Bottoms Up: Enjoying wines al fresco

Ah summer! Living shifts to outdoors and the patio, deck and pool beckon. The BBQ is all fired up. The steaks and salmon are grillin’, and almost all is right with the world. The only thing missing is a glass of vino. Not just any wine will do. You’ll want cool, snappy whites and robust, fruity, hearty reds.

There’s nothing quite like sipping a glass of your favourite wine al fresco. Whether it’s in your own backyard, at the cottage, camping, or at a restaurant’s outdoor patio, choosing the right wine is a cinch during the dog days of summer.

Forget those old bottles, delicate wines, expensive offerings, and overly complex numbers you’ve been hanging on to. Their aromatics and flavours will only be lost to the smell of smoke, charcoal, lawn mower fumes, car exhaust, grass and other extraneous outdoor stimuli. There’s simply too much competition infringing on their showing well, so save them for indoors.

What you want are forward, ‘in-your-face’, robust styles that will stand up to the environment. You can even lighten up on many of the rules of matching wine to food. This is the season to hang back and enjoy. Keeping it simple is key. Choose wines that are young, fruity, crisp (lots
of acidity or the sour component) and robust.

Avoid excessively oaky selections as well. These are usually heavier and tend to mask the fresh fruity character you’ll want lots of at this time of year.

Summer whites
For whites, check out the following grape varieties. Pinot Blanc with its
green apple minerality, from places like Alsace, France, is a good bet. Pinot Grigio, because of its nutty, flinty character, especially from northern Italy, will do an admirable job. Riesling, with its citrus, peachy, pine nuance, is one of my all time favourites to beat the heat. Dry to medium-dry styles from most cool climate wine-producing countries are winners. Why not give wispy, clean, steely, minerally, green apply Muscadet from the Loire Valley in France a go or choose herbaceous, gooseberry-laden, tangy, crisp Sauvignon Blanc for a refreshing alternative. Even unoaked Chardonnay will work nicely.

Patio reds
Red wine lovers need to focus on these grape varieties. Gamay, full of cherries, violets and red berries, especially from Ontario and Beaujolais,
France, are ideal for the warm weather. Sexy Merlot delivers with its red currant, floral, red licorice notes.

I love Sangiovese from central Italy in the warmer weather. Chalked full of cherry, leather and cedar, it’s yummy with BBQ fare. The tarry red fruit and spice of hot little Malbec from Argentina, makes it a gem for outdoor dining. Also perfect for BBQ fare is California Zinfandel with its brambly dark, spicy fruit and smoky, black-fruited Shiraz.

For a real interesting change of pace, select rosé. Not only does it look aesthetic in glasses on the table, but it’s also rarely oak treated and most are specifically produced to be consumed fresh and young.

Although many folks like bubbly at this time of year, I usually suggest steering away from it. As you probably are aware, sparkles generally tends to go to your head faster and I find the heat at this time of year speeds that up.

Cool down
Be sure to serve all wine a bit cooler than normal – including reds. Nobody enjoys a warm “soupy” red wine. Keep an ice bucket and towel next to the picnic table to chill down all wines. Don’t use your best stemware either. Try sturdier versions to avoid breakage. And whatever you do, avoid plastic. Wine should always be sipped out of glass. Finally, make sure you always have plenty of non-alcoholic beverages
on hand, especially for designated drivers.

The warm weather is ripe for easy livin’ so make the most of your outdoor soirées this season by following the Good Doctor’s simple suggestions. Remember that bright, forward, quaffable styles of wine are what you need.

Just keep it simple and most important, drink responsibly. Enjoy!

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