Summer is here, and the time is right for moving out of the house onto the deck and chillin’ round the grill or pool. It’s also prime time for having a picnic or going to the beach. So what do you pair these warm weather activities with in the world of wine? As always, there are no wrong answers – if you have a favorite wine, then just enjoy it. However, if you enjoy trying new and different tastes then a few common sense guidelines might help open up that perfect bottle for warmer weather. I will focus on a few whites and lighter reds that fit the bill.
[dropcap]F[/dropcap]irst for picnics. When the activity involves expending energy such as hiking, playing frisbee, or frolicking in the water, you might not want a wine with high alcohol to slow you down. Some lighter, refreshing choices such as Vinho Verde, Riesling (dry or off-dry) or a Provence Rosé could be perfect! Vinho Verde is a Portuguese wine whose name literally means “green wine,” but translates as “young wine”, as opposed to mature wine. It may be red, white or rosé, and it is meant to be consumed within a year of bottling. It has a slight effervesce of the wine that comes from malolactic fermentation taking place in the bottle. “Arca Nova” is an example of a locally available Vinho Verde for under ten dollars a bottle.
From Germany, the predominant grape Riesling is another good choice. Although it is well known for a sweeter style, it can also be produced in a dry style, as is often the case in the Alsace region of France. Because the grape thrives in a cooler climate, it gains more acidity from the cool nights. When this higher acidity comes into balance with the natural sweetness of the grape, the result is a refreshing, but not cloying style of wine, pleasant for sipping and pairing with a variety of foods. In recent years, the German winemakers have turned to producing a drier style that offers even more options in pairing, and appeals to those that like dry white wine.
The Rosés from the south of France can be extraordinary wines with dry, delicate finesse that helps you enjoy the warm weather all the more! I have often preached that those who belittle pink wines have never tried a serious Provence Rosé. Well-made examples of Provençal wine have flavors and aromas that reflect the garrigue landscape of the region which includes wild lavender, rosemary and thyme. The rosés of the region are normally dry with zestiness derived from their acidity. The grapes used are often a blend of Granache, Carignan, Syrah, Cinsaut and Mouvèdre. Although there are several ways to make Rosé, the Saignée method, or “bleeding,” is used to make the best quality roses. Juice is obtained by stacking up the wine grapes in a tank and letting the grapes’ weight do the crushing. The free-run juice is then fermented into a light, pale salmon-colored wine. What could be better than a glass of Commanderie de la Bargemone Rosé with a loaf of Farm & Sparrow bread and some Looking Glass Creamery “Bear Wallow” cheese? Ahh, Heaven!
Oh yes, lest we forget that there are those who can’t bear to leave their red wine behind, fear not! There is a plethora of suitable choices for lighter red wines. When out on the deck, grilling up your favorites meats, sausages, and veggies, I think of Spanish, French, Italian and other New World wines that combine medium-weight grapes like Tempranillo, Grenache, Syrah, Carignan, Barbera and Negro amaro. Often these are blended to produce a very pleasing, easy to drink wine that is food friendly. For instance, the Cotes du Rhone blends from the Rhone Valley of France are made from the same grapes as the Rosés, only these are fully extracted and sometimes fermented and aged in oak barrels. They pair so well with grilled foods, pastas and pizza. A favorite of mine is the “Trignon” Cotes du Rhone, priced in the low teens.
So don’t let the summer slip away without trying some of these great wine styles, perfect for enjoying on the deck or out in nature’s beauty. Perhaps the best pairing would involve a sunset!