Ten Splendid Summer Wines for Less than $7
Love to drink wine in the summertime?
Yeah, me too!
Trouble is, many wines are a bit too heavy, especially in hotter climates. For instance, those of us who reside in cities like Las Vegas don’t tend to drink as much red wine as our friends living in more temperate climates — including California and France. Sure, I do enjoy red wine during the summer on occasion, particularly in the evening. But my daily summer “go to” wines tend to be cool crisp white varietals.
White wines — including Riesling, Chardonnay, Voigner, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Muscadet, and even sweeter dessert wines like Prosecco — are more refreshing to the pallet than red wines. Perhaps it’s just a matter of personal preference. Your mileage and tastes may vary.
To me, red wines are ideal for drinking during the cooler fall and colder winter months. Whites are perfect for late spring and all summer. I cannot drink much red wine when it’s really hot outside because — red wine is served warmer and I tend to develop what’s called “dry mouth” after drinking multiple glasses. So, I generally consume white wine far more frequently and in greater quantities. The alcohol content of whites also tends to be slightly lower than reds. Fortunately, there are many splendid affordable white wines available in most places which are perfect for a warm summer afternoon.
Before getting to the specific wines I enjoy, first a few remarks about temperature. It’s absolutely critical to serve these wines chilled. Nothing kills a refreshingly smooth taste like a temperature about ten degrees too high, which is so common. Many of us drink wines served either too cold or too warm. My best advice is to take a bottle from the refrigerator, leave it out for about 5-7 minutes, and then (very important!) pour into a chilled glass. A minute or two later that’s usually the perfect temperature, and the glass will keep the contents chilled for the duration of consumption. Serve them cold, and enjoy!
Here’s a list of my top ten summer white wines. The only requirements were:
 I must have consumed at least a case each in order to get a comprehensive profile.
 The bottle must cost $6.99, or less.
 The wine must be readily available at most national retail outlets.
And now, for my top 10 cheap summer wines countdown:
(10) Belles Vignes Sauvignon Blanc [France] — This French-made budget beauty was a surprising discovery from Trader’s Joe’s. Priced at just $4.99, it’s readily available in local markets. Based on its popularity, evidenced by lots of bottles plucked from the shelves before my arrival (sometimes they sell out), it seems to be catching on as a decent and ridiculously affordable summer crowd pleaser. Dry and quite tart to the taste, there’s a slight pucker factor. Reviews generally describe Belles Vignes as “strong and complex, with aromas of white flowers, apricot, honey and exotic fruits.” The bottle is also indented with the vineyard’s crest. This looks and tastes far more expensive than it is. Belles Vignes is a consistent can’t miss wine suitable for just about any occasion. Found this back in April and dusted through about three cases, so far. Marieta also enjoyed a sip, or two.
 Lancers Rose[Portugal] — Wine snobs will scoff at this pick. But then, why would a snob be reading an article about cheap $7 wines? Lancers is one of the oldest, most popular wines in the world. It first debuted in 1944, towards the end of World War II, and quickly spread from its native Portugal to the rest of Europe. Soon, Lancers made it way across the Atlantic and has been available in the United States for more than 50 years. Lancers is distinctive for a number of reasons, perhaps most notably because of its unusual ceramic red clay bottle, although some more modern vintages are now bottled in a muted glass (I’ve seen both on display recently). It’s also a sparkling rose — not a white, like most wines on this list. Lancers has perfected the art of making fun and affordable wine for the entire world. I enjoyed my first bottle about 30 years ago and it’s just as refreshing and enjoyable today. Lancers is available just about anywhere, costing $6-9 on average. I regularly see it priced at $5.99 at Total Wine in Las Vegas. The only downside to Lancers is — it must be consumed an entire bottle at a time. After the wine is opened, much like champagne, it doesn’t keep well for the following day due to the pressurized bubbling method. I’ve never viewed that as a problem. More of an invitation. And if you have trouble consuming an entire bottle in on sitting, then please invite me over. I’ll bring the corkscrew.
 Santa Cristina Pinot Grigio [Italy] — I used to have a strong negative bias towards Italian wines. In many ways, I still hold this prejudice. I simply don’t find many Italian wines either worth drinking regularly, nor a good value. So, it was a pleasant surprise to discover this rare Tuscan-grown white that was a notable exception. About three years ago, we attended a wine dinner where Santa Cristina was poured. Something hit me at that moment. It was perfect for the occasion. I asked other quests for their impressions and the verdict was unanimous. Santa Cristina was a shockingly good gem of a surprise, to all of us. Since then, I’ve noticed this wine all over the retail market map — priced as high as $11 in some places and sold at a Dollar Store in another (yes, seriously — I bought out the entire shelf). It now seems to have hit a sweet spot of about $5.99 in markets where it’s sold. Lighty and fruity, this is a cheerful summer wine that stands apart from other Italian whites. However, I cannot recommend Santa Cristina reds, which I tried as a curiosity. Stick to the Tuscan whites in summer. They are a very drinkable bargain.
 Rebuttel Chardonnay [California USA] — If ever there was a cheap-looking bottle that screamed “Don’t Buy This!” the Rebuttel Chardonnay is it. Non-descript and virtually unknown, it’s a somewhat new palate-pleasing middle-ground of oak, dryness, and fruitiness originating in California’s Lodi region and Central Coast. White wine aficionados have become widely accustomed to what’s commonly known as “butter bombs,” and I sure love them, too. This is one of those departure wines which isn’t nearly as robust or oaky. It’s smooth and light to the taste. Frankly, I wouldn’t serve this wine if I was trying to create a powerful impression. Packaging and taste are not mind-blowing. However, if you enjoy consuming a multitude of signature tastes, this becomes a solid “go to” summer wine that’s good for a crowd. It’s priced at $5.99. I predict that in a blind taste test if served to a wide cross-section at a party, if this wine was poured, it would probably be among the most popular. Nothing too wild here, but just like a Volvo, gets the job done.
