompaniment to white fish and seafood dishes or just a refreshing and succulent wine to enjoy on its own.

  1. £13 from Bbr.com
Prices may vary
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Moillard-Thomas chablis premier cru 2020

Moillard-Thomas chablis premier cru 2020, 75cl, 12.5%.png

Best: For a touch of class

Rating: 8/10

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • Size: 75cl

It was the American poet and humourist Ogden Nash who said, “too much chablis can make you whablis”. Which goes to show that like all classic wines, this is something enjoyed best in moderation.

Considered by many to be the ultimate expression of the chardonnay grape, chablis has always been one of the most recognisable and admired French white wines. Known for its steely, mineral-like notes, or what the French term “goût de pierre à fusil” (a taste of gun flint), it also has barrel loads of crisp apple and citrus flavours, as this high-quality (premier cru) example from the Moillard-Thomas family shows. The grapes are fermented separately – part in barrel, the other in stainless steel – and then after a year of ageing, expertly blended. What you end up with is one of the wine world’s crown jewels.

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Domaine Weinbach sylvaner 2020

Domaine Weinbach sylvaner 2020, 75cl, 13%.png

Best: As an aperitif

Rating: 8/10

  • ABV: 13%
  • Size: 75cl

This is a wine that shouts refinement and elegance before you’ve even opened the bottle. From one of the oldest and most respected wineries in the Alsace region of France this is a wine that makes the most of the white Sylvaner grape. In the wrong hands, it can be dull and dare we say it, even boring. But Domaine Weinbach has banished the blandness to produce a dry wine from old vines that’s fresh and fruity with citrus notes and a pleasing minerality. A wine that’s to be enjoyed chilled with starters such as oysters or charcuterie or simply by itself as a splendid aperitif.

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Old Vines chenin blanc 2019

Old Vines chenin blanc 2019, 75cl, 13%.png

Best: For an alfresco meal

Rating: 8/10

  • ABV: 13%
  • Size: 75cl

Versatility is the name of the game here with a grape that can be sweet or dry and found at home in the Loire Valley where it originated, or like this example, in the foothills of the Cape Fold Mountains range in South Africa. Made from grapes picked from vines which are at least 30 years old, it has intense, fruit-forward flavours of peach and nectarine and a welcome acidic kick in the tail. It’s unoaked and a long lees contact gives it an added complexity. Yields are low, so it’s an attractive buy at this price.

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Whitehaven sauvignon blanc marlborough 2019

Whitehaven sauvignon blanc marlborough 2019, 75cl, 13%.png

Best: For a light meal

Rating: 9/10

  • ABV: 13%
  • Size: 75cl

Sauvignon Blanc is rightly one of the world’s most popular white wines. Originating in Bordeaux, it is New Zealand or more specifically Marlborough in the South Island, which has taken this crispy, dry and refreshing white and turned it into something special.

The couple behind Whitehaven, winemakers Greg and Sue White, left their corporate jobs, took to their yacht, and eventually ended up in Marlborough where they established a winery in 1994. Now run by Sue and Daughter Samantha, Whitehaven, offers wonderfully refreshing, bright and crisp sauvignon blancs such as this, with that inimitable flavour of passion fruit and gooseberry to the fore along with notes of citrus and pepper. It will bring a touch of class to any gathering.

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Giant Steps Yarra Valley chardonnay 2021

Giant Steps Yarra Valley chardonnay 2021, 75cl, 12.5%.png

Best: For a light fish dish

Rating: 9/10

  • ABV: 12.5%
  • Size: 75cl

Any wine that contains grapes picked from somewhere called Wombat Creek deserves recognition or respect. Actually, in this case, it deserves both since this Yarra Valley wine, which is made with minimal intervention from hand-picked grapes, is an example of just how fruity and fulfilling an Australian chardonnay can be. The whole bunch pressed into 500l French barrels and then fermented with wild yeasts, it boasts stone fruit flavours, layered with nectarine and citrus notes plus a creamy hint of oak. Enjoy it with fish tacos, grilled aubergine or a simple salad.

  1. £23 from Vinvm.co.uk
Prices may vary
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Tesco Finest sancerre 2021

Tesco Finest sancerre 2021, 75cl, 13%.png

Best: For a literary lunch

Rating: 8/10

  • ABV: 13%
  • Size: 75cl

In his memoir of life in Paris during the 1920s, A Moveable Feast, writer Ernest Hemingway can sometimes be vague about the friends and acquaintances he makes but he’s always exact about his wine. He celebrates a win at the races with “oysters and crab mexicane with glasses of sancerre”.

Nowadays you don’t need to have won a fortune to enjoy this wonderfully dry and aromatic sauvignon blanc from the Loire Valley. This example, produced and bottled by the Domaine Fournier Père et Fils winery, established in 1926, has that distinctive sancerre flavour of tropical and white-flesh fruits along with notes of lemon and a pleasurable minerality. And just like Hemingway did, you can enjoy it with oysters or crab or with green vegetables, light salads and cheese.

