Wines for Summer

Some things bear repeating – “Don’t forget to brush your teeth!” “Look both ways!” “Buckle your seatbelt!”  We’re never too old, or too young, to be reminded. Okay, it may be a stretch, but I want to remind you “Don’t wait to enjoy the wines of summer!”  And I promise this isn’t a lecture, just a gentle nudge to motivate your Sips.

For me the wines of summer occupy a special place in the Sips universe – the whites are fresh and zippy; the reds are punchy and ready for cookouts and al fresco dining; and then there is rose’.  Vive la Rose’ I say!  Just yesterday we sat on the deck with a couple of friends sharing a gorgeous salad with all kinds of mixed greens and goodies like grilled chicken breast and sipped on chilled rose’ from the Cotes du Provence, savoring the warm sunshine and gentle breeze.  How good is that!

So since some things bear repeating I want to get a few earlier posts back on your radar so that you can make the most of summer sipping.

Zippy Summer Whites will give you a good overview of some lighter and refreshing wines from around the world that are picture perfect for summertime.

Then we paid particular attention when It’s It’s Time for Sauvignon Blanc – the sassy Sauvignon Blancs from New Zealand to Sancerre to California USA.

And when we wrote about Keeping Your (Wine) Cool we didn’t ignore the lighter styled reds either – wines like Barbera, Chianti and young Rioja that are ideal for the the way we eat during the summer.

But we also went right to the Weber when we Q’d the Zin! and got the fire under some dry-rubbed, slow cooked, sweet and smokey baby back ribs and the jammy yet peppery flavors of Zinfandel.

And before we leave the backyard, don’t forget Burgers and Bordeaux.

My favorite summer wine thing, however, is to be the Preacher in the House and convert you to Rose’.  I love Rose’. Did you get that? I said I LOVE ROSE’!  To quote me “Rose’ is everything that is crisp, lively, summery and tantalizing about wine.”

The beauty and magic of wine is that is brings us a never-ending variety of tasty experiences that can match the meal, the season or the mood.  Frankly, that is the reason I like to write about wine and spread the word about what it can add to our life experiences… even if it means repeating things some times!

If you would like to wander though some of the wines of summer, or any other time of year, then just be a regular visitor to our Sips pages for Every Day, Guest and Splurge choices.

Every Day Sips – Wines Under $25

Guest Sips – Wines to Give or Get from $25

Splurge Sips – Wines Over $50

About Grenache

Grenache is a grape variety and wine that is unfamiliar to many people.  Yet it is a prime player in some of the tastiest reds and rose’ around. It’s also one of the most widely planted grapes in the world and it thrives in hot and dry environments.  This means that it is one of the staple grapes in Spain (where it is called Garnacha), the southern Rhone, south of France, Australia and that lovely island off the coast of Italy, Sardinia, where it is called Cannonau.  Cannonau di Sardegna is actually required to be at least 85% Grenache.  Mostly Grenache is used to blend with other grapes to add punch and color to them since it is typically higher in alcohol yet lower in acidity than many other grapes of those regions.  But there are several very popular, affordable and tasty wines that are mostly, if not all, Grenache.  So what’s in a sip?

Usually young Grenache wines have flavors of red fruits like raspberry and strawberry – not unlike Pinot Noir, but with an underlay that is spicier, less earthy and lacking the acidity and tannin that give Pinot its character and longevity.  I like to describe Grenache wines as ‘juicy’ due to their fruitiness and soft drinkability.  These are not aggressive wines but plain fun to drink and at prices that make them terrific every day choices and great for parties.  Keep that in mind for the upcoming holiday season.  I’ll point some our below to help you shop.

While Grenache makes fine wines all on its own, the main job of Grenache is to be a key player in the blend of wines like Chateauneuf du Pape, Cotes du Rhone, the wines of the Languedoc – Roussillon, Provencal reds and Australian GSM blends.  The GSM stands for Grenache-Syrah-Mouvedre and it is a pretty standard blending inherited from the French who also use Cinsault and Carignan.

And then there is Spain.  Spain claims the origin of Grenache (Garnacha) and the most prominent use is in the the Priorate and Montsant regions of Catalonia southwest of Barcelona, and in the Rioja and Navarra blended with Tempranillo.

