Recommendations for a dry/ spicy white wine?

It’s summer and I want to drink nice cool white wine. However, I don’t like sweet wines-- I like peppery, spicy, dry things. At some point I bought a gewurtztraminer that was very peppery which I liked a lot; this turns out not to be a real trend and I must have gotten an odd one as all the ones I’ve tried lately were sweeter. Ideas for varieties? Regions? Pinot grigio? Should I give chardonnays a chance?
In case it isn’t already obvious I don’t “know” wines-- I like what I like and anything over 8-9 bucks is pushing it-- my tastes aren’t refined enough to appreciate the difference between a 6 buck bottle and a 16 buck bottle. At least not for this drinking-on-the-hammock-Thursday-PM level of sophistication.

I reccomend the sauvignon blanc from the linked winery in Napa. Its really good in a ‘not sweet’ way. Think of a grassy, lemon-lime and kiwis flavor.

The site says $18 dollars but I’ve seen it for $13 at Bevmo (with the club discount).

Hope that helps.

Gewurtztraminer is supposed to be sweet, so the one you liked was an unusual one.

Skip the chardonnays. As JCorre says Sauv Blanc is excellent, pretty much any one from NZ will do you.

Other varieties to check out are Riesling, Pinot Grigio, and most especially a delicious cool fresh young Verdhello - yum!

Do try a pinot grigio. Ecco Domani makes a decent one that goes for around $9.

It’ll be tough to find a Riesling to your taste; they’re almost always sweet. Some Gewurtraminners will fit the bill, but I don’t know any in particular.

Look for high alcohol content. Wine is made by letting the sugars in grapes ferment into alcohol. Therefore, if you take grapes with the same sugar content and make them into two wines, the drier one will have a higher proof, and the weaker one will have a lot of un-fermented sugar, making it sweeter. (Think of the natural sugar content as a see-saw – you can take any grape and emphasize the sweet side by sacrificing alcohol content, the alcoholic side by sacrificing sweetness, or a balance between the two.)

The rub is that alcohol content doesn’t tell you everything. If a vintner started with a grape that’s high in natural sugar, he could have fermented enough to make a rather high-alcohol wine while still having enough sugar left over for sweetness. (Think of two see-saws, one at ground level and one way high on a hill – no matter which way the see-saws are balanced, even the low parts of the higher one will be higher up than the high parts of the ground-level one.)

In general, grapes get sweeter the later you harvest them (because every sunny day the vines are photosynthesizing sugar; therefore, more time in the field = more sunny days = more sugar in every grape). Many later-harvested wines (especially german varietals like Gewurtztraminner) will be labeled “Spätlase” (literally, late harvest). If I were you, I’d stay well away from any Spätlase wines – even the very alcoholic ones will usually be no more than semi-dry. Look for Gewurtztraminner wines that are high alcohol content but do not have any notation that they’re "Spätlase’ or “late-harvest.” Once you find a couple you like, remember them.

I agree that there are Pinot Grigios out there for you as well, although you will also sometimes find a sweet one. You probably won’t find many Chardonnays to your taste. Oak aging (which is the overwhelming trend with Chardonnay) tends to smooth out the taste of a wine and make it buttery, and the Chardonnay varietal doesn’t have a ton of spice to it. However, you might like one that isn’t aged in oak so the acid isn’t smoothed out. Again, look for high alcohol content, as that is a good indicator that a wine will be dry (unless it’s been harvested late.)


I would go with a sauvignon blanc myself as well. They’re my favorite white wines; dry, crisp, and just a little bit rough around the edges. The usual description of sauvignon blanc is that it smells like a cross between freshly cut grass and cat pee. I really don’t understand the cat pee reference myself, but it seems to be tradition in describing this varietal. Don’t let that discourage you, though, it’s a great grape.

If you want to dry something a bit different and disctinct, there’s a couple of Hungarian wines I could suggest. One of my favorite white wines, period, is Cserszegi fűszeres (a cross between the Traminer grape and a Hungarian grape known as Irsai Oliver). It sounds exactly like what you’re looking for: it’s fragrant, spicy, acidic. It may be available from a number of different wineries, but the most popular is marketed as “Woodcutter’s White” from the Hilltop winery. (As you can see from the English name, at least one Hungarian company has its eye on the export market.) I know that Hilltop’s wines are available in England, Australia, and New Zealand, and I would assume there must be some American importers as well, although I don’t know for sure. Have a look, maybe you’ll be lucky.

For something a little bit different and dry, you can also experiment with the dry varieties of Tokaji Szamorodni. It’s not exactly the same as the famous Hungarian Tokay wines, but it comes from the same wine region. Szamorodni comes in both sweet and dry varieties and the taste is quite distinct from your typical whites. You might not like it at all. Then again, you may just fall in love with it. I’ve seen this in stores in the US.

My favorite wine ever is a very dry Gewurtztraminer (and so spicy!) from a very small winery in NorCal (Forestville area), but I don’ t think they sell commercially. They’re called Martinelli and do very limited production.

If you’re ever in the area, go tasting there and taste their 3 Gewurtztraminers - they make a regular, an off-dry, and a very dry version. It’s not super cheap, though.

I second sauvignon blanc for dry and crisp, flavorful white, but they generally aren’t spicy. My current favorite sav blanc is from Buena Vista (a Lake county, CA winery). I can get a bottle for $7.50 at my local liquor store or as little as $6 on sale. It’s fruity and dry and not at all sweet or cloying.

