Smells Like Summer

An aromatic grape you should get to know

You'll recognize it by its nose.

Malvasia Bianca, a grape that originated in Greece and is now produced in Italy, Spain and California, makes wines that draw drinkers in with powerful aromatics. We've recently been spotting the varietal around town in a variety of guises, from light to fortified, each more delicious than the last. The constant: its floral intensity.

2011 Birichino Malvasia Bianca ($8 a glass at Mission Cheese): The project of Santa Cruz winemakers John Locke and Alex Krause, Birichino, meaning "mischievous" in Italian, produces a Malvasia Bianca true to the winery's name. Light-bodied and easy to drink, it balances aromas of white flowers and lychee against zipping acidity.

2011 Palmina Malvasia Bianca ($42 a bottle to drink at St. Vincent, or $21 for takeaway): Santa Barbara-based Palmina produces a medium-bodied Malvasia perfumed with citrus and stone fruit. The coastal climate gives the wine a saline-tinged minerality well suited to an Ocean Beach picnic.

NV Bermejos Malvasia Dulce ($14 a glass at Locanda): This dessert wine from the Canary Islands is lusciously honeyed but lively, with subtle hints of hibiscus. It pairs graciously with Locanda's ricotta fritta ($8), topped with honey and lemon thyme.