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Five Summer-Ready Varietals You've (Probably) Never Heard Of

Fair weather wines

Find Folk Machine Tocai Friulano (front) and Matthiasson white blend of Ribolla Gialla Vermentino, and Italian varietals (back left) at Arlequin Wine Merchant in Hayes Valley. Photo by Erin Kunkel

It wasn’t long ago that rosés were synonymous with tacky suburban pool parties, and you’d be hard-pressed to find anything besides sauvignon blanc to satisfy a craving for something crisp when the temperature crept up. Lucky for us, we live in a place where wine lists and refrigerator cases citywide embrace diversity when it comes to white varietals, rosés, and even sparkling reds. Next time you’re stocking up for a Dolores Park picnic, look out for these addictive oddities on the summer wine spectrum.

From Italy’s Piemonte region, this red grape 
makes a sweet, fizzy, plum-colored dessert 
wine, with flavors like maraschino cherry, stone fruit, and apple pie, that doubles as a great 
picnic accompaniment.

Taste it: Try Gagliardo’s 2012 Villa M with 
cherry soda sweetness ($8.50 glass) at Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant (Embarcadero) 
and the equally fruity 2011 Birbet from Cas-cina Ca’ Rossa ($10 glass) at Perbacco (FiDi).

Named for the Friuli region of northern Italy, 
this varietal was, until recently, commonly known as Tocai Friulano (it proved too similar-sounding to Hungary’s sweet Tokaji wines). Friulanos tend to be bright, floral, and food-friendly with lemony acid.

Taste it: Try Healdsburg’s Folk Machine Friulano (pictured, $12 bottle), with crisp lime and pineapple notes, at Arlequin Wine Merchant (Hayes Valley).

Native to Central and Eastern Europe, this grape makes crisp, sometimes mineral-y whites with floral notes and tons of personality.

Taste it: Epic Roasthouse (Embarcadero) has the easy-drinking, apple-tart 2011 Verus from Slovenia by the glass ($13). Or pick up Hungary’s terrific Kiralyudvar Tkaji Furmint Sec ($25 bottle), with balanced acidity and honey-jasmine complexity, from Bi-Rite (Mission).

A distinct, lightly herbal, highly aromatic grape from Greece, malagousia was almost extinct until a single Greek winemaker revived it a few decades ago.

Taste it: Nopa (NoPa) serves the 
excellent, limestone-y Axia from Alpha Es-
tates by the glass ($9). K&L Wine Merchants (SoMa) carries the 2011 Domaine Zafeirakis ($17 bottle).

Trousseau Gris
Another dry but floral easy drinker, this rare French grape has been gaining a cult following among local sommeliers through experimental batches by small California producers.

Taste it: RN74 (SoMa) serves Wind Gap’s Fanucchi Trousseau Gris ($12 glass) with peach, bright citrus, and mineral layers. And winemaker Matthew Rorick of Forlorn Hope (Napa) came out with a micro-batch in June as well (price not available at press time).

This article was published in 7x7's July/August issue. Click here to subscribe.