By now, if you have not pulled out the grill or visited someone who has, undoubtedly the smell of a neighbor’s outdoor culinary activities has greeted you at a time of venerability, that is, when you are most hungry. With the beginning of this season begins my crusade against what has become one of the most fallacious ideas our society can throw our way, the idea that summer is only for beer drinkers and those who insist on drinking those insipid single dimensional wines of summer that often plague us. For those who enjoy these beverages I mean no ill will, instead I would like to advise there are many better wines at a cost that is only nominally more.
As I am writing this, I have at my desk a bottle that will always be special to me; it is a rosé from the Cotes du Rhône, France by Cellier des Princes. It was my introduction to the true rosés of wine. Unfortunately, because of its light appearance, many think of rosé as a blush or something akin to white zinfandel (au contraire), the fact being this wine is a totally different animal altogether. Most of the rosés that come out of the Rhône area are made from a granache grape and blended with a syrah, resulting in a lovely fruit filled initial taste that culminates throughout the tasting experience into a medium to long dry finish. The use of syrah adds just the right amount of velvet structure and spicy taste to make a rosé wine more than interesting.
My first experience with a rosé was one that I was sure would end in disaster. A hickory smoked pork tenderloin had been prepared very nicely when I discovered the only wine I had on hand was a French rosé. Much to my surprise (and relief), the wine paired with the pork very well, not only in taste, but also the structure of the wine made an extremely delightful complement to the entire meal.
And yet summer is not just about eating a grandiose grilled meal. My vision of the perfect summer is being outside, sitting back in a comfortable chair with some friends enjoying a refreshing glass of wine. Again my disdain for many of the summer wines comes to the forefront with the idea that relaxation is a valuable endeavor not to be taken lightly, especially if good friends and tasty hors d’oeuvres are included. To match this standard I again refer to the Rhône area of France known as Pinet to enjoy Picpoul de Pinet (a Languedoc varietal). Served chilled, this refreshing white wine pairs well with mussels and other seafood fare and because of the lightly fruited taste that extends from the beginning until it is combined with a medium off dry finish, it can also be used with an appetizer or just by itself as an elegant patio wine.
Whenever quality summer wines are discussed, one should always remember the Loire River Valley in an area located adjacent to the eastern side of the town of Tours. Given a terroir of crushed limestone, sand and clay on a limestone base prevalent along the Loire River, wine makers Barton and Guesstier have produced what has become a favorite for many from this region known as Vouvray. Bearing the name of the area, B&G’s Vouvray (as it is commonly known) is a medium bodied white wine that far exceeds the expectations of many. The initial full fruit flavor is merged in the middle with a judicious minerality that extends to a medium to full finish that is somewhat off dry making it a wine that once tasted, it is not easily forgotten. Like the Picpoul, this is a wonderful wine with seafood or light poultry dishes, but continues to shine when drunken solo.
These three wines are quite moderately priced and represent a large number of wines that are available to each one of us at our local markets. Whether drinking a rosé, picpoul, vouvray, or any one of the many lovely wines of summer, enjoy!