June 26, 2020
Summer is firmly in our sights, and with that comes so many things we love: picnics, beachfront dining, and plenty of time spent on patios.
What do all three have in common? Hopefully the right summer wine.
Now is that time of year when we are reaching for a light, crisp, fruit-forward glass of something cold. It is the season of rosé and rooftops, after all. Of course, in addition to the classic bubbles, minerally whites, and pale rosés, there is still a whole world of chillable reds, and a few other surprises, waiting to be uncorked.
"Chilled, light reds with a low ABV come about as close to adult fruit juice as you'll ever get," said Billy Smith, sommelier and assistant wine director at Michelin-starred The Four Horsemen restaurant in Brooklyn. He also manages rider-wine lists for bands on tour, develops cellars for private clients, and has made a habit of drinking heavily with French wine makers in very large caves. Essentially, he's sipping the dream.
"Sparkling 'pét nat' wines are a good swap in for the Prosecco/juice combo of yesteryear. Tart and energetic whites made from esoteric grape varieties can replace your Chablis and Sancerre," Smith said. "And if you haven't done so yet, say hello to 'orange' wines."
A note on 'Somm Speak': Pét nat, short of Pétillant Naturel, is often referred to as the "soda pop" of wine, said Smith. "They are often unfiltered, cloudy, and can have pretty unusual flavor profiles. "Orange" wine is a catch-all name for skin-fermented white wines. If you crush white wine grapes and allow the juice to ferment with the skins, the resulting wine can have a color that ranges from amber to pink.
With all of that out of the way, we know you're probably poised and waiting to pour, so we'll get right to it. When the weather warms up and the glasses are chilled, which summer wines are experts whispering about? Here's the word through the grapevine.
2019 La Garagista Farm and Winery Ci Confonde Rosé
"This pét nat sparkler comes from one of my very favorite wineries in all of the US. Made in Vermont by Deirdre Heekin & Caleb Barber, this wine always has a beautifully mysterious character that will make you wonder why you don't drink more wines made of American hybrid grape varietals, like Frontenac Gris," said Smith.
Tip: For all of Smith's suggestions, he recommends serving cold and with a side of your best friends. No food required. "But if you must," he said, "hot dogs will go with any of these just fine."
2017 Simon Bize Akatcha
This is the first macerated white wine from one of Smith's favorite Burgundy producers, Chisa Bize.
"This is her first vintage release of this wine and there wasn't much to go around. This wine is pretty hard to track down, but if you're up for the challenge, you won't regret it. Thrill of the hunt, and all," he said.
2018 Romuald Valot Biosophiste
"Romuald's wines are just starting to gain traction here in the US," said Smith. "But his lighter, focused style makes for the perfect chillable red in the summer heat."
Smith recommends giving the entire lineup a look, from the introductory Beaujolais Village to his other crus, Chénas and Côte de Brouilly.
2019 Château de Calavon Provence Rose
Light-bodied, with aromas of lavender, herbs, watermelon, white flowers, and peach, this rare wine only had 1,000 cases produced.
"In the heart of Pays d'Aix, Chateau de Calavon belongs to the Audibert family, who have been making wine in Lambesc for five generations," said Arden Montgomery and Margaux Reaume, founders of Argaux, a connoisseur's wine paradise in Costa Mesa, California.
They recommend serving this wine chilled literally anywhere — on a boat, at the beach, by the pool, at the park. Pair it with grilled shrimp, light pasta tossed in olive oil, or anything with goat cheese.
2018 Clos Signadore Patrimonio Blanc — Vermentino
Another rare gem, this summer wine spills from Corsica, France, with only 500 cases produced. It is 100% Vermentino, referred to as the "Yachtsman's White," say Montgomery and Reaume.
"This wine is aromatic, light-bodied and refreshing," they said. "Its profile includes floral notes, citrus fruits, white fruits, and a nutty quality. On the palate there is a beautiful balance between the citrus fruits and mineral notes."
They recommend pairing it with fennel, shrimp tacos, or pasta alle vongole.
2017 Cherrier Freres Sancerre Rouge
A 100% Pinot Noir from the Loire Valley, this wine is light-bodied with fresh, red fruit and floral aromas like violets and lavender.
"Its light body and fresh fruit make it an excellent 'slightly chilled red' candidate," Montgomery and Reaume said. Pair it with butterflied lamb with rosemary, duck, or roasted chicken.
Matua Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc
Summer wines should say light, refreshing, with notes of zesty citrus. New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs are known for their intense flavors of grapefruit, lemon-lime, and grass.
For the best this summer, Emily Wines, a master sommelier and vice president of wine & beverage experience at Cooper's Hawk Winery & Restaurants, recommends Marlborough's Matua Sauvignon Blanc.
