The following wines were the best out of some 75 white wines for under $10 tasted over the last several weeks. The wines were chosen on the basis of past performance, retailers' recommendations, critiques in other publications and, in some cases, general curiosity.
Obviously this represents only a small fraction of the inexpensive white wines on the market. Any good retailer should be able to recommend several wines of equal merit.
1990 Chateau du Cleray, Muscadet de Sevre et Maine, Sur Lie ($6.49, France). The exquisite yeasty, mineral flavors of this Loire wine suggest a non-sparkling version of Bollinger champagne. With its full body and complex, toasty flavors, it's a Muscadet that's not just for sloshing down oysters. Drink this year.
1990 R. H. Phillips Chardonnay ($9). This bright, lively wine is packed with flavors of vanilla, banana and lemon. For a California chardonnay, the acidity is excellent, making the wine taste very fresh and exuberant. Drink this year.
1989 William Hill Dry White Riesling, Willamette Valley ($9, Oregon). Crisp, dry and quite impressive for American riesling. Stylistically it's somewhere between Mosel and Alsace, but it leans toward the French style. Made by a Napa Valley winery from Oregon-grown grapes, it has appealing mineral flavors and can probably keep developing for two or three years.
1991 Davis Bynum Fume Blanc, Russian River Valley ($8, California). This crisp, racy wine has a good blend of melony and herbal flavors, with hints of pineapple and smoke. It's relatively complex for a California sauvignon blanc and quite intense on the palate.
1990 Binger Scharlachberg Riesling Kabinett, Kommerzienrat P. A. Ohler'sches ($7.49, Germany). This lightly sweet, medium-weight Rheinhessen wine combines flavors of apple and spice and a zingy acidity that makes it very refreshing.
1990 J. Pedroncelli Fume Blanc, Dry Creek Valley ($8.69, California). There's a definite herbal edge to this intriguing wine with flavors of melon and citrus. It starts soft but ends with a good zip of acidity.
Trefethen Eshcol White Wine, non-vintage ($8, California). A very fresh wine with flavors of pear, peach, apple and minerals. Not complex but intense and complete.
1990 Estancia Sauvignon Blanc, Monterey County ($7, California). This smoky, yeasty wine, with its hints of honey and pears, gives a good imitation of a top-quality Graves.
1990 Boordy Seyval Blanc, Sur Lie Reserve ($8, Maryland). Surprisingly complex, with a rounded feel and flavors of mineral, lemon and yeast. Good length and grip.
1986 Chateau Ste. Michelle Semillon, Columbia Valley ($7, Washington). This deep golden wine is one of the rare dry American whites that can age six years. It's time to drink up now, but it still has rich, complex flavors of pear, honey and spices and a good long finish.
1991 R. H. Phillips Chardonnay, Barrel Cuvee ($9, California). This wine is much like the 1990 listed above, but with a bit more obvious apple and lemon flavor and a slight coarseness that might smooth out with a few more months in the bottle. Drink over the next two years.
1990 Domaine de Tariquet, Cotes de Gascogne ($7, France). This refreshing, floral, peachy, melony wine with the appealingly sharp finish should be drunk with gusto between now and Labor Day.
1990 Dry Creek Fume Blanc, Sonoma County ($9.99, California). This perennial leader of the sauvignon set has once again showed its prowess with its varietal. The mineral and herb flavors are subtly intertwined, and the softly textured surface has steely structure underneath.
Very good values
California: 1990 Napa Ridge Central Coast Chardonnay ($6); 1991 Dry Creek Dry Chenin Blanc ($6); 1989 Preston Estate Reserve Sauvignon Blanc, Dry Creek Valley ($9.39); 1988 Lyeth White Wine, Alexander Valley ($7); 1989 Vendange Sauvignon Blanc ($6); 1990 Monterey Vineyard Classic Chardonnay, Monterey County ($6); Seghesio Sonoma White, Sonoma County 1.5 liters); 1989 Davis Bynum Fume Blanc, Russian River Valley ($8).
Virginia: 1991 Williamsburg Winery Governor's White ($8). This is an especially appealing, spritzy, lively wine. Not complex, but it's a wonderfully refreshing summertime wine.
France: 1990 Abbaye de Valmagne, Coteaux du Languedoc ($9.45), a very full, ripe, golden wine; 1991 Domaine Le Puts, Vin de Pays des Cotes de Gascogne ($6); Domaine de Joy, Vin de Pays des Cotes de Gascogne ($6).
Germany: 1988 Kinheimer Hubertuslay Riesling Kabinett Halb-trocken, Jakoby-Mathy ($8, Mosel); 1990 Bernkastler Kurfurstlay Riesling Kabinett, J. H. Selbach ($7, Mosel); 1990 Koberner Weisenberg Riesling, von Schleinitz ($9); 1990 Weinheimer Holle Silvaner, Gernot Gysler ($9, liter).
Italy: 1990 Bosco Trebbiano d'Abruzzo ($6.45).
Portugal: Aveleda Vinho Verde Bianco, non-vintage ($6). A spritzy, light-alcohol wine to enjoy with shellfish. With hints of salt and lime, it's a perfect beach party wine.
A5 Spain: 1989 Santorcal, Rueda Vino Blanca ($6.29).
Good budget buys
California: 1991 Corbett Canyon Central Coast Sauvignon Blanc ($6, liter); 1990 Corbett Canyon Coastal Classic Chardonnay ($7, liter); 1989 Chateau St. Jean Vin Blanc ($5.59); 1990 Cypress Fume Blanc ($6); 1991 R. H. Phillips Night Harvest Sauvignon Blanc ($6); 1990 Fetzer Sundial Chardonnay ($7).
Maryland: 1990 Fiore Seyval Blanc ($6); 1990 Boordy Maryland White ($6).
Washington: 1990 Columbia Crest Semillon-Chardonnay, Columbia Valley ($6).
Australia: 1990 Tyrell's Long Flat White ($7).
Chile: 1991 Santa Rita Chardonnay, Maipo Valley ($6).
France: 1990 Saint Jovian White Bordeaux, Reserve ($6); 1990 Armand Roux Verdillac, white Bordeaux ($8).
Italy: 1990 Remo Farina Soave Classico Superiore ($8).