Summertime refreshment calls for crisper, lighter elixirs.
by Virginia Philip
• Master Sommelier at The Breakers in Palm Beach
• Virginia Philip Wine Shop & Academy, West Palm Beach
• 2012 James Beard Award Nominee
As the summer months begin, Floridians focus on fast and easy ways to cool off. Whether it is taking a quick swim in the pool or ocean, beating the heat is usually the primary objective. We may also change our habits when it comes to the food and the wine we consume. Heavy dishes such as beef Bourguignon, stews, and savory pasta dishes are replaced with light salads, fish, poultry, and consommés.
With wine, our palates also tend to adjust to the climate shift. Cravings for lighter, crisper, and tangier wines become the norm. A wine that can wet one’s whistle and be consumed with or without food is the perfect match for the summertime heat. (When I teach about wine, I ask my students: “Sitting by the pool or floating in your raft with a glass of wine in your hand — can the wine be drunk with or without food?”) Listed below are five options that can do just that. And, if you want to show off your wine smarts around the patio table, the descriptions also feature their correct pronunciations. These are wines to savor all summer long.
Albarino (al-brr-een-yo). Rias Baixas, Spain
This white grape is not widely produced or grown. In the most northwestern portion of Spain — where the rain has a tendency to fall — this grape excels. It is medium-bodied with notes of green apple, pear, and peach — with a hint of mineral. The finish is crisp and clean. Delicious!
Peitan, Morgadio, Burgans from Rias Baixas.
Riesling (ree-sa-ling). Usually produced in Germany, Austria, New Zealand, France, Washington, New York, and Australia.
Riesling comes in several facets of dryness: dry, off-dry, or sweet. Pick your style and you will have a plethora of options from which to choose. The overlying theme with this grape is its high acid, lower alcohol levels (usually from 7 percent to 13 percent), and its ability to pair well with a variety of different dishes. Notes of Granny Smith apple, Jolly Rancher lime, ginger spice, and flora notes make this grape a winner.
Robert Weil, Gunderloch, Muller Catoir from Germany; Leth, Lagler, Knoll from Austria; Pewsey Vale, Dandelion, Leeuwin from Australia; Domaine Ostertag, Domaine Helfrich, Zind-Humbrecht from Alsace, France; Spy Valley, Lawson’s, Villa Maria Cellar Selection from New Zealand; Eroica, Snoqualmie from Washington; and Chehalem from Oregon.
Mendoza or Salta, Argentina
This white grape is typically grown at high altitudes. Highly aromatic, the wine has notes of peach, lemon, and Jolly Rancher apple — with floral notes.
Susana Balbos “Crios” and Familia Zuccardi, both from Mendoza.
Sauvignon Blanc (so-vin-yon blon)
This is a grape that is grown just about everywhere. The best examples, however, come from New Zealand, the Loire Valley, the Bordeaux areas of France, Casablanca in Chile, and California. In order to ensure you have a good one, there should be plenty of overtones and notes of grapefruit and gooseberry. Lemon, lime, and high acid add to the flavor and appeal of the wine, as well as its grassy or herbaceous notes. Bordeaux has more of a tendency to use oak on some of their wines, as does the Pouilly-Fumé area of the Loire Valley and many California producers.
Cloudy Bay, Jules Taylor, Walnut Block, and Dog Point from New Zealand; Pascal Jolivet, JM Reverdy “Domaine de la Villaudiere,” and Henri Bourgeois in the Loire Valley; Franc-Beausejour, Château Haut Selve in Bordeaux; Casa Lapostolle and Tabali from Chile; Cade and Lincort from California.
Furmint (fur-mint), Hungary
A Hungarian white wine grape is used to produce the well-known dessert wine called Tokaj. I love it in its drier version. Medium-plus bodied, the wine has notes of beeswax, apple, and pear — with a hint of texture and creaminess on the palate.
Oremus or Evolucio Dry Furmint from Hungary.
Okay, so this isn’t exactly a white wine, but I would be remiss not to mention it. The rosé category, in general, is on fire! Whether you prefer your sip from Provence, Bandol, or Tavel from France, Italy, Austria, or Oregon, there are many options for this summer sipper.
Château de Montzargues from Tavel; Domaine Ott from Bandol or Provence; Auguste Antonin from Provence; Van Duzer from Oregon; Guada al Tasso’s “Scalabrone” from Italy; and Stock & Stein “Weissherbst” Spätburgunder Rosé from the Rheingau in Germany.
So sit back, grab your raft, and cool off by enjoying these summertime elixirs! I insist.