 Mbali Chenin Blanc-Viognier [South Africa] — This unusual South African discovery was a recent find at World Market. I’ve also seen it on sale at Trader Joes. Priced at $5.49, this is more complex than one would normally find in the “cheap wines” category. I’m quite partial to the Viognier grape varietal, which originated in Southern France but has since been widely grown throughout California, Australia, and the Western Cape of South Africa, which produces some marvelously drinkable wines. The trouble is, really exceptional viogniers tend to run a bit on the expensive side. This is one of those full-bodied whites that drinks in a higher taste class (Cline’s Viognier priced around $12 is the very best, IMHO). Actually, Mbali is blended with Chenin Blanc, but I don’t perceive much of a drop off in either quality or complexity. Mbali is one of those wines you probably haven’t heard of yet (it was new to me, also) and see it priced low and assume there must be something wrong with it. Quite the contrary. This is very zesty light 13 pct. alcohol summer treat.
 Menage a Trois Chardonnay [California USA] — This is a very popular California favorite with a crisp lemon and lime taste. Normally, I shy away from catchy names and ornate labels (which hype novelty over quality). Here’s a rare exception to the general rule to avoid cutesy sexy wines. All the Menage a Trois wines are quite good and they make a bunch. They make a dozen reds and six varietals of white. The chardonnays rank among the best on the market for the money. Priced as low as $6.99, either the Chardonnay and/or generically-labeled “California White Wine” are quite drinkable. Their Prosecco is also very tasty if you crave a bit more sweetness and want a little bubbly. If you venture to step up a little in price, the Gold label Chardonnay is bombshell wine, with 14.8 alc. content. Aged in classic French oak, it has a long lingering finish that’s very pleasing. All the Menage a Trois wines are often cited as bargains on most expert wine rankings. I agree.
 Segura Viudas Cava Brut Rose [Spain] — No summer list would be complete without including at least one sparkling wine (or champagne). Produced in Torrelavit, Spain, this was a shocking surprise we made this year which drinks as well as any $100 bottle of prized bubbly. Admittedly, I’m bending the rules just a bit because it’s rarely under $7, but I have seen it on sale. Listed right now at $7.99 at Costco, this rose-colored delight makes for the perfect toast. Highly drinkable, tasteful, gorgeous in color, Segura Viudas is far more than just a serviceable palate cleanser. Instead of pouring the dreadfully awful industrialized sparkling wines we often are forced to choke down at holiday affairs, Segura Viudas should be mass produced and made mandatory as the new rocket fuel for everyone’s 4th of July or New Year’s Eve. It’s superb. [Note: I’ve listed this pick on my favorites list before and received multiple comments from readers who have also enjoyed this selection]
 Emma Reichart Riesling / Emma Reichart Rose Pinot Noir [Germany] — This German varietal was a shocking discovery. We purchased a Riesling and a Rose from Trader Joes. They were $4.99 each. Not expecting much (I don’t like sweet Rhein Valley wines), this wine was a surprising find and one of the best new items on the market. She makes two wines — a Reisling that’s as good as any bargain wine I’ve tasted. But real standout was her Rose made from Pinot Noir grapes. Rose wines can be a crapshoot. Many are boring. Emma Reichart’s Rose, however, is the perfect summer pour. Simply labeled, gorgeous in color, fruity, with a clean aftertaste, Emma Reichart’s wines should explode on the market. This might already be happening. After enjoying a few more bottles, we returned to Trader Joes and was surprised to discover they were sold out. We ordered a case (and a month later, I’m down to just three bottles). Time to return to Trader Joe’s. I’ll race you there. Order this wine (either the Riesling or the Rose)– they’re fabulous.
 Revelation Chardonnay [France] — This wine is the steal of the year. Priced at just $5.99 and exclusively sold in the U.S. at Trader Joes, it’s, well — a revelation. Over the years I’ve enjoyed countless bottles of semi-expensive Chardonnays poured at various wine dinners and courses. This drinks as well as any $50 bottle. Cool and crisp, it has just the right balance of fruit and acidity. If I had to pick one bargain wine in the world to serve, for the money right now, Revelation would be it. Trouble is, it’s becoming much harder to find. After ordering a case a few months ago, my last few trips there came up empty. Finding out much about the Revelation label is a task. I presume it’s a blend of various mass-produced Chard grapes throughout the Bordeaux region of France, bottled, and shipped off to various parts of the world under assorted labels for different suppliers. But this is pure speculation. Retailer Trader Joes likely ordered a small initial stock and then saw it fly off the shelf. I’m hoping to locate more of this wine, drink more, and learn more about why it’s a cut above the rest of the bargains on my list. Note: I tried one bottle of the Revelation Cabernet Sauvignon and it was very good. But the Chardonnay is on a different planet.
So, what’s my Number 1 pick? I’m going to leave this coveted spot open and let you decide. Perhaps it’s somewhere on my list and should be ranked higher. Maybe it’s a wine I haven’t discovered yet. Perhaps you know something I don’t. If so, please share!
The sum total of all my
TEN NINE wines combined comes to $51.44 (plus tax).