By Charles B. Rubinstein
Start thinking about crisp white wines for the hot weather to come
I know it’s only May and summer isn’t officially here until June 20, but there’s no better time than the present to start thinking about wines for summertime drinking. Dining in a restaurant by the shore, or poolside at a home or club, or at picnics is conducive to enjoying a refreshing drink. Cool, crisp white wines with good fruit flavors and a bracing acidity are just the ticket for warm weather. Low alcohol is a plus for summertime imbibing.
Broaden your horizons and look for low-cost wines that are off the beaten track. By that I mean avoid the usual suspects such as Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy wines made from either of these justifiably famous grapes, but there are plenty of other wines that will tickle your taste buds without spending a lot of money. A $15 upper limit for summertime whites that will refresh without being the subject of serious analysis is not unreasonable.
My perennial favorite is Riesling, which in my opinion is the finest white wine grape in the world. The best examples come from Germany, Austria and Alsace. Good examples also can be found in Australia, California, New York, Oregon, South Africa and Washington. Rieslings come in many different levels of sweetness. What I am recommending here are those that are relatively dry. The predominant flavors are peach, apricot, pear, apple and citrus with good acidity.
Albariño makes a delightful summer white from northwestern Spain, particularly from Rías Baixas. There’s a floral component in Albariño with flavors of ripe apple and a mineral backbone. The combination of Albariño and oysters or langoustines is a wonderful match. Albariño is the same grape as Alvarinho in Portugal’s Vinho Verde wine. In Spain, Albariño takes prominence on the label, but in Portugal, Alvarinho is labeled as Vinho Verde. The latter is usually spritzy. Their low alcohol and good acidity make them highly suitable for summertime quaffing.
Muscadet is another grape that provides a good match to oysters and also light appetizers. Its home is Sèvre et Maine, named after two tributaries of the Loire, in the region of Nantes on the western Loire in France. Muscadet is made sur lie, which means that it is left on the lees until it is ready to be bottled. This gives it a fresh, prickly quality with a yeasty component that enhances its use as an apéritif.
The Loire river, which is the longest in France, is also home to two other white wine grapes, Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc. The former is of course well known, but the latter is often overlooked. Don’t make that mistake. There are splendid examples of Chenin Blanc as a honeyed sweet wine, but it is the dryer style that is best for summertime drinking. Vouvray, on the right bank of the Loire in the region of the central Loire, is its home. Flavors include lemon, apple and pear along with a bracing acidity. There is also a dry Chenin Blanc from Savennières down river that is meant to age, but its price point is above the limit set for this article.
Torrontés, a homebody from Argentina, is intense in its aroma, which is very floral. The floral aroma follows through in the flavor accented by a hint of oranges and lime. Many of the best vineyards for this grape are situated at a high altitude where the grapes soak in the sun in a cool climate, which adds a refreshing acidity to the wine.
Moschofilero, from the Peloponnese in Greece, is another grape than makes wine with floral overtones, citrus flavors and good acidity. Drink this wine overlooking the ocean or a waterway while eating grilled fish and feel transported to a Greek island.
Pinot Grigio, or Pinot Gris as it is known in Alsace, New Zealand and Oregon, is a delightful summertime white. Some have mineral flavors, while others can have flavors of apple or pear. Still others have a honeyed aroma and flavor. The best come from Alsace and Italy, but don’t overlook those from California, New Zealand and Oregon.
When shopping for summer whites don’t overlook sparkling wines. Cava from Spain, Prosecco from Italy and sparklers from the United States are in this group.
If you have questions or comments about wine write to me at The Two River Times™ or email me at email@example.com.
Pick of the White Wines for Summer
2010 Dr. Loosen Bros. Dr. L Riesling, Mosel ($9)
2010 Alois Lageder Pinot Grigio, Trentino Alto Adige ($12)
NV Boutari Moschofilero, Mantinia, Peloponnese ($12)
NV Cordoníu ‘Anna’ Brut Cava, Catalonia ($12)
2011 Crios de Susana Balbo Torrontés, Salta ($12)
NV Domaine Ste. Michelle Brut, Columbia Valley ($12)
2010 King Estate Acrobat Pinot Gris, Oregon ($13)
2010 La Cana Albariño, Rías Baixas ($13)
2010 Bonnet-Huteau Muscadet sur lie Les Dabinieres, Sèvre et Maine ($14)
NV Nino Franco Rustico Prosecco, Veneto ($14)
2010 Sauvion & Fils Vouvray, Loire ($15)