The options are as endless as the days are long
With summer’s arrival, it’s time to trade the dark, hardy wines for lighter, crisper ones.
Let’s start with the old standbys chardonnay and sauvignon blanc. While many chardonnays are saddled with heavy oak and cream, there also are numerous kinds that avoid the oak and the malolactic fermentation, which adds the rich and creamy feel. Young, white Burgundies retain a higher level of acidity than their American counterparts and thus stay crisp and fresh instead of cloying and thick. Also, look for innovative examples of chardonnay, such as the delightfully light unoaked ones from Australia or even progressive California wines. The result is pure fruit, a lighter mouth feel and a zippy finish.
Sauvignon blanc is one of my favorite summer whites. The grape is naturally high in acidity and has a backbone of citrus fruit that’s just wonderful on a hot summer day. Sancerre’s and Pouilly-Fumés from the Loire Valley in northern France have a vein of minerals and fresh cut grass that can be quite refreshing versions, while the addition of semillon to white Bordeaux adds a round and lush note. Sauvignon blanc has found a fashionable home in New Zealand, where the wines are as dry as it gets, buoyed by the high-toned gooseberry aromas. Sauvignon blancs from California are a little more ripe and round, but still a fine wine when fish is the main course.
I wouldn’t be a very good wine writer if I didn’t mention the ubiquitous pinot grigio. As great as these wines may be by the pool, don’t forget about other Italian goodies such as the delicious Fiano di Avellino, with its honey and almond flavors strutting over a vibrant core. Or, try a Soave from Verona for a lemony treat. My personal favorite is Moscato d’Asti, a light and fruity wine with touches of sparkle and sweetness made from the perfumed muscat grape.
Speaking of fruit, there isn’t a more sexy and sumptuous summer grape than riesling. This versatile and expressive grape runs the gauntlet from painfully dry to startlingly sweet. Which is right for you? That depends on the mood and the occasion. German rieslings will always have a core of peaches and minerals, however they can range from bone dry to packed with flavors and residual sugar. The underlying core of acidity will help ensure a balanced and tasty wine.
Austria’s greatest grape, the grüner-veltliner is also not one to be missed this summer. Grüner’s most alluring attribute is a layer of refreshing grapefruit and pepper over a light and crisp frame and is wonderful for all seafood dishes or just as a sipper out by the pool.
When it comes to excellent summer wines, Spain is one country you don’t want to ignore when choosing wines. Several regions in Spain, such as the Castilla y Leon in central Spain, offer some wonderful choices. There’s a vibrant natural acidity from the Ruedas varietal, which pairs well with seafood dishes and the sauvignon blanc’s from this region are not to be missed. Last but not least is the native verdejo grape, which is perfect for a summer evening.
Just above Portugal, where the northwestern tip of the Spanish peninsula juts out into the Atlantic Ocean, there are phenomenal wines made from the albariño varietal, which benefit greatly from the cool misty mornings and the warm dry afternoons during the growing season. The Albariño varietal features peach flavors and an acidity that results in lovely, balanced wine, which is light in body but long on flavor.
Very good sparkling wines are now more affordable than ever and are becoming popular not only with the brunch crowds on Sunday mornings, but as a fine aperitif. There are many to choose from, both domestic and foreign varieties. As we are always reminded, Champagnes can only be produced in the Champagne region of France, all others are sparkling wines.
There are so many great summer wines to try. Choose this summer to become an explorer and see what new discoveries you can make as you celebrate the summer.
The Cork Guy