In anticipation of the upcoming warmer summer months I have decided to offer my insights and/or opinions on a few wines which are available for your summer wine adventures. So when the hot days finally get here, you will have some ideas as what to serve your family and friends as you are entertaining on your deck. The approach in this column is to lure you away from the obvious and entice you to try something new, because you can always go back to your old favorites. Remember variety is the spice of life…
As you are serving small snacks or appetizers, a celebratory sparkling wine might be in order. May I suggest a Prosecco from north-west of Venice to start before the grill gets fired up. Prosecco typically offers a little more elegance than your average Spanish Cava and is very good on its own as an Aperitif. As a bonus it will go very well with a variety of foods and the bubbles will provide refreshment well into the late afternoon. Just do not expect the same minerality or complexity as Champagne. (Or price for that matter) .
If you are considering grilled fish and/or vegetarian options for the food portion of the event, the wine possibilities are numerous. However one of my favorites is Vino Verdhe, which is a Portuguese white from the cool northwest of the Iberian Peninsula. It literally means green wine, is very refreshing and crisp, provides easy drinking and is a pleasant choice for any number of patio pursuits. Just make sure that you get the newest available vintage, as this is a wine which is most charming in its youth.
As a general rule I do not like to consume heavily oaked, monster whites outside in the summer month as they become tiresome after the first glass and the refreshment factor begins to decline at a rapid pace. So your trophy Napa Valley Chardonnay is out. Also the serving temperature is of vital importance, cold is good, freezing cold is bad. When your teeth are chattering as you are tasting your Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc, it means that your are not fully appreciating the complexity that the wine has to offer: the temperature is numbing the flavours and frankly you are not getting your full bang for the buck.
For red meats, lighter to medium bodied reds do better in the summer than those heavy blockbusters, because the higher alcohol levels are even more pronounced in the summer heat, making that 14.5% alc. Shiraz taste very soupy. Also the lighter reds are very versatile with all kind of grilled meats…pork chops, chicken, hamburgers even sausages. Chianti, Rioja and Beaujolais from the old world all work well here. From the new world I would encourage readers to choose from cooler climate regions, and to go for lighter grape varieties as these generally do not have the same alcohol levels as your average desert grown Australian Cabernet Sauvignon.
Also, there is nothing strange about putting that bottle of red in the fridge for 10 minutes, because the wine will certainly appear fresher and fruiter, and will also provide a refreshment function.
Lastly I would urge any interested parties to try a dry Rose from the south of France and/or Spain… no this is not pink zinfandel and thus it is perfectly suited to all kinds of grilled gourmet cuisine. The best ones are usually made with the Grenache grape, have a delightful, very light reddish tinge and are fruity without going over the top. Once again it is worthwhile buying the most recent vintage, as this is a wine which is best enjoyed young. Chill it down and give it a whirl.