We're in the midst of the dog days of summer when the days are over 90 degrees, and the nights don't provide much relief. The beverage of choice should probably be ice tea or a light beer, but if you prefer wine, you'll want to keep it crisp, dry and lively. Low alcohol is a plus--as is high acidity--and a bit of fizz never hurts. Two wines immediately come to mind: Portugal's vinho verde (literally "green wine") and Spain's txakoli (pronounced something like "chawk-o-lee). Here are the panel's top three picks:
2012 Arregi Getariako Txakolina, $18.99
This wine is made from the hondarribi zuri grape variety from the Basque country on the northeast coast of Spain. There's a bit of spritz when it's first poured and the aromas are on the light side, centering on a core of ripe lemon and lime with touches of mineral and clover. Things amp up on the palate, which is a mix of bright citrus, blood orange, stone fruit and spring greens.
2013 Aveleda Vinho Verde, $8.99
A blend of loureiro, trajadura and arinto grapes from the northwest corner of Portugal, this wine's bubbles are light but persistent and the aromas soft but intriguing. They bring to mind a Harry Nilsson song--you get soft lime with a touch of coconut. The flavors are smooth and creamy with bright, sweet citrus, peach and melon. A hint of ocean brine comes through on the finish.
Dalila Vinho Verde, $7.99
This wine has no vintage date, which isn't unusual for a vinho verde. This one has the liveliest spritz of the three, and the lowest alcohol (9 percent), making for a refreshing summer quaff. Sweet melon and citrus aromas segue into ripe peach, kiwi and citrus flavors. The lemon drop finish is crisp and lingers nicely. Like most vinho verde, this budget-friendly wine delivers a lot of bang for the buck.