  1. £15 from Tesco.com
Prices may vary
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Bottega Vinai pinot grigio 2021

Bottega Vinai pinot grigio 2021, 75cl, 13%.png

Best: For a sunny afternoon

Rating: 8/10

  • ABV: 13%
  • Size: 75cl

Everyone knows pinot grigio, but its widespread availability shouldn’t detract from the fact that, in the right hands. it can still be a wine to savour. This outstanding example comes from north of Lake Garda in Italy where the climate can range from Alpine-continental with cold winters and cool summer nights to a more sub-Mediterranean style where the “ora del Garda” wind blows up from the lake to ventilate the evenings.

Whole bunches of the grapes are softly crushed to prevent the pink of the skins from being extracted after which the wine is kept in stainless steel vats for five months. The yellow straw-looking wine that results is delicate but with an intense bouquet of white stoned fruit and pear along with natural acidity. Pair it with a seafood risotto or cold chicken or turkey.

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Babich organic marlborough sauvignon blanc 2021

Babich organic marlborough sauvignon blanc 2021, 75cl, 13%.png

Best: For supporting a good cause

Rating: 8/10

  • ABV: 13%
  • Size: 75cl

There’s a backstory to this wine that’s worth telling. In a welcome act of philanthropy, New Zealand winery Babich is teaming up with UK-based charity, Frank Water, which works globally to provide safe water and sanitation to the world’s most marginalised communities. Babich Wines will be a “Monsoon Maker” partner, contributing towards funding, events and activities. The company already makes conscious efforts to conserve water in its vineyards and its certified organic wine is an excellent example of how good a marlborough sauvignon blanc can taste with intense citrus and passion fruit notes along with a crisp minerality. Buy a bottle and help a great cause.

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Rippon gewurztraminer 2020

Rippon gewurztraminer 2020, 75cl, 13.5%.png

Best: For a curry night

Rating: 8/10

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • Size: 75cl

Gewurztraminer must be one of the most distinct and recognisable white wines around. Enormously aromatic, it’s a white wine heady with flavours that range from peach and apricot to nuts and spice. Originally grown in the Alsace region of France this example comes from New Zealand where winemaker Nick Mills uses the knowledge he gained by working in Burgundy to produce a range of high-quality wines.

Made from vines grown in the grainy, schist rock terroir of the Wanaka wine region, this dry gewurztraminer has had gentle skin contact and an extended time on lees, providing a welcome and precise complexity. You can drink it by itself but it’s also capable of holding its own against a spicy curry or any strongly flavoured Asian dish.

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Les Hauts De Morin-Langaran picpoul de pinet 2021

Les Hauts De Morin-Langaran picpoul de pinet 2021.png

Best: For drinks with friends

Rating: 8/10

  • ABV: 13%
  • Size: 75cl

Picpoul de Pinet seems to have taken over from pinot grigio nowadays as the go-to summer wine of choice – and it’s not hard to see why. Crisp, refreshing, and easy to drink, it’s an eminently approachable wine that brings a lot of the sunshine from Languedoc-Roussillon’s Picpoul de Pinet AOC in the South France to the glass.

This example comes from Caroline Morin’s family estate close to the Etang de Thau, a salt lake not far from the Cap d’Agde near the famous oyster beds of Bouzigues. Blessed with lots of salty sea air, the picpoul grapes have a freshness and an acidity that complements the orchard, melon and blossom flavours and make it the go-to drink for summer sipping.

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Schneider gutedel weiler schlipf, weingut am schlipf 2019

Schneider gutedel weiler schlipf, weingut am schlipf 2019, 75cl, 10.5%.png

Best: For something different

Rating: 8/10

  • ABV: 10.5%
  • Size: 75cl

It’s always good to discover a wine that has been unfairly overlooked, and gutedel fits that category quite neatly. Known as chasselas in France, this ancient grape is one of that rare breed that is both a popular table and wine grape.

It’s grown in only a small region of Baden in southwest Germany and it’s here that winemaker Claus Schneider and his son Johannes have taken advantage of the Weiler Schlipf, a seam of limestone, that provides the gutedel with a terroir that results in a wonderfully crisp and zingy wine. White blossom and citrus flavours dominate with notes of apple and pear. The low-ish alcohol content makes it a splendid summer drink too, to be enjoyed by itself or with light dishes.

  1. £14 from Swig.co.uk
Prices may vary
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The verdict: Dry white wine

With such a huge range of dry white wines on offer, it can be difficult to pick out the best. But there’s always room for the classic wine varieties, whether it’s the chardonnay grape as grown in France represented by the superb Moillard-Thomas chablis premier cru or the equally welcome Giant Steps Yarra Valley chardonnay from Australia.

In the case of sauvignon blanc, it delivers with a luscious sancerre from Tesco and two New Zealand examples which impressed, the charity-aiding Babich Organic and the wonderfully refreshing Whitehaven Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough.

Other grapes including the Italian verdicchio, the Spanish albariño and the French picpoul were all worthy of notice but in the end, it was the underrated viognier grape that triumphed with an inexpensive but enormously impressive offering from Yalumba winemaker Louisa Rose that scored heavily on flavour, food-friendliness and price.

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