Wine Column by Charles Fredy, Advanced Sommelier
When the long, warm days of July and August coax us to spend more time outdoors, at picnics, barbecues and light suppers on the lanai, I turn to fresh summer wines with bright, crisp flavors. Often my choices are whites, which tend to be more balanced, with lower alcohol content than many reds. That matters, because as wines warm, their alcohol grows more pronounced on the palate, making them harder to enjoy in hot weather — though a white with a similar alcohol level will be easier to manage, because whites are usually served chilled.
That’s not to say that when the temperature rises, you must avoid reds at all costs. Just choose a light- or medium-bodied red that’s not too high in alcohol, like a Beaujolais, pinot noir or Chianti. It also helps to serve them lightly chilled, around fifty-five degrees.
Of course, the serving temperature is important whether you’re indoors or out. The challenge outdoors is keeping the wine cool, especially if you’ll be consuming it gradually, over the course of an hour. One way to ensure its drinkability is to be prepared with an ice bucket or cooler. Another is to keep smaller amounts in the glass at a time. Instead of pouring six ounces that will soon start to warm, pour two or three. You’ll refill more often, but each fresh pour will be at a cooler temperature.
Moschofilero, Assyrtiko, Albarino and Vermentino are four wines you may not have heard of, but they’re worthy choices for summer.
Moschofilero is a pink-skinned grape that produces one of Greece’s most exciting white wines. Home to the Mantinia region of the Peloponnese, Moschofilero is full of exotic aromas of spice, rose, honeysuckle, orange blossoms and elderflower. Pair the dry versions with light, flavorful dishes. The intense aromatic components make for an intriguing compliment to all types of fresh fruit.
Assyrtiko grows in volcanic soils on the Greek island of Santorini, and is full of lemon-lime, yellow apple and stone-fruit flavors. It pairs well with many of our local favorites, such as sashimi, fish and chicken. Assyrtiko is a wine of texture, so along with all the bright fruit flavors that work easily with lighter dishes, it can compliment heartier foods.
Grown extensively on the northwest coast of Spain, Albarino is a great value for any occasion. This wine reminds me of a blend of riesling and Chablis. It provides juicy fruit, tart citrus, peach and apricot flavors that are framed by a steely mineral base from the granite soils of its home. A medium-bodied wine, Albarino will compliment many dishes and is especially nice with grilled fish, shellfish and white meats. You can also pair it with sushi, Thai and spiced foods.
Gallura is a hot, elevated area at the northern tip of Sardinia in southern Italy. The soils here are inflected with granite, and the landscape is stony — perfect conditions for producing top-quality vermentino, an exciting wine reminiscent of a more floral pinot grigio. Vermentino is a delight to drink, and pairs well with pork, wild boar, tomatoes, eggplant and a host of seafood, such as mussels, octopus, clams and shellfish. Take your — pick and create your own pairing with this delicious wine.
Seek out these wines to spark your summer feast.
- Boutari, Moschofilero, White, Mantinia, Greece, 2012
- Domaine Sigalas, Assyrtiko, Santorini, Aegean Islands, Greece, 2012
- Bodegas La Cana, Albarino, Rias Baixas, Spain, 2012
- Cherchi, Vermentino di Sardegna, Pigalva, Sardinia, Italy, 2012