I have never been one who looks forward to the beach, but this year the beach had a particular draw. The summer was busy, with rehab from back surgery in May and the vineyard taking up most of my time, the beach was a time for R and R despite the diet of sand and sunscreen that creeps into everything. The major drawback about the beach is the intense heat.
A popular sources of relief from the heat is a cold beer, and with craft beers being sold on every corner, in addition to the icy coldness, there is a large array of palatable tastes to go with it. For the teetotalers, any beveridge from lemonade to the extensive arrays of soda pop will do. Did I mention wine? The wine of this summer, as mentioned in this column and many wine columns , has been Rosé, a wine served cold. Temperature, in the world of wine, is quite an an issue.
Like oaking, coldness can hide a plethora of missteps made by the wine maker. Along with decanting,it plays one of the most important factors in the taste of the wine. Recently I participated in a panel where we looked at the effect of temperature on two wines, a non oak aged Chardonnay and a Vignonier aged in medium toast French oak.
Both wines were served very chilled. It was noted the Chardonnay had a neutral flavor and while the Vignonier, though a bit muted, had a definite citrus note. As the temperature increased, the change in the flavor changed. The change in the taste of the wine reflected not only the change in temperature but also the fact that as it set out air was introduced into the wine. Wine undergoes a constant chemical reaction, though slowed down by cold temperatures and sealing the wine from air through the bottling process. As with anything, there are as many opinions about how a wine should be served, what kind of glass and how chilled it should be. Aside from the wines that are to be served chilled (beside Rosé, some white wines such as Sauvignon Blanc, fortified wines, and Cayuga White), most wines are served at 50-55º F for whites and around 60º F for most reds. It should be noted wines at these temperatures do not make good beverages to cool down at the beach (although many whites are excellent with seafood).
While beer is drunk often for its icy temperature, it is being offered more and more for a culinary experience. The difference in wine and beer being consumed with food is related to the temperature. Wine has more of a variance in how it is served, depending on whether it is being served with food or by itself. Wine chilled is excellent when mixed to make some fruit drinks such as Sangria. Sangria, by the way, is an excellent chilled alcoholic beverage for the hot summer days at the beach. On the other hand, heated spiced wines are a delightful in the cold blustery days of winter.
Even though the summer is almost officially over, there are plenty of hot days left over. Whether cooling off with a cold and icy beer, or hanging out with a chilled wine, there are plenty of choices, and any winemaker worth his salt would be willing to assist you. Please beat the heat responsibly.