"I love the zippy acidity," she said. "It is so delightful served ice cold with grilled fish or ceviche on a hot day."
Paolo Saracco Moscato d'Asti
Fresh summer desserts deserve the perfect wine. For this, Wines recommends Paolo Saracco Moscato d'Asti.
"It is lightly sparkling, very low alcohol, and tastes like the sweetest of fresh peaches," she said.
She recommends serving it with fruit desserts, or as a dessert all by itself. "It is also pretty delicious served with vanilla ice cream as a float," she said.
Dr. Loosen "Red Slate" Dry Riesling
Germany's Mosel region is well-known for its delicious Riesling wines. Most people associate Rieslings with sweet wines, but actually, there is an entire breadth of dry Rieslings that are superb. Dr. Loosen "Red Slate" Dry Riesling is Wines' go-to summer beverage, she says.
"It is crisp and dry with intense flavors of Granny Smith apple and Meyer lemon," she said. "If you have not had dry Riesling, this is the summer to open up your whole world of wine."
Wines recommends pairing this one with the bold flavors of Thai food.
Jim Barry "The Lodge Hill" Riesling, Clare Valley, South Australia, Australia, 2018
Crisp and mouthwatering, this Riesling is ripe for summer with its notes of tart citrus peel, fresh white floral, and long-lasting mineralogy.
"Riesling and summer is a legendary combination which melds parched tips with tangy thirst-quenching refreshment," said Eric Cooperman, the general manager and wine director of Urban Wren Winery in Greenville, South Carolina.
Cooperman recommends pairing this wine with raw east-coast oysters, scallop ceviche, grilled sea bass, or soft-ripened cheeses.
Domaine Huet "Clos du Bourg" Sec, Vouvray, Touraine, Loire, France, 2018
Domaine Huet's "Clos du Bourg" pours a bright and beautiful Chenin Blanc, with notes of fresh white floral, tart yellow apples, dry-roasted nuts, honeycomb, and crystallized ginger.
"It might just be the greatest example of Chenin Blanc the world over," said Cooperman. "It is fresh, crisp, and viscous on the palate. With laser-like precision, Huet has coerced noteworthy elegance and regal charm out of this finicky grape."
Since we're pouring France in a glass, why not go all the way? Serve it with a classic Lyonnaise salad, duck confit, bouillabaisse, or cassoulet.
Raventós I Blanc "Conca del Riu Anoia" Blanc de Blancs, Cava, Penedès, Catalonia, Spain, 2017
This summer, skip the champagne and opt for the lesser known Cava. Cooperman says Cava is one of Spain's best-kept secrets, boasting all the quality of Champagne for a fraction of the price.
"You'll love the rich, creamy mousse of tightly wound effervesce and gorgeous notes of ripe apple, crunchy pears, and fresh baked sourdough bread," he said.
Pour a glass beside a fresh plate of sushi or sashimi, grilled swordfish, sharp cheeses, and fried chicken — a must try, he says.
Pierre Cotton, Brouilly, Beaujolais, Burgundy, France, 2018
"This isn't your everyday Beaujolais," said Cooperman. "There is brilliance within Pierre Cotton, and his fermented creations are a pillar of greatness in the region." With a recommendation like that, this is a wine that must be on your table this summer.
Cooperman praises the tart, red raspberry, young strawberry, and earthy mushroom character of the wine. In fact, he says it will leave you speechless.
To serve, slightly chill the wine and pair with chicken tandoori, dry-rubbed barbecue ribs, herbed leg of lamb, or triple creme brie.
Cantine Volpi 'ERA' Prosecco, Extra Dry, Veneto MV
A dry Prosecco is a must for summertime, and Lindsay Borenstein, certified sommelier and head of operations at Summit House in New Jersey, says ERA Prosecco is a phenomenal expression. "Producers Bruno and Carlo Volpi managed to seize the best properties in the Colli Tortonesi, making organic production their mission and yielding this expressive, dry, sparkling for any occasion."
She says that it stands wonderfully well on its own, or mixed with your favorite fruit-based liquor or fruit juice of choice. "Enjoy straight out of your beach-ready ice bucket," she said.
Domaine de Ardoisières, Jacquere, "Silice," Vin de Allobroges, 2018
A summer evening favorite, Domaine de Ardoisieres "Silice" is known for its high acidity, but creamy mouthfeel. "We're so thrilled with this wine, we cannot wait to begin outdoor dining to offer guests a taste, whether they've ordered it or not," Borenstein said.
She recommends serving it chilled and is the perfect companion to blue crab agnolotti and lemon caper beurre blanc.