INSTEAD of going with the white wine you know, why not try something fresh and unexpected? And if our picks happen to also be good deals, who's to know? Here's our short list of stealth whites of summer.
Malvasia is an overlooked grape, one that's most often employed in sweet dessert wines. But there's also some marvelous dry versions. One that I'm enjoying this summer is an odd duck, a dry, intensely aromatic Malvasia from Croatia, which, for me, was love at first sip. Made from grapes grown in Istria along the Adriatic's northern coast, the 2005 Kozlovic Malvazija is pale yellow with glints of green and a scent of wildflowers. Taste it once and you want to ask: Where has this wine been all my life? With some roasted pistachios, it's a perfect warm-weather aperitif.
Chablis -- that is, Chardonnay from the northern Burgundy appellation of the same name -- is still undervalued in this country, the fallout from all the cheap plonk California used to sell under the French name. There's Chablis and there's Chablis (the French make some plonk too, it has to be said). For my money, Jean-Marc Brocard makes some fabulous examples, some of them premier and grand crus. For price quality, though, you can't beat his 2005 Vielles Vignes (old vines). His wines never see wood, so you get all the steely charm of Chardonnay made in this northern clime: a scent of citrus and flowers, a chalky mineral element and an earthiness that makes it such a dream with food. Nothing beats the combination of Chablis and oysters on a summer afternoon.
Albariño is usually a winsome white made in the Rías Baixas in Galicia, which is in the far northwest corner of Spain on the Atlantic. It's always a great buy, but in the 2005 vintage, Quinto de Couselo produced a big, beautiful one called Turonia. The fruit is extra ripe, almost tropical, with a zingy acidity and a firm minerality that makes the flavors dance across the palate. Of course, it's a classic match with raw shellfish and goes equally well with spaghetti with clams, grilled seafood and summer's lobster rolls. A basic, you can pour it all summer long.
2005 Kozlovic Malvazija Available at K&L Wine Merchants in Hollywood, (323) 464-9463, www.klwines.com; Liquid Wine & Spirits in Chatsworth, (818) 709-5019, www.liquidpartyworks.com; Silverlake Wine in Los Angeles, (323) 662-9024, www.silverlakewine.com; Sunshine Market in San Pedro, 310-833-4705; and the Wine Exchange in Orange, (714) 974-1454 and (800) 769-4639, www.winex.com; and online from www.bluedanubewine.com, about $20.
2005 Jean-Marc Brocard Chablis Vielles Vignes Available at Hi-Time Wine Cellars in Costa Mesa, (949) 650-8463, www.hitimewine.net; the Wine House in West Los Angeles, (310) 479-3731, www.winehouse.com; Wine Pavilion in Lake Forest, (877) 338-9463 or (949) 206-9531; and Woodland Hills Wine Co. in Woodland Hills, (818) 222-1111 www.whwc.com, about $22.
2005 Quinto de Couselo Turonia Albariño Available at Bicentennial 13 in Los Angeles, no phone; call Cobras and Matadors after 5 p.m., (323) 932-6178; the Cheese Store of Beverly Hills, (310) 278-2855 and (800) 547-1515, www.cheesestorebh.com; Topline Wine & Spirits in Glendale, (818) 500-9670; Wine Exchange in Orange, (714) 974-1454 and (800) 769-4639, www.winex.com; and the Wine House in West Los Angeles, (310) 479-3731, www.winehouse.com, about $16.