Weather or Not – What to do, What to Drink?

boston summerOur weather here in New England has been heating up.  Not as much as other parts of the world but for us – 80 degrees is hot.  We do not have a lot of air conditioning, many of our cars do not have it.  We rely on fans and chilled beverages.

Most of us are familiar with the white wines you will usually find on the shelves of your favorite wine shop; Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Grigio, to name a few.  These are all good and do well in the summer heat but there are other whites that can be crispier, cleaner and brighter.  I’m talking about the Albariño, Viognier, Vermentino and Vinho Verde wines to name a few.

My all-time go-to favorite for summer is the Albariño.  The Albariño wines generally comes from Spain albarino-wine-0810-mbut some can be found in Portugal, Australia and the United States.  Depending on the type of soil the vines are growing in, the taste of this wine runs from a more mineral-driven and structured wine to a softer, rounder wine.  The Albariño grown in an acidic, granite soil will produce a wine similar to a dry Riesling for its minerality and a Viognier for its fleshiness and peach/apricot character. The vines grown in a sandy soil will produce a taste closer to a Pinot Grigio with a floral feel and flavor.  Regardless of where your Albariño is grown, the taste is perfect for a hot summer day.  A Spanish Albariño will be the easiest to find in your wine shop.  It should cost anywhere from $11.99 to $21.00.  Do not keep this wine in your storage longer than 12 months, and as with all chilled wines, let it warm up slightly to really appreciate the subtle nuances of the grape.  I would pair this wine with any food you would serve on a warm summer day; grilled fish, poultry, veggies, salads or just sip it and enjoy it with a cheese plate.

vinho verde regionVinho Verde is another favorite of mine.  It is perfect for those hot summer afternoons when all you can do is sit on the porch or deck and drink crispy chilled white wine.  Vinho Verde is a Portuguese wine that has a light fresh green flavor and will typically have a slight effervesce to it.  Vinho Verde is not a grape varietal but a blend of grapes coming from the Vinho Verde region in Portugal.  The price of this wine is usually between $8.00 and $12.00,  It is easy to drink by itself or pairs easily with grilled fish or a tasty fruit salad.   Because of the light fresh nature of this wine, I would not overwhelm it with anything heavy or overly spicy but it would be perfect with a seafood salad.

Viognier  (prounced vyon-yay or vin-yay) can be found world-wide.  From France to New viognierZealand, North America to South America.  This is a lush, soft full bodied wine with notes of peaches and pears.  I prefer my Viognier to come from a cooler climate to lessen the amount of sugar in it.  The Central Coast of California is a good place to start.  This is the one summer white that I would pair with a spicier food such as Thai or zesty barbeque.   The price of this wine should run between $10.00 and $20.00 depending on the location of the winery of origin.

The last of the “other whites” is Vermentino, which will take us to Italy.  This is the lightest of the whites, with a pale straw color and the flavors of green apples and limes.  The taste is more to the sweeter side while still remaining a dry wine.  Lovely with your Oysters and other shellfish, or your grilled veggies but will still be just as good without a food pairing.  The pricing on a Vermentino will run between $15.00 and $20.00 and worth it.

vermintinoThe Albariño, Viognier, Vermentino and Vinho Verde wines are what I drink from July to September.  While they are similar to the Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay wines, they offer a bit of deviation from these to give you a variety of choices.   What’s not to like about having a choice of wines?

Which Wine will you be Drinking with your Holiday Meal?

We will be enjoying a Bourbon Soaked Spiral Ham with our Christmas dinner.  We have a lovely Spanish Rioja wine set aside to enjoy with this.  The ham will be seasoned with the bourbon and riojaorange juice, cloves, brown sugar and black pepper.  The wine that will accompany this ham needs to be able to stand up to the sweetness of the brown sugar and the brisk flavors of the bourbon.  We will be serving a Spanish Rioja because it has enough tannin for the ham but it also has enough fruit to enhance the flavor of the ham.   One of my favorite Riojas is Bodegas Muga Reserva.   The price for this is about $18.

If you’re serving poultry, you may want to consider a White Bordeaux (see my previous wine blog).  No matter how you cook the bird or what seasonings you have used, a White Bordeaux will hold up but not overpower what you’re serving.  My current favorite White Bordeaux wines are Chateau Sainte-Marie Bordeaux Blanc and Bellevue Bordeaux Blanc.  The price for these are about $20

For those that are enjoying beef with their dinner, I would recommend a fully rounded

mcmanisCabernet.  Be careful of the heavy tannic Cabs, they are better with a grilled steak or something that is heavy on the seasoning.  A fully rounded Cabernet is one that has some complexity to it but not a lot of tobacco or licorice flavors to it.   Various Cabernet wines that run about $12 – $20 per bottle would be; Cannonball, McManis, Sharecropper and Stagecoach.  All of these are from California except Sharecropper which is from the Columbia Valley, Washington.  Depending on where you live, at least one of these should be available.  I call these “friendly Cabs”.  Nice and round, not too acidic, plenty of dark fruits (blackberry, cherries, pomegranate)

One thing about a red wine, if you don’t like it, keep the bottle open for 20 minutes, you will find the characters of the wine will change, some more drastic than others.  I find Icannonballtalian  and Spanish wines to change the most.

If you’re serving a heavily spiced beef or like my mother always did – homemade raviolis, then certainly pick a wine with more gusto and tannins, something that has more cedar and eucalyptus in it.

And for those serving pork or lamb, reach for a Pinot Noir.  My favorite Pinots come from the Willamette Valley in Oregon.  I have never been disappointed in a Pinot from this region.  Unfortunately this seems to be a very popular consensus lately and the prices have soared.  So…I’m now trying Pinots from the Central Coastal region of California and have been pleasantly surprised with what I’ve found.  Carmel Road Pinot Noir Arroyo Secco is a good example of a very nice Pinot Noir from the Monterey, California area. This wine should cost around $18.

I keep my Pinot Noir wines chilled.  I pull them about an hour before serving and prefer to serve the wine about 5 or 10 degrees colder than room temperature.  This allows the fruit in the wine to slowly ripen while we are enjoying it.

I found an excellent website for purchasing wine.  It is JJ Buckley Fine Wines.   You can purchase one bottle of wine at a time (or more of course) and you can store your purchase for no charge up to six months.  I gather up a total of 12 bottles then pay $36 in shipping from California to Vermont.  This allows me to purchase wine at a slow pace and only pay $3 per bottle for shipping.  They have a good selection which changes as their inventory changes.  This is where I purchased my white bordeaux.  I’m not sure if they still have these two in stock, but if not, they will be able to direct you to something similar.  Unfortunately some states do not allow wine to be shipped, check with any website for when shipping wine to your location.

There are many other wine varietals that I have not mentioned; Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Riesling, Merlot and Syrah, to name a few, but for the holiday meals I’ve mentioned above, I believe the Spanish Rioja, White Bordeaux, Cabernet and Pinot Noirs are what I would be serving.

Which wine will you be serving?