Now all this may seem a bit confusing – but that’s why I’m here!  No, not to confuse, but to offer a bit of a roadmap to sipping all kinds of wine.  And one thing that is clearly not confusing about Grenache is that it is largely the favored grape for the best (in my opinion) rose’ made – those from the south of France and the Rosado of Spain.

Let’s get to sipping!  Here is a list of some of the Grenache based wines I like and I think you’ll see just how much they can fit into a wide variety of every day sipping, group get togethers and special occasions.

Everyday Sips
2013 Las Rocas Garnacha $10. Easy crowd pleaser
2014 Bodegas Borsao Garnacha $8. Parker description: exuberant
2014 Evodia Old Vines Garnacha $8. I buy this all the time and just watched the Cubs win the pennant while sipping it with friends and enjoying Chicago-style Italian beef.  Doesn’t get much better than that!
2013 Domaine Lafage Cuvee Nicolas $14. 100% old vine Grenache from France.
Sella & Mosca Cannonau di Sardegna Riserva 2011 $15. A bit more depth and texture due to 95% Grenache.
2014 Les Vignes Bila Haut Rouge M Chapoutier $14.  Great blend of Grenache, Syrah and Carignan from the south of France from one of the best Rhone producers.
2013 Yalumba The Strapper Grenache Syrah Mourvedre $18. A mouthful from South Australia.

Guest Sips
2014 Alvaro Palacios Terrasses $40. One of my personal favorite wines.  Juicy, versatile and lush.

Keeping Your (Wine) Cool

Now that we are in the heart and heat of summer I thought it a good time to talk about being cool – with our wine that is.  If there’s one thing that wine really doesn’t like it’s heat! Nothing will destroy a bottle faster. Now is a good time to revisit some basics about storing and serving wine at a good temperature.  Whether you have three bottles or three hundred; whether you’re drinking classic Bordeaux or everyday Malbec; whether you’re a Chardonnay fan or stick to Pinot Grigio, there are some guidelines that are helpful to having the kind of sip experience you want.

Summer Buying
When it’s hot keep it cool. Don’t let the wine sit in your car.  Common sense, right? But it’s easy to be out running errands without realizing how long the wine may be heating up in the trunk. I transport it in the car so at least it’s as comfortable as I am!  Just don’t park and let it simmer. And please, don’t let your wine sit in the garage.

If you buy online be aware of the shipping time.  Many wineries and online sellers will ship refrigerated and with a cooling pack inside the box which is great. And many also do not ship in the heat of summer without letting you know – so if you’re a club member let them know your preference. But it still makes sense to be aware of the weather. If there’s a heat spell simply notify the winery or seller to delay your shipment.  Delivery trucks get hot.

Summer Drinking
During the warmer months I generally prefer lighter styled wines and wines with good acidity. And I drink them cool.  I love Rose’ and to me there’s is nothing more fun than sipping chilled Rose’ on a summer afternoon.  Check here for my evangelizing about this!  But there are whites and reds which also just seem fit for summer sipping.

For whites I move away from Chardonnay, Viognier and fuller bodied styles to Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc and Albarino among others.  Here are some zippy summer whites to enjoy. One of my favorite summer memories is sitting on a pier eating fresh steamed clams right out of the ocean and sipping a chilled Pinot Grigio – yum! Of course, a tingly Prosecco or Cava sure fit the time too.  Anyway, an easy rule of thumb is think about the origin of the wine – warm climate = good drinking. And drink them nicely chilled. A half an hour in a bucket with 2/3rd ice and 1/3rd water is the ideal cooler.  Also, if you have the wine in the fridge, be aware that most refrigerators are a bit too cold (typically about 38 degrees). Too cold and you’ll miss some of the taste character of the wine so take it out for about 20 minutes before drinking – it’s still chilled and it will be tastier.

For reds I wander to Barbera, Chianti, Valpolicella, Rioja Crianza, and my favorite, Pinot Noir.  And I like to drink them cool.  If you have a temperature controlled cellar or storage unit then the 55 degrees setting is just right.  If you don’t then put the bottle in the fridge for about 30 minutes to cool it down from room temperature.  There’s is nothing “wrong” about enjoying bigger full wines during the summer (serve me that big Zin with some ribs!), but to me the food is the driver and we tend to eat lighter then too.  More chicken and fish on the grill, summer salads and veggies, pasta with fresh tomatoes and herbs from the garden or farmer’s market, chilled soups, and even with more brats and burgers if you’re eating lighter it makes sense to be drinking lighter too.

