In last week’s Drink column, I suggested opening yourself up to aromatic white and pink wines for the summer. The relaxed mood, rising temperatures and casual get-togethers of the season are the main justification for such advice, rather than pairing them with any specific food you will be grilling, barbecuing or picnicking with. The backyard barbecue is not the time to get finicky about ultimate food and wine matches. So, with that laid-back attitude in mind, you’ll want to arm yourself (or pack the cooler) with versatile wines that best fit the season, whether it be to drink with barbacoa, brisket or burgers.
Frequently off-dry, fruity, lower in alcohol and inherently chill-able, Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Muscat and Chenin Blanc are some specific aromatic varietals to look for, while the dryish pink wines of the season—with their phenomenal combination of red fruit flavors and white-wine refreshment—are summer. And so, here are a few of my summertime favorites, along with tasting notes: Batasiolo Moscato d’Asti 2008, Piedmont, Italy ($13.99): A dense Muscat, with dried pineapple and mango aromas and flavors. Full, flavorful and lightly effervescent, this is a perfect light dessert wine for summer. A no-brainer with the bountiful fruit of the season, it’s also the ultimate summer-brunch wine. On the other hand, at only 5.5 percent alcohol, it might just as well be the ultimate breakfast wine.
Chateau de Montfort Vouvray 2006: Loire Valley, France ($13.39): Loire Valley Chenin Blanc with abundant fruit and honey flavors, all bound together with the right balance of sweetness and acidity. The harmony of Vouvray—just a touch of sugar, but still officially dry—is immediately apparent and genuinely appealing.
St. M Riesling 2007: Pfalz, Germany ($10.99): Smooth, nice mouth-feel, very crisp, like a sharp club soda and fruity ginger ale. Apple, lemon grass, very citrus-driven and super clean. It has been said this wine is like Pop Rocks without the pop, or sugar. Excellent.
Dr. Konstantin Frank 2007 Gewürztraminer, Finger Lakes, New York ($23.99): Characteristic aromas of grapefruit, lime, lychee, banana and the spiciness associated with the Gewürztraminer variety. The slight residual sugar balances the complexity of mineral overtones. And, this Gewürztraminer has a long, clean, fresh finish to boot.
Jeriko Syrah-Grenache Rosé 2006: Mendocino, Calif. ($9.99): Syrah and Grenache, orange-copper in color. Ripe peach and berry notes on the nose, accompanied by lighter hints of candied fruit. Off-dry and fruity, this is very likeable and its affordability makes it a keeper.
Crios Rosé of Malbec 2007: Mendoza, Argentina, ($11.99): Medium pink with an expressive bouquet of strawberry and cherry. This wine is medium-bodied with a smooth mouthfeel. Dry in style, the wine has rich flavors, excellent acidity, and a surprisingly lengthy finish. This Malbec-based Rosé is a remarkably food-friendly wine.
Chateau St. Martin de la Garrigue Rosé 2008: Languedoc, France ($12.95): Made from Rhone red grapes, this pretty Rosé is the essence of the south of France, with a refreshing palate of watermelon, honeydew, strawberry and red citrus. This little gem has savory mineral and soft spices and is perfect for any sunny day, and any food. It’s like a picnic in Provençe.
Elk Cove Rose’ of Pinot Noir 2008: Willamette Valley, Oregon ($14.99): Fragrant with white flowers and showing freshness with sweet, red strawberry fruit. Enjoy this crisp, light, simply refreshing wine all by itself on a bright summer day or pair it with succulent shellfish or grilled chicken. Bon appétit!