NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- As we move into the second half of the summer, temperatures rise and vacations beckon. This is not the time for heavy reds or serious whites. You want wines that will taste good on the beach -- light, crisp, low in alcohol, and good with salads and cold food.
Screw caps are a plus, since they obviate the need for a corkscrew. You don't want to pay more than about $20 for a bottle. But you also want something a little different, maybe even exotic, or a wine that will serve as an introduction to a grape you can explore further in the fall. Below, we list 10 fun white wines that meet these criteria.
1. Vinho Verde, Broadbent, NV, $9
Vinho Verde is the summer drink of choice in Portugal. It's lightly effervescent, relatively low in alcohol and has pleasing lemon and lime notes. This one from Michael Broadbent, a legendary British wine critic who started his own label, fits the bill nicely.
2. Txakolina Getaria, Ulacia, 2014, $18
If your idea of vacation is a morning on the beach followed by a long, leisurely lunch of grilled seafood and then a nap, more beach time, perhaps some tapas and then a late dinner, Txakolina is your wine. It's made only in the Basque country, and it's similar to Vinho Verde, although it has perhaps a touch more body. The effervescence in both wines means they pair well with seafood and lighter fare.
3. Isastegi Sagardo Basque Cider, 2014, $10
The Basques are also big consumers of fermented apple cider, which has about 6% alcohol and has a prominent acidity that will remind the American palate of beer. They often gather in sagardotegi, or "cider houses," to consume the beverage with grilled steaks, a pairing highly worthy of emulation.
4. La Guita Manzanilla Sherry, $15
The Basque country is on Spain's northern Atlantic coast; on the other side of the country lie the beach towns west of Gibraltar. That's where sherry comes from. Manzanilla is made in Sanlúcar de Barremeda and is a fino sherry, which means it's dry. It's about 15% alcohol, but its salty, lemony taste is perfect for fried seafood and goes very well with cured meats and cheeses.|
5. Muscadet 'Clos des Allées,' Luneau-Papin, 2013, $16
If you want a lean, mineral, dry wine, you want Muscadet. Made in the western Loire Valley near France's north Atlantic coast, it's an austere wine classically paired with oysters. The French usually drink it young, but ambitious producers age it on its lees (dead yeast cells), a process that gives it more body and aging potential. Luneau-Papin is one of the region's top producers, as is Domaine de la Pépière, which makes the similarly priced Clos des Briords. These work well as aperitifs or with sushi.
6. Grüner Veltliner, Gobelsburger, Schloss Gobelsburg, 2014, $15
Grüner Veltliner is Austria's great grape, one that's gone from obscurity to wine world prominence in a generation. Schloss Gobelsburg is one of the country's great producers, and their entry-level Grüner is a great introduction to the grape with its lean, mineral structure and white pepper notes. If you enjoy this one, pick up a bottle of their Lamm to get a better sense of what Grüner is capable of.
7. Monte Bernardi IGT Sicilia Grillo Liter, 2012, $13
Grillo is one of the most widely planted grapes in Silicy, where the natives use it to make a crisp, bright wine with aromas of citrus zest and a hint of wild flowers. This wine falls within that tradition; the Tetra Pak container makes it perfect for outdoor consumption. The producer, overseen by American Michael Schmelzer, is based in Chianti, and its Chianti Classicos are worth seeking out. Schmelzer also makes a very solid Sangiovese in Tetra Pak liter, which significantly reduces shipping costs and therefore the cost to the consumer.
8. Barboursville Pinot Grigio, Virginia, 2013, $17
Pinot Grigio is the archetypal light, crisp white. Many consumers reach reflexively for Santa Margherita, the producer that created the modern style of Pinot Grigio and has profited handsomely from it. This one comes from Barboursville, a producer located about two hours southwest of Washington, D.C., in the foothills of Virginia. It's drier and fuller-bodied than the Santa Margarita style of Pinot Grigio and shows the possibility of Italian varieties in Virginia.
9. Eva Fricke Rheingau Riesling Trocken, 2014, $20
Many consumers remain leery of Riesling, but it’s an ideal summer wine because of its low alcohol, good acidity, and apple/pear flavor profile that pairs well with salads. Rieslings also tend to do well after a day in the fridge, which is not true of many lighter-bodied whites. A number of German producers make excellent examples at $20 or less, often in a liter format and with a screwtop -- perfect for parties. This one comes from Eva Fricke in the Rheingau, a producer whose work is well worth exploring.
10. Crnko Jarenincan white blend, 2014, $17
Silvio Crnko says in this video that he drinks his Jarenincan white blend every day, and who can blame the man from Stajerska, Slovenia, just across the border from Austria? A blend of several white grapes, it has a charming nose of flowers and orange peel and a nice crispness on the palate. You’ll enjoy it so much that you won’t worry about what to pair it with.