HOT SUMMER NIGHTS – COOL SUMMER WHITES (and don’t forget those ROSES)
The temperature and humidity has been rising here in Taipei. So sure, there are many ways to cool off. Head to the beach, jump in a pool or even sit in a tub of ice, ooooh-ouch-aaaah!. Or here’s another thought, why not cool off with a refreshing glass of white wine?
Summer’s not just a season – it’s a state of mind.
My drinking philosophy for surviving hot and humid climates requires a different approach to weathering the weather. Lighter, more refreshing drinks take over from the more serious, higher pedigreed wines and spirits so agreeable during the cooler months. The best wines for summer are light, crisp, refreshing and fun to drink. With summer white wines, complexity isn’t as important as quaffability and versatility. Many of these wines will also be lower in alcohol. With summer’s warmth and humidity, dining and entertaining becomes more casual and often goes outdoors, so let’s Think young, fresh, crisp, light, and fruity white wines to sip and match with salads, seafood, shellfish, chicken dishes, Mediterranean and other light cuisines. It’s all about acidity with summer whites, to keep the wine light and refreshing on the palate.
New Zealand and Australia are making a range of wonderful Sauvignon Blanc’s, Verdelho’s (flavors of pineapple, melon, tropical fruits, guava, and honeysuckle), and unoaked Chardonnay wines. All are remarkably perfect for summer quaffing. Sauvignon Blanc might be the ultimate summer wine—its acidity and flavors of litchi, passion fruit and gooseberries match well with everything from shellfish to garden vegetables. Australia has also been producing lovely Reislings from the Clare Valley and are spot on for thirst quenching quaffs during these hot and humid months.
Germany & Alsace
Rieslings and Pinot Gris from the Alsace region of France are know for their purity of fruit, good acidity and low tannins, knowing your shippers are the key to drier vs. richer styled wines while Reislings from Germany are crisp, slatey and their hint of residual sugars are absolutely delectable and palate pleasing. Pinot Gris
offers fresh, stone fruit flavors, while the spicy, fragrant and steely notes of Riesling and Gewu?rztraminer pair well with shellfish, seafood, Vietnamese and Thai cuisines. Personally, I hold a special spot in my heart for a crisp, clean and spicy Gewurztraminer, absolutely delicious when paired with hot peppery Asian dishes. For an affordable all too quaffable, low alcohol (10%) wine that pairs beautifully with the above mentioned cuisines, I recommend the Dienhard ” Green label” Riesling. It’s not the most pedigreed Riesling in town, but it has everything to like about it, fruity, flinty, mouth watering/cleansing acids, and it has a slight frizzante that is really refreshing, a very enjoyable and available wine.
Italia & Espania
Another excellent choice for the summer months of casual dining are the Vinho Verde white wines produced in Spain and Portugal from the Alberino grape. Vinho verde means ‘green wine’ and refers to a style of new wine that is “grape today and wine tomorrow. These light, refreshing wines are perfect hot weather thirst quenchers. Albarino is Spain’s signature white wine, it is named for a grape native to the northwest province of Galicia. It is to Spain what sauvignon blanc is to New Zealand and pinot grigio is to Italy. I don’t see many of these wines in Taiwan, so I mention these in passing just in case you spot one and want to try it.
Of course Italy is the home of some very good Pinot Grigio’s (melon to delicate honey overtones), light Orvieto’s and Soave (yellow/straw colors that sometimes verge on pale light green. It’s known to be delicate and light, perhaps a hint of almonds. Think perfumes of white flowers with gentle acidity.) Italy is in the midst of a wine making renaissance and are paying much more attention to making white wines than they have in the past and are now producing wonderfully fresh and invigorating wines
Chile & Argentina
For an even wider, more global horizon I recommend Torrontes, a grape variety from Argentina, which takes fruity to the max. These are a little harder to find, but are becoming quite popular They are Fruity, floral, tropical (grapefruit and pineapple comes to mind), and yet still quite dry, this wine has to be tasted to be believed, absolutely delicious.
And what about Chilean winemaking? Just go sample their fruit driven Chardonnays, Sauvignon Blancs and Rieslings (yes Reislings) to see how far they have raised the bar on the quality of their white wines. Absolutely delicious and world class. If you’d like some suggestions, Email me, I’ve tasted most of those here in Taiwan.
“Viva La France”
All right, we haven’t even gotten around to the Grande Dame of wine making, France. Classical perfection for summer cuisine. Say, Chablis (unoaked chardonnay), a lovely fruit driven and minerally style that you can count on for exquisite elegance and sophistication, pairs well with all seafoods and especially Oysters. Sancerre (the spiritual home of sauvignon Blanc) fruity, well balanced wines with a full body mouth feel, purity and elegance express these wines. And don’t forget that classic, Muscadet, dry, light, bright as in high acid, citrusy with Jasmine floral note, fresh and invigoratingly, the wine that made shlurping oysters worth shlurping.
And last but not least………..Rose’s
Good Rose?s are fresh and crisp and can have vibrant flavors of strawberries, cherries, melon, berries and some citrus. Usually they are very dry, but well-made Rose?s can handle a pinch of sweetness too. I’ve tasted lots of Rose?s, from California, Oregon, Washington, Australia, France, Spain, Italy, Argentina and New Zealand. It is fair to say that right now the best Rose?s in the world are being made in France, with Spain coming on strong. That’s probably because they take it seriously and have been working at it for a longer period than most countries. Taval from the Southern Rhone, the Anjou from the loire Valley of France, and the Rosada’s from Spain’s Rioja region are your best bets. Rose’s compliment all light cuisine and refreshes the palate for easy and carefree dining throughout the summer season.
I’d like to recommend what I consider “The Wine” of the summer that arrived on island a few weeks ago, Bottled by the venerable/world famous Bodegas Muga the 2007 Rosada Rioja garnered 91 points from Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar: “Pale pink. Impressively complex nose offers redcurrant, wild strawberry, blood orange and white flowers. Clean and sharply focused, with pure red berry flavors and a suave mineral undertone. For the money, I can’t think of a more elegant and lithe rose’ wine on the market”. I love this wine, you will too. You can try it by the glass along with the Dienhard Riesling and other selections being offered at Sababa’s Bistro Tien Mu on Zhong Shan N Rd. Sec 6 lane 450, alley #3, (phone number-here). A timely and delicious new addition to the dining scene here in Tien Mu, hosted graciously by Jim and Anni Murvine.
bon boire (good drinking)
Mark encourages your inquiries and questions on the world of wines and spirits and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org