Here we are again. It is just a few days from the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year and the beginning of official summer.
Time to talk about the wines you’ll be drinking this season.
Just as I said last year, summer is not the time to spend a lot of time worrying about wine and food pairings. When you go to your college friend’s house for a cookout, you can’t know what will work best. Will you have bursting-with-flavor ribs slathered with sauce or all-American hot dogs?
The important thing is the friendship, not the vintage. So until Labor Day, go and enjoy yourself. Here are a few suggestions for the wines of summer 2014. I found all these bottles at Cosentino’s in Brookside.
Albarino: If you haven’t tried this luscious varietal from the northwest corner of Spain, the Rias Baixas region, summer is the time. The aroma of dried apricots will waft from your glass. The mouth-feel is silky, luxurious. Your friends will be sure you spent more than you did.
Prosecco: Just what is the difference between Prosecco and other sparkling wines like Champagne? You know wine can only be named Champagne if it is grown in the Champagne region of France. Prosecco is also legally protected and can only be created in the Prosecco region north of Venice in Veneto, Italy. But geography isn’t the only difference in these two drinks.
In the case of Prosecco, the secondary fermentation — the process that makes it bubbly — is done in stainless steel tanks. For Champagne, the secondary fermentation it is done in the bottle it is sold in. Prosecco doesn’t have that baked bread/yeast aroma of Champagne. It’s fresher, younger and contains less alcohol. No wonder it’s become a very popular summer drink.
Rose: First, I fell for how glamorous I thought I appeared holding a glass of rose wine. You can feel like you are on the Riviera in one sip. But I found I loved what was in the glass also — the fruity yet dry taste, the aromas of the sea and lavender. Here are three of my favorite Roses: Las Rocas and Muga from Spain and Mulderbosch from South Africa.
Savignon Blanc: This is a perfect time to do a taste comparison. Don’t worry, there are no losers in this game. Just go buy a bottle of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc — Cloudy Bay if you can afford it — Kim Crawford or Nobilo if your budget dictates. Then go buy a bottle of Sancerre from the Loire region in France. Both of these wines are made from Sauvignon Blanc grapes but boy do they taste different. The New Zealand has the aroma and taste of the best grapefruit you ever ate. The Sancerre has more minerality and more richness. Compare, contrast and enjoy.
Torrentes: I consumed my first bottle of Torrentes in Buenos Aires, Argentina. It is no wonder I was taken with it, being in such a fantastic setting. But back home in America, I realized it wasn’t just a trip crush on this grape, it was the real thing. The wine is very aromatic, it has balanced acidity and it’s so smooth in the mouth. Torrentes is not the easiest bottle of wine to find in Kansas City, but it is worth the search.
Vinho Verde: The literal translation of the name of this wine — green wine — implies youth. And though this Portugal export has been around for a long time, this year I see it on wine lists, featured in wine articles and on the terraces of some of Kansas City’s better restaurants. Vinho Verde is having a hot streak. And why not? The slight frizzante quality and the low alcohol content — 8 to 11 percent — make it perfect for a lazy picnic at the lake or beach.
The reds of southern Italy: There are times in the summer when you still want a red wine to complement your braised veal shanks or a grilled steak. In those moments, I suggest you look to the wines of southern Italy. They are born to be consumed in the sun, with a breeze at your back.
Look on the label for Campania, Sicily and Puglia as place of origin. If you have a large wine allowance choose any of the wines of Paulo Bea, a famous winemaker of Campania. If your budget is small, like mine is, look for Salice Salentino from Puglia or Nero D’Avola from Sicily. They were made for summer days.
Lou Jane Temple’s road to food has been a long and winding one. First as a rock n roll caterer back stage to the stars, then with her own Kansas City based catering company, Cafe Lulu, food writing, novelist, private chef. Lou Jane has written and had published nine culinary mysteries and one cookbook. She recently moved back to Kansas City and eagerly awaits the next chapter of her food career.