White wines are generally less expensive that reds for a few reasons.
First of all, the grapes tend to be less expensive to grow than red varieties, and depending on the variety (such as Riesling and Pinot Gris in Washington), the plant can carry a higher crop than reds — often twice as much.
Second of all, making white wines generally takes less time because the wines often go into stainless steel tanks for just a few months before being ready for the bottle. In the case of some varieties, such as Chardonnay or Semillon, they might see the inside of a barrel for a few months. As a result, the wines get to market faster and provide a little better cash flow for the wineries.
Here are several delicious white wines priced at $15 and under that we’ve tasted in recent weeks.
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Lone Birch 2012 Chardonnay, Yakima Valley, $12: The Miller family, owner of Airport Estates, has farmed its land near Prosser, Wash., since before World War II, and a 70-year-old birch tree stands out among its vast vineyards. That lone birch is the icon for this second label. Bright fruit tones of white pear, Granny Smith apple and mango lead to flavors of citrus, jasmine and minerality. (13.8 percent alcohol)
Seven Falls Cellars 2012 Chardonnay, Wahluke Slope, $15: This value-minded label for Ste. Michelle Wine Estates focuses on the arid and remote Wahluke Slope, which is the backbone of many Washington wines. Aromas of buttered toast, apricot and lemon curd lead to delicious flavors that ooze with caramel, vanilla and apple pie, yet there’s a cleansing citrusy finish. (13.5 percent alcohol)
Willamette Valley Vineyards 2013 Riesling, Willamette Valley, $14: This is a delicious winemaking equation that includes low alcohol and 5 percent residual sugar. Gorgeous aromas of apricot, dried pineapple and beeswax give way to juicy flavors of pineapple, apricot and Pink Lady apple, all presented with great acidity. (8 percent alcohol)
Indian Creek Winery 2013 Muscat Canelli, Snake River Valley, $15: Perhaps the Snake River Valley’s most bucolic property, Indian Creek continues its tradition of producing fun and quaffable white wines with this grape that might be the planet’s oldest variety. Lychee, rosewater, Uncola and peach blossom aromas are matched on the palate. There’s sweetness (4.5 percent residual sugar) in Juicy Fruit gum and ambrosia salad flavors, which are balanced by a gradual building of acidity and a note of anise in the finish. Enjoy with spicy Mexican food and soft cheeses. (12 percent alcohol)
Corvidae Wine Co. 2013 Mirth Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, $10: This label for Owen Roe signals a delicious debut with Chardonnay. Its fruit-forward style offers a nose of fresh citrus, pineapple and mint, followed by bright flavors of Granny Smith apple, lime and lemon juice. Alcohol, sugar and acidity are nicely balanced, and the citrus pith finish plays well into suggested pairings such as chanterelle herb frittata, lemon roasted chicken or a smoked salmon salad with mango and avocado. (13 percent alcohol)
Ryan Patrick Vineyards 2013 Naked Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, $10: There can be some confusion regarding the amount of barrel influence on many examples of Chardonnay, but there’s no oak involved when the term “naked” adorns the label. Sweet pineapple and mango aromas that gather up peach, apricot, tangerine and slate notes lead into a nicely balanced and dry approach of white peach, starfruit and melon. It’s all backed by navel orange and lime pith. (13 percent alcohol)
Mercer Canyons 2013 Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, $13: Winemaker Jessica Munnell is hitting her stride for the Mercer family, and she continues to release food-friendly wines that also are easy on the pocketbook. Her Chardonnay presents sweet aromas of pineapple, apricot, melon and pear. The whiff of vanilla is a sign of the partial barrel fermentation. The brisk drink delivers fresh flavors of apple, starfruit and pear, backed by lemon chiffon acidity, cantaloupe and a lick of butter in the finish. (13.9 percent alcohol)
Eric Degerman and Andy Perdue run Great Northwest Wine, a news and information company. Learn more about wine at www.greatnorthwestwine.com.