As summer creeps in and the temperatures creep up, it gets harder and harder to choke down those heavy reds we got used to drinking in front of the fireplace or pairing with our stews during the winter. Warmer weather calls for something fresh, lithe, and airy. I start yearning for something different, something to pair with salads and fresh fish, something to pair with sitting by the pool or on the patio.
Our summertime suggestions to come back to earth for easy-drinking wine include a couple of favorites. The slightly effervescent, crisp flavors of Broadbent’s Vinho Verde make an appealing wine for lounging around the back yard in your hammock, and checking in at a mere 9% alcohol, it’s easy to quaff down a few glasses without any regret, especially at a price of only $9.99 per bottle. Vinho Verde literally translates as “green wine,” that is to say that it is young wine, bottled, ready to drink. The spritz developed from malolactic fermentation occurring in the bottle left a cloudy appearance from sediment. Modern producers favor completing malo-fermentation before bottling and putting the sparkle back through carbonation to keep the wine clear. If you’re looking for something more fruit forward, Clean Slate’s Dry Riesling is a compelling selection. Packed with minerality and spice, hints of peach, and riding at a low 10.5%, it’s an easy choice to sip on all evening. Many of Germany’s winemakers are starting to ferment out more of the abundant sugars present in Riesling grapes. This dryer style has long been present in Alsace, and it presents new and different opportunities for food pairings than the traditional Rieslings of Germany.
If you’re looking for something crisp and light, but don’t want to sacrifice your booze content, there’s always a nice, dry Rosé. My father (Dave Mallett) began preaching the virtues of dry Rosés as far back as the late 1970s when America was just starting to wake up to fine wine. At that time, the country’s education of wine had started off on the wrong foot. Unfortunately, the populous was inundated with sweeter, simple Rosès like Lancers, Mateus, and the made-up name – White Zinfandel. It has been an uphill battle ever since, but we are delighted to see a new appreciation of Rosé as it becomes popular with both red and white wine lovers. An ideal pairing with a variety of foods from the grill, Rosés have enough flavor to keep up with spices and meats without the heavy body that often overpowers fish and chicken. The lightly fruity flavors also often complement spicier foods, which can be a difficult pairing for fans of dry wine as sugary wines are typically used to balance heat. Our current favorite is 3 Messes Basses Rosé. It is named for the writings of Alphonse Daudet; it is a crisp, light and berry centric rosé, perfect for an early summer evening, and perhaps you’ll also impress that rare fan of Spanish literature. This wine comes from the Ventoux region of the Rhône Valley in France, and is made of Grenache, Cinsault, and Carignan, in a 60%-20%-20% blend.
Surely you’ve fired up your grill by now, right? Pairing with grilled foods can be tough. The temptation is to go with big, bold flavors to keep up with the smoke and the char, but that can often overpower something like a bratwurst or chicken. Grilling fish or shrimp? Why not head to the Rhone Valley? 3 Messes Basses offers a fantastic Rhone Blanc (white wine) of Clairette and Grenache Blanc. If you have pork or beef on that grill, 3 Messes Basses also offers a rouge (red) blend of Grenache, Carignan, and Syrah, all three varieties are a bargain for a measly $14.
Avoiding heavy reds is always advisable this time of the year; it can certainly be harder to finish a glass of an oaky, jammy Zinfandel or Cabernet on a warm night. But it is also always wise to remember that no wine is the wrong wine as long as you enjoy it and share it with friend.
Hunt Mallettis the owner and operator of Weinhaus, located on Patton Avenue in downtown Asheville, North Carolina.
Jonathan Ammons is an area food and wine writer that works at the Weinhaus.