Okay – I have now written my way to lunch and it’s about 80 degrees out there!  I think I’ll head to the deck, the shade and a chopped salad with glass of chilled Sauvignon Blanc!

For lots of wine choice go to the the Sips pages:

Everyday Sips – Wines under $25

Guest Sips – Wines $25 plus

Splurge Sips – Wines over $50

Preacher in the House

Today I’m going to preach. I’m going to sermonize, thump the table, bang the drum and shout Alleluia!  And I’m calling for the choir of believers to join me.  I am a Rose’ evangelist!

Rose’ is everything that is crisp, lively, summery and tantalizing about wine.  It’s typically dry, not sweet, so don’t confuse it with that pink stuff called white zinfandel or other so-called blush wines.  Rose’ is an artful and historic wine style.  The epicenter for Rose’ is the south of France but it’s made all over France and all over the world.  In Spain its known as Rosado; in Germany it’s Weissherbst; in Italy either Rosato or Chiaretto if you’re hanging out near Venice. In the US and places like Australia and South Africa we just stick with Rose’.  In addition to still wines there are also yummy sparkling wines and champagne made in the Rose’ style too.

Grape juice from red grapes isn’t red, it’s basically a clear liquid.  All the color for red wines comes from leaving this juice in contact with the red grape skins after they’re crushed and during the fermentation into wine.  (This is a process called maceration for those who like the geeky parts of wine).  There are really three methods used to make this kind of wine with the most common being one where the grapes are crushed and left to hang out in the juice for a few hours or a few days.  Actually some French producers use the term une nuit, or one night.  But regardless of how long they sit it’s up to the winemaker to decide when the juice is pink enough and then it’s pumped off the skins and tanked to ferment either bone dry or with just a hint of residual sugar.

The other two methods may even be called out on the label.  Saignée is a process where the red grapes are crushed and left to macerate for a while then some of the juice is pumped off and goes into the tank to eventually become Rose’ while the rest is left to ferment into red wine.  Guess that’s getting the most out of the grape, right?

And finally there’s direct pressing of the whole bunch or cluster of the grapes which almost immediately adds the color to the juice.  These are typically the lightest colored Rose’ and the label will often have the words vin gris on it.  But no matter which method is used, the artistry is the final wine and Rose’ can be a wonderful part of your wine experiences.

Rose’ can be made from any purple skinned grape. The color and flavors of Rose’ vary a lot.  Those from the south of France, like Provence, Bandol and Tavel, tend to be paler, salmon pink with more delicate fruit flavors of raspberry or ripe peach. In Spain, Italy, South Africa and the US they’re often darker, like a shimmering ruby you can see through and are “redder” tasting too – more like ripe strawberries or cherries.  But what they all have in common is that they are plain fun to drink.  These are “let’s have lunch on the deck” wines ideal for lighter foods and seafoods or crunchy summer salads – or just to sip entirely on their own.

This evangelizing thing must work because there are more and more on the shelves every year.  And now Rose’ is getting star power with Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie owning their own label, Miraval (no kidding).  So if I’m preaching to the choir, Great!  And if you’re not in the choir yet open some Rose’ and sing along!  Let’s keep spreading the word and get ready to Pop the Cork on Rose’ today.

Everyday Sip:  Alexander Valley Vineyards 2014 Rose of Sangiovese $12
Coho salmon red with crispy fresh strawberry flavor.  Screw off the top and enjoy.

Guest Sip: Chateau Miraval 2014 Rose Cotes du Provence $23.
Very pretty wine.  Vibrant pink with strawberry and white peach tastes. Rounded bottle adds to the table setting and says that this is a bit more special wine.

Splurge Sip: 2014 Domains Ott Chateau Romassan Bandol Clair de Noir $48
Elegant – not a word usually associated with Rose’ but true none the less. Beautifully crafted. From the coastal area in Bandol.  Pale pink, with an almost light orange cast. Delicate flavors of strawberry with little squeeze of grapefruit. Crispy dry.