There have always been people who want to police how you drink your drink. As a long-time bartender and now a long-time drinks writer, I always thought that was utter bullshit. “You do you” is my motto. If that means you want to cut a Lagavulin 16 with some Coke to make a Smoky Cokey, go for it — they’re delicious. Likewise, the wine world has been known to shudder in their monocles if anyone dared cut a wine with sparkling water and ice. The white wine spritzer has a bad rap it 100 percent does not deserve.
The spritz is very popular in Central Europe and Italy. The word “spritz” is German for “splash” after all. The idea of cutting okay wine with a little water is not that crazy. Water can add a heightened sense of flavor to alcohol — see: whisky highballs. In this case, a mix of one-part sparkling water to one-part white wine over ice is the perfect late summer drink. The best part is that you don’t have to spend a fortune on the wine to use in your spritzer. You want something that has somebody to it — don’t get us wrong. But you don’t have to throw down $50 for a bottle of white to have a perfectly quaffable spritzer in your hands.
So, to get you into the white wine spritzer mood before summer fades away, I thought I’d call out a few bottles of white wine that suit the sparkling water and ice treatment. For the most part, these bottles are under $20 and available nationwide. Lastly, my advice would be to use a high-carbonation-level sparkling water and always build your spritzer like so: Ice, water, wine.
Turning Leaf Chardonnay
Winery: Turning Leaf Winery, Modesto, CA
Average Price: $7.50
Turning Leaf Chardonnay is probably the easiest bottle to find on this list. If you’ve ever been a cash-poor student, you’ve likely had your fair share of this wine once you burned out on two-buck-Chuck. Just go to Wal-Mart or Target. It’ll likely be there. The bottle also won Double Gold in 2010 at Jerry Mead’s New World International Wine Competition. So it has that going for it.
My biggest take away from this was always tropical fruit like mango. The winery also notes “butterscotch” with “peach and hints of oak.”
Look, it’s cheap and actually tastes like something. That makes it the perfect candidate for a very affordable white wine spritzer.
La Vieille Ferme Blanc
Winery: Famille Perrin, Orange, France
Average Price: $8
This is another easy bottle to grab off the grocery store shelf for summer refreshment. The wine is a blend of Bourboulenc, Grenache Blanc, Ugni Blanc, and Vermentino grapes. The fermented juice is left to rest in stainless steel tanks. So you’re not getting that old French wine-country musty oak cellar in a bottle, but you are getting something very drinkable on a hot day.
There’s a marrying of soft minerality with bright orchard stone fruits and a tart edge that’s never acidic. There’s a touch of brown, late summer grass next to a slight floral edge.
This stuff is described as “quaffable” by the people who make it. They’re right. It goes down way too easily on a hot day with nice mineral water and plenty of ice.
Chateau Ste. Michelle Sauvignon Blanc
Winery: Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery, Woodinville, WA
Average Price: $10
Up in my home state, Chateau Ste. Michelle has consistently been putting out quality wines at accessible prices for decades. Their Sauvignon Blanc goes through stainless steel fermentation and resting. Remember, we’re talking a wine at ten dollars here, you can’t expect some crazy amount of expensive oak and warehousing involved at that price. This wine is made efficiently to be drunk efficiently.
If you’ve ever been on an oyster binge in the Pacific Northwest, you’ve likely drunk a bottle or two of this wine. The wine has a honeydew melon edge with a fresh parsley counterbalance. The acidity is damn near absent. There’s a tiny sense of raspberry deep in the taste.
I drink a lot of this when I’m at home in Washington. It’s my go-to for spritzers (because I can get it in every grocery store) or at an oyster bar in the summer.
Francis Coppola Diamond Collection Yellow Label Sauvignon Blanc
Winery: Francis Ford Coppola Winery, Geyserville, CA
Average Price: $14
I got into this brand while I lived in L.A. back in the day. This Sauvignon Blanc doesn’t disappoint. The grapes are pulled from three valleys: Alexander Valley, Sonoma Valley, and Lake County. The grapes are then fermented and rested in stainless before blending and bottling.
Bright and minerally are the two biggest notes you’re left with. There’s also a sense of citrus pith that leads to a higher acidity with an undercurrent of tropical fruits.
The fruitiness of this one helps it shine in a spritzer. It’s also perfectly nice during a cheese course as long as it’s ice cold.
Robert Mondavi Winery Napa Fumé Blanc
Winery: Robert Mondavi Winery, Oakville, CA
Average Price: $19
This “Fumé” Blanc — a blend of 87 percent Sauvignon Blanc and 13 percent Sémillon — is a bit of a classic. Robert Mondavi started aging his Sauvignon Blanc in oak and the U.S.-specific-term Fumé Blanc was born. In this case, the wine is barrel fermented and then is aged in 60-gallon French oak barrels before the final blending with a small dose of Sémillon right before bottling.
There’s a lot to work with in this wine. I’m always enthralled by the orange blossoms that greet you. There’s a clear matrix of stone fruit next to apples and pears with a sense of marzipan and crusty bread smeared with butter both flickering in the background. The velvet texture of the sip sticks with you and beckons you back for more.
Water really opens this up, much like using a damn good whiskey in a highball. The nuttiness broadens with more fattiness and the blossoms really shine.
Sonoma-Cutrer Russian River Ranches Chardonnay
Winery: Sonoma-Cutrer Vineyards, Windsor, CA
Average Price: $22
I thought I knew California Chardonnay. I really didn’t until I visited this Sonoma County vineyard a couple of years back. This female-led operation is all about doing things sustainably and that shines through in the wine. The juice is mostly fermented in oak before resting, also, in oak. The result is a bottle you’ll want to buy a case of.
Ripe and juicy pears dance with crisp and slightly tart apples. There’s a slight honey sweetness that gives way to a nougat creaminess that’s clearly buttery. The oak peeks in with a smidge of woody spice before a nutty edge takes you back to that creaminess. The end has an almost brown-butter-meets-apple essence that’s very addicting.
This might be my favorite Chardonnay at the moment. It’s crazy good with oysters and sea urchins. Also in a spritz, all that nuttiness, creaminess, and fruit really shine through.