This article was first published June 18, 2013
Ah summer…hot, lazy, long days of endless sunshine! The perfect time to just kick back with a glass of cool, white vino! Not just any wine, though! You’ll want something that’s light, fruity, crisp and clean with little, if any, oak at all. Put aside those big, heavy numbers and reserve them for the cooler weather. I’m talking about whites that’ll dance on the palate, tickle your taste buds and refresh. Here are numerous warm weather whites that are sure to please and beat the heat.
The king of summer whites is Riesling. Whether it’s from right here in our own Niagara backyard, or from any other cool-climate growing area like Germany or France, you can’t go wrong. Its floral, fruity, petrol character with great balancing acidity always pleases, no matter the style; dry to sweet.
The list would simply not be complete without Sauvignon Blanc. Full of herbaceous, grassy, gooseberry, green fruit and bracing acidity, it’s the cat’s meow in the heat. Best from cool-climate regions, there are nice, slightly oaked versions like Fumé Blanc from California and Poiully-Fumé from France, but I’d stick to the unoaked styles for best results.
Italy offers numerous, wonderful, warm weather sippers. Pinot Grigio is a very hot varietal these days, especially from the north. Unlike, its French counterpart Pinot Gris, this baby is light, crisp, flinty and dry with a subtle nutty note. From the Marche on the Adriatic comes Verdicchio with its dry, floral, crisp, slightly bitter almond nuance. The Veneto in the country’s northeast provides us with Soave. Made mainly from the Graganaga grape, this dry, minerally, slightly herbal, nutty, crisp white is a delight. Oaked versions exist as well. Umbria gives us Orvietto. Delicate, crisp and easy drinking, it comes in numerous styles from drier to sweeter.
France also delivers big time when it comes to fresh, tasty whites. If you’re looking for something that is steely, minerally, crisp, clean and extra-dry, check out Muscadet from the country’s Loire Valley. The acid here will slice through summer’s swelter like nobody’s business. Another French variety that works well at this time of year is Pinot Blanc from Alsace. Fruity, crisp, clean and dry, it’s so easy going down. Bordeaux’s Entre-deux-Mers is a good bet for dry, crisp, vinous pleasure as well.
It’s unfortunate that we don’t see many wines from Austria here in our market because they have a gem. Gruner Veltliner, with its tropical fruity, white peppery, fresh demeanor is a treat.
From the north of Portugal comes one of my all-time favourites, Vinho Verde. Bone dry, light, extremely crisp, clean, low in alcohol and occasionally possessing a little carbonic spritz on the tip of the tongue, it’s a treasure of a heat beater.
You’re probably familiar with Vidal in Ontario that’s used to make Icewine, but there are some great little floral, fruity, dry Vidals that work magic in the dog days of summer.
Finally, bubbly, with its effervescent, nose-tickling charm is a sure-fire cooler when the temperature rises. Just opening a bottle is a celebration of summer!
The thing that’s great about all of these suggestions is that they are extremely food-friendly. Each and every one of these makes a great aperitif and will kick-start your palate, getting the gastronomic juices flowing. For fish and seafood, simply prepared, they’re fab. Check them out with molluscs (oysters, clams, mussels) for some real pleasure. For fried, oily or salty foods, there’s nothing better. They are sushi’s best friend, or give them a go with vegetarian fare and white meats. There’s enough acid in all to mesh with tomato-based dishes or team them up with soft, young cheeses. They’re so versatile.
So if you’re in the mood for refreshing whites to enhance your summer, look no further than the aforementioned suggestions. The ‘good doctor’ guarantees you won’t be disappointed. Just chill them down nicely and enjoy.