Victoria Moore: Summer whites to please a crowd

A call from my mother, plus a rash of emails in my in-box, all asking for roughly the same thing: "A white wine to give to lots of people whose tastes I don't know. We won't be eating at first, so it needs to be good on its own, it needs to be cheap, and I don't want anything Jean might say is 'sour'."

Fine. God forbid that Jean would find anything sour. I think, translating, that means no sauvignon blanc, or any other white in which searing, reverberating acidity is the key. So what does work? I don't believe in buying for events wine that you wouldn't drink anyway, so all these would have earned their place in a different column on, say, alternative summer drinking.

But there is one particular wine so perfectly suited to the brief that it has blazed its way in when normally it would be in the territory of "useful house wine" or "open as a second bottle", and that is the Terra Viva from Chieti, a province of Abruzzo in Italy (a classic case of unknown area + poorly thought of grape = cheap and rather good-value wine, especially at the offer price). Two things make it good for weddings, garden parties, deck-chair necking, you name it: it's relatively neutral and, even more crucially, it has the barest touch of soothing sugar - not so you'd think, "Goodness, this is sweet" but just enough to soften the edges, broaden its appeal and keep you going as you drink large quantities with no - or very little - food.

This week's other wines have been selected because they are nicely in balance on their own - you don't need to rest food against them to bring out their best side, nor are they so overwhelming that you almost need to take a knife and fork to get stuck in. Oak is minimal, summeriness is all.

Terra Viva Bianco Terre di Chieti 2007, Italy

Stockists
£5.49 (on offer at £4.39, June 4-24), Waitrose; 12.5% abv

Description
It may seem oxymoronic when I say this is attractively inoffensive, but that's what makes it so useful. More to the point, this isn't a bland photocopy of a wine - it tastes 'real', is lively, slightly off-dry, made from trebbiano, smells floral, has texture and grip - and a dangerously short finish that makes you keep taking another sip.

Drink it with
A glugging wine, but also good with salads and risotto

Score
3 stars

Les Andides Saumur Blanc 2006, France

Stockists
£5.99, Waitrose; 12% abv

Description
A staple of my summer fridge, this combines the juicy apples and pears taste of chenin blanc with a creamy texture and a light touch. That it comes from the 2006 vintage is a good thing - it's lost any sherbet pips flavour it might have once had and acquired grace instead. This costs £1 more than it did 18 months ago, but it is still good value.

Drink it with
The ideal 'first glass of wine', but also good with hard cheese or grilled fish

Score
4 stars

Maven Chardonnay 2006 Marlborough, New Zealand

Stockists
£6.66, down from £9.99 when you buy three, Wine Rack; 14% abv

Description
New Zealand isn't the most obvious place to go for chardonnay, but I like this one's combination of clean restraint and curving warmth. It's not big and tropical, but there's a touch of oak, just enough to add a honeyed glow, and it smells of mandarin peel and lemons. Great at the lower price; not very hot at the higher.

Drink it with
Roast chicken with roasted root veg to mirror the subtle, sweet warmth of the wine

Score
3.5 stars

La Châsse du Pape Réserve Côtes du Rhône Blanc 2007

Stockists
£5.99, Sainsbury's; 13% abv

Description
I never imagined I'd enjoy this brand so much, but the blend of roussanne, viognier and grenache blanc is delicious and very easy. It has a smooth creaminess, quiet peach flavours, and while it does have good texture, there's a neat, fresh and tidy air to it. Very collected and together.

Drink it with
I had a chilled glass with a sliced-up peach and Chaource cheese, which I doubt you could beat

Score
3.5 stars

Thanks to guardian.co.uk who have provided this article. View the original here.