Technically, it’s not summer yet but it sure feels like it! With these hot, sunny days, firing up the stove is just not in the cards. Salad or grilling are the best supper choices. Nothing to heavy, just something light and refreshing. Right?
This same tendency also applies to your wine choices. While I do prefer to open a full-bodied red wine with dinner, lately crisp, refreshing whites and rosés are chilling up in the fridge.
Here are some wines thoughts for the lighter meals during these hot summer days. There are certain characteristics to look for in a wine when the weather is hot. Lighter cuisine, cold plates and salads are not the perfect match for a heavy red. Instead, look for a wine that can be chilled to enhance its crispness. And because summer fare tends to be dressed with vinegar rather than a sauce, look for wines with medium high to high acid.
The perfect summer whites are not heavy, oaky or full-bodied. Save those wines for heartier fare. Lower alcohol wines are also better, because the heat emphasizes the alcohol.
Patio and picnic fare are more casual so no need to serve anything with complexity or age with crystal and china. Buy a few perfect summer whites that will delight family and friends whether sipped on its own or with savory food from a paper plate.
Summer meals are, for the most part, easy to prepare and quick too! Firing up the barbie is a no brainer when it comes to cooking on hot evenings. Grilling vegetables, seafood, and chicken brings a different dimension to the flavors. Salads can be tricky when pairing with wine because most of the vinegar-based salad dressings require a wine with some degree of acidity.
The Rule of Wine dictates high acid vinegars pair best with high-acid sparkling wines, crisp, dry roses or high acid white wines with no oak. Adding other components like salty olives, spicy nuts or strong cheeses helps to neutralize some of the vinegar’s acidity.
But there are other ways around this acid problem. Vinaigrettes that use the low acid sushi vinegar and or citrus juice instead of or in addition to vinegar have lower acidity and therefore are easier to match with wine. A creamy dressing made with cheese, sour cream or mayo allows a wider range of wines that may not have the high acidity or perhaps a touch of oak. The cream and oil naturally tame the oak in a wine.
There are certain unusual grape varieties and wine regions that I think of during the hot weather, like Greece, Spain and Italy. These countries have been making wine to go with summer fare for a couple hundred decades and why let all that experience go unheeded? Why not venture out into the region of unpronounceable white grapes?
Greek wines have the most underrated and unpronounceable wines on the planet. For fans of lively whites, Greek whites offer amazing quality for very reasonable prices. The Assyrtiko (ah-sir-tee-ko) grape is a minerally, bone-dry, citrus-edged white that is best with fruits of the sea. Calamari, oysters and grilled fish on a bed of greens would be perfect. Athiri (ah-thee-ree) has aromas and flavors of stone fruits like peaches and nectarines. A lovely match with a fruit salad. And the Peloponnesian white, Moscofilero (mos-ko-fi-ler-oh) with its tangerine flavors and floral nose is my pick for grilled fish or a goat cheese salad. I’ll always fondly remember the Greek wine of my youth, Roditis (ro-dee-tis). This light-bodied, pink-skinned grape produces crisp whites and rosés that use to come in squat stone bottles. A Greek salad of olives, onions, cucumbers, tomatoes and feta is the way to go here.
Spain’s Albariño from Rías Baixas, is a steely, floral white that goes well with seafood, from shrimp cocktail to grilled trout. Verdejo, with the crisp minerality and citrus tang from the cold, high plains of Rueda, north of Madrid, would pair well with a crab salad or paella. The Parellada grape is crisp and citrusy; Garnacha Blanca, with its herbal qualities, are blended into the white Vina Sol of Bodegas Torres in Catalunya, outside Barcelona. This inexpensive, versatile wine pairs well with clams casino, jamon and lentil salad or gazpacho.
Cavas are sparkling wines from northeast Spain. They are a blend of lemony Macabeo (mac a bay o), Paralleda (par a yay da), and floral Xarel-lo (zar el lo) grapes. These cavas are some of the best matches with grilled vegetable and seafood salads.
The sheer volume of Italy’s wine landscape, its humongous array of native grape varieties and confusion caused by similar producer names, region names and grapes that have two or three or four names depending on the region all require a bottle of wine and a conversation to sort out.
Beyond Pinot Grigio, Italy isn’t well known for its white wines. But I’m here to tell you about a few other grape varieties such as Verdicchio (ver dee kio), Vermentino, Cortese (Cor tay say), and Falanghina (fal an gee na).
Falanghina produces nuanced, delicious wines with lemon and other spritzy citrus flavors. This is a medium-bodied wine with a fresh, clean, dry taste, good acidity and a long, floral finish. It goes well with appetizers and salads. Try it with grilled shrimp and polenta, it’s excellent.
Vermentino is grown in Sardinia, the Tuscan coast and the Ligurian coast, all areas close to the sea. So it’s ideal for seafood. Vermentino is fresh and fragrant with aromas of flowers, lemons and almonds and shines with grilled pizza pescatore.
Greco di Tufo is pale gold in color with aromas of apple and pear. It is fruity and flavorful but balanced with good acidity. This wine pairs well with grilled shrimp, red onion and zucchini skewers or chicken with capers.
Prosecco is just plain fun to drink. This light, refreshing bubbly (called frizzante in Italian) from the Veneto region is a staple at luncheons, as an aperitivo and at most celebrations. It is a real crowd pleaser with Asian noodle salad with spicy peanut sauce.
It’s looks to be a long hot summer and as you can read plenty of white wines to chill and refresh.