Chow Town

Refreshing foreign wines to battle the searing heat

Avigonesi Rosso de Montepulciano
Avigonesi Rosso de Montepulciano

When I last left you, the temperatures and humidity were climbing and Kansas City appeared headed for “one of those” summers. You know, the ones with two straight weeks of 100+ degree days and heat indices at 110 and beyond. It’s summers like that that can crush the souls of even the most dogged of wine lovers. I am certainly one of those determined wine-drinking types. I refuse to allow searing heat and draining humidity to turn me into a Bud Light drinker for a quarter of the year!

No, I choose to battle the elements with a combination of crisp, refreshing white and rosé wines, lighter grilled food options, and red wines that produce smiles rather than sweat. Away go my Bordeaux, Cote Roties, Barolos and Super-Tuscans and out come a bevy of beauties ranging from sparkling to whites and rosés or light to medium red wines bursting with flavor but without the accompanying oak and tannin. What follows are some of my summertime wine choices from across the pond.

Let me start with my personal favorite category for hot weather wine selections: rosés. My wife and I generally like almost anything from France’s Rhone Valley, most notably Tavels, and Provence, which includes our favorite rosé region, Bandol. Cotes du Rhone roses from excellent producers like Perrin, Chapoutier and Guigal are excellent, easy to find, dependable and affordable choices. You will not be disappointed in any of their bottlings.

However, I was shocked out of my France rosé box this year with a stunner from Italy. The Masciarelli winery Villa Gemma Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo is both a mouthful to say and to drink. This wine, made with 100% Montepulciano d’Abruzzo grapes, is both delicate and exotic, a rare combination in the world of rosé wine. Plus, at $15 retail (I found it even cheaper online), the Masciarelli won’t break the piggy bank.

We also enjoy Sauvignon Blancs of all appellations and national origins. Unfortunately, the best from France, from Pouilly Fume and Sancere, are a little on the pricey side for summertime quaffing. We usually keep a few chilled for special occasions (fresh halibut on the grill?), then head to Costco and grab a case of the Eclat de Sauvignon Blanc, a lovely wine from the Entre Deux Mers region of Bordeaux. The Eclat is soft and lush, tasty, and unbelievable inexpensive. Hurry, though, as the wine comes and goes very quickly with each new vintage.

While the Eclat is an easy and delicious pick, it’s also fun to try wines made with different, lesser known varieties. An example of that is the Tariquet Classic, a wine from the Gascony region of France consisting of Ugni-Blanc, Colombard, Gros Manseng and Sauvignon Blanc. The Tariguet is crisp, refreshing, sumptuous and $10! Need I say more?

Even though we drink way more white and rosé wines in the summer, I still need some reds to drink with those grilled burgers, chops and steaks. Brunello di Montalcino, among my favorite wines in the world, are a bit too heavy for triple digit temps, but their baby brothers, Rosso de Montepulciano, are right in the wheelhouse. I like many — even most — Rossos, but I get offended spending $30 or more for them. Avignonesi’s Rosso, at $20 (again, cheaper online) is a great option. With strawberry and raspberry flavors laced with notes of violets and rose petals, this wine is big enough to stand up to any rib eye or strip you throw at it, but graceful enough to match to chicken or pork.

Another wine in that same category, at an even better price, is the Toscolo Chianti Classico. You can get this beauty in the mid-teens, and it is worth every penny. Made with Sangiovese and just a touch of Cabernet Sauvignon to beef it up a bit, the Toscolo is balanced, silky, and abundantly fruity. Serve your steak with an heirloom tomato salad or grill some swordfish and create an olive, tomato and garlic nage as we did recently and watch this wine sing like Pavarotti!

Well, well, look at the time. It’s after 5:00. There must be a glass of rosé or Sauvignon Blanc in my very near future and a glass of Rosso or Chianti when I’m done grilling up the steaks after that. Cheers!

Dave Eckert was the producer and host of “Culinary Travels With Dave Eckert,” which aired on PBS and Wealth TV for 12 seasons.