Pinot Grigio (or Pinot Gris, depending on if it’s Italian, French, or Californian) can also be dry, but will generally have a much lighter flavor than a SavBlanc.

I know it’s possible to get dry Gewurtztraminers for the mass market, but I’ve yet to find one that is consistent. I would second Cliffy’s suggestions for checking the alcohol content and making sure the wine you get isn’t a late harvest. I would also suggest talking to someone at a local wine shop or liquor store specializing in wines, because those folks are paid to know what they’re talking about, and they want you to buy wine that you will be happy with.

Darnit! Just as I hit submit, I remembered something else.

If you can get a viognier with a higher alcohol content, that also might be what you’re looking for. My favorites, once again, come from some of the smaller wineries in the area of Northern CA where I grew up, and I realize that it can sometimes be difficult to find mass production of wine of certain varietals, but if you can find a wine that’s just viognier, you might enjoy that.

First of all with respect to the Gewurz’s - the dry spicy ones can be had from Alsace but good luck finding them for $5-$8 (and you will definitely notice the difference between wines based on price.

My other suggestions for varieties and regions would be:
[li]Viognier from France (Rhone IIRC)[/li][li]Pinot Grigio from Northern Italy (not a favorite of mine but many like)[/li][li]Albarino from Spain (Galicia) which is absolutely awesome with shellfish - dry and crisp[/li][li]Latitude 46 makes a nice Washington gewurz that is not too bad[/li][/ul]

Yes, ask for an unoaked domestic. L’Ecole 41 makes a nice Washington variety but Chardonnay is not noted for the taste profile you are seeking. Chardonnay (at least domestic) is noted for being buttery, creamy smooth with lots of wood. If you want drier Chardonnay’s look to white Burgundy.

If you are truly interested in expanding your realm of wines then I would plan on trying to spend more on individual bottles and just have fewer bottles if need be. You can find many exciting and very good whites in the $10 to $20 range. And once again, if your tastes can’t tell the difference between $6 and $16 wines then you’re selecting the wrong wines. Your hammock shouldn’t be an issue as it doesn’t matter how you decide to enjoy your wine as long as you drink responsibly.

I forgot to cover the rieslings in my last post. Germany can produce the greatest rieslings in the world along with some of the greatest plonk, the secret is knowing what to buy and what you are getting. Virtually all German riesling sold in this country is QmP quality (I rarely see any QbA or lower classification rieslings so there is no need to go there).

As you go up in categories within German QmP’s rieslings the price increases and the residual sugar content (sweetness) increases. The categories starting with the driest and least expensive are:
[li]Kabinett[/li][li]Spatlese[/li][li]Auslese[/li][li]Beerenauslese[/li][li]Eiswein[/li][li]Trockenbeerenauslese (TBA)[/li][/ul]

Now the good news - decent Kabinett wines can be had for $8 - $12 from good producers and they are dry wines with low alcohol (typically around 8-10%) especially when compared with rieslings from the US and other countries which produce wines in the 11-13.5% alcohol range. These are excellent wines for the money and are great for quaffing. By the time you get to TBA you can expect to pay several hundred dollars for a half-bottle for an extremely sweet dessert wine.

Another excellent source of good bone dry riesling is Alsace where the grapes are fermented to complete dryness. Good rieslings from Alsace can run anywhere from $10 to upwards to several hundred dollars for the highly prized botrytized “selection de grains noble” (SGN) and “vendage tardive” late harvest wines.

The best somewhat dry (though it does have some residual sugar) domestic riesling to my tastes is the Chateau Ste. Michelle - Dr. Loosen “Eroica”, which sells for $20/bottle. Lots of riesling is made in New York but it is inferior to the other areas discussed here IMHO.

Wow-- lots of great suggestions here. This should give me a good start, at least. Thanks, guys.

I am now enjoying, with dinner, an absolutely steely, dry chardonnay from Joseph Drouhin of Chablis (France - Beaune - Burgundy) with no hint of sweetness and no oak or wood of any kind. I think, from your description, you would enjoy this and it was $12.50.

Another vote for Sauvignon Blancs.

We’ve enjoyed a couple recently from South Africa.

It might be a tough “mental” barrier to break through, but if you’re going to enjoy sipping a glass or two of wine with any frequency, consider buying it by the case. My local store gives 15% discount on mixed cases and 20% on a case of the same bottle. Call around.

Case of wine is 12 bottles, so you might be looking at spending around $100 but you can pick up $10 bottles for $8 per bottle.

A couple of possibilities from my favorite vineyard, Bonny Doon:

Clos de Gilroy. Haven’t actually tried this one, but their description of it sounds like it’d be up your alley. Direct from the vineyard price is $12.50, but you might be able to find it for less at a decent wine shop.

I’m a fan of Bonny Doon’s Pacific Rim Dry Riesling; yummy with spicy Asian food, and usually affordable – I’ve paid as little as $7 or $8 a bottle.

Yes. Alsation wines are truly unique, and worth checking out if you don’t mind paying a little more.

Try some Gewurztraminers from Australia and the Pacific Northwest - those are good too, and the ones made in the northwest will often will tell you what to expect right in the name - like ‘dry gewurztraminer’ or ‘late harvest’ (read: sweet).

You also might like Fetzer’s Sundial Chardonnay - it’s got some light spice notes along with a good amount of citrus and oak.

Also, try a fume blanc, like Ferrari-Carano. They are sauvignon blancs that have some oak aging to them that is supposed to give them more of a ‘smoky’ flavor.