3 Perfect Wines for Summer
Nathan Claiborn Just a couple of summer wines to look for.
I don't know about you, but I was not ready to see triple digits this past weekend. 'Tis the season for Phoenicians to bemoan to arrival of the hot summer. The spring here in the Valley was glorious as usual, made even more so by watching the Midwest and Northeast get clobbered over and over again by winter storms. I take secret glee in watching the Weather Channel while sitting in my shorts and flip-flops. So, even though we have to prepare ourselves for the hard part of our year, none of that preparation includes tuning up a snow blower or buying new shovels. Like I always say, you never have to shovel heat or scrape it off your windshield.
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You do, however, have to adjust your wine-drinking strategy. Now is the time to lay down your Cabs, Syrahs, Petit Sirahs, Malbecs -- all those hearty wines that go so well with cooler temperatures. Put them to bed for the summer months, let them age a bit, soften their tannins for next winter. You'll be glad you did.
In the meantime, dig out your summer wines, or stock up on them if you don't have any yet. What do I mean by summer wines? There are three categories of wine I always try to stick to when triple digits set in for the duration. Thirst-quenching, high acid, lighter-body wines will take the edge off even the hottest desert day this summer.
White wine is a no-brainer. I like to stick to really crisp, dry, citrus-y wines for the summer. Alsatian whites fit the bill nicely, Riesling and Pinot Blanc especially. Spanish Albarino works well also, as do many Italian offerings, pariticularly Gavi and Arneis from Piemonte. Sauvignon Blanc from pretty much anywhere is great for the heat -- it's like the vinous equivalent of lemonade, tons of lip-smacking citrus.
Bubbles, bubbles, and more bubbles! For me, few things are as enjoyable as a well-chilled bottle of sparkling wine. It's hedonistic, thirst-quenching and goes great with a surprising number of foods. Don't just wait for a celebration to pop the cork. Sparkling doesn't have to be super-spendy either. Sure, French Champagne is more a special occasion indulgence, but there are so many affordable, everyday sparklers out there. Look for domestic sparkling, Spanish Cava, Italian Prosecco, German Sekt, and French sparklers from places other than Champagne (called cremants). They are all over the place and need not break the bank.
Finally, the category that gets a lot of mileage at my house during the summer. (Who am I kidding? It gets mileage year-round, but especially for summer.) I'm talking about rosé. It fills the void left by those reds I told you to lay down. It's chilled and plenty acidic, but it's fuller than many of the whites I've mentioned, so when you're grilling steaks or heartier summer fare, rosé is a perfect go-to. Plus, it's plenty nice on its own. Rosé can be a minefield, so look for the dry ones. Ask your retailer for specific recommendations. Generally, French ones from Provence are a good bet, but I recently had an Aglianico rosé that was killer so there's room for experimentation.
These recommendations should take the edge off the Arizona heat and help you get through the summer until you can go back to watching the rest of the country get pummeled by snow next winter.
When I'm not writing this column, or reading vintage charts to my daughter, you can find men pouring wine at FnB.