Photo: rolohauck via Flickr
As we head into the summer months, most people want to move toward lighter foods and lighter wines. I’m not that way myself, but I recognise the logic behind it. So for those of you who won’t have prime rib and red wine from June to October, I’m here for you.If you live north of the humidity belt, summer is picnic time. One of the great picnic wines is Riesling. You pronounce it Rees-ling or Reez-ling, not Rice-ling. The grape comes from Germany and can be found most places. Good ones are made in Washington State and California too.
You have to watch the sweetness with Riesling. Some can be sweet, but most are off-dry. The most expensive are dessert wines and very sweet. Dry to off-dry is good for a picnic. You’ll get apple, peach and pear flavours from Riesling. You may also get some floral notes. This wine is very versatile, and most picnic foods will go well.
If you are adventurous, try a Gewurztraminer on your picnic. It comes from the Alsace region of France and is also made in California and Washington State. The U.S. versions are usually off-dry. Gewurz (a little geekspeak there) is very floral and spicy. My wife and I love it. It’s great with ham. One of my sons, a red wine guy, doesn’t care for it. He said it tasted like he was drinking flowers. My son has a good but narrow palate.
Of course we don’t want to forget Sauvignon Blanc. If you are grilling shrimp, I think it should be against the law not to have Sauvignon Blanc. SB can have different flavours depending on where it was made. There are 10 – 12 flavours you could find; a given wine will not have every flavour. Most people (myself included) can only identify 3 or 4. Very common are mown grass, herbs, grapefruit, and gooseberry. I think SB’s are best with a combination of grassiness and grapefruit. You can find SB made in most wine regions of the world. Not the cheapest, but among the best is Sancerre, in France. If you like a more aggressive style, try the SB’s from New Zealand. Good stuff. They are usually made with no oak in the fermentation or ageing. In California some wineries do make SB’s with oak. They will probably be called Fume Blanc – Fume is pronounced FOO-May. Just my opinion, but I would prefer the oak be saved for Chardonnay. I had heard there was an unofficial organisation in California called the “SOBs” – Sons Of Blanc. Their purpose was to keep oak out of Sauvignon Blanc. They seem to have been largely successful. SB goes with a wide variety of foods: salads, shellfish, fish, chicken, and such. If you are having a cream or butter sauce, go with Chardonnay.
A wine we don’t hear much about any more is Soave. This is an Italian white wine that suffered for several years because of overplanting and overproduction. The resulting wine was not worth the effort. That has changed recently. I don’t think you will be disappointed if you find a Soave Classico. The wine should be crisp without being tart, and will have flavours of citrus, pear, mango and possibly some mineral notes on the finish. Soave Classico goes well with light dishes and is an excellent aperitif. It is a great summer sipper. Stay cool.
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