For red-wine lovers like me, July can be the cruelest month. The long, hot summer ahead usually brings with it oceans of insipid Pinot Grigios and overoaked Chardonnays at barbecues, parties, and other gatherings. But that doesn't have to be the case. My advice is to ignore conventional wisdom and continue to drink wines you like, even if they're red. Just give them the best opportunity to shine by pairing them with chicken or lamb off the grill, pasta dishes, even a roast beef sandwich. And don't forget to serve them when they're cool to the touch. That'll help mask the excessive alcohol and make even the most robust Shiraz or Sangiovese at least somewhat refreshing. The wines might not show as much bouquet at first-but they'll warm up in the glass soon enough.
I have little use for white wines with the mouthfeel of reds. They remind me of people who say, "You'll love my cat. It's just like a dog." Instead, I want my whites to be racy and zingy, all crispness and acidity. I'm happy to report that compelling new whites with just those attributes are emerging all over the world, from Slovenia to South Africa to Chile. Toast the summer with a glass of one on your terrace on a warm July night. Then go inside to the air-conditioning and break out the reds.
Wines for Picnics
Picnic wines are amiable souls. There are no issues to deal with, no vinous angst, just wines that are reliably good with a wide range of foods in a variety of situations. They need to perform when poured straight from the ice bucket on a hot afternoon, but also when served somewhat warmer after spending a morning in a picnic basket next to the turkey sandwiches. They can be white or red, but are better crisp than viscous, and with more fruit flavor than oak.
And the last thing you want with a wine like this is so much alcohol that you end up sleeping away the afternoon underneath a tree. Or maybe that's the first thing you want. Who am I to say?
No red grape is too macho to make pink wine these days; I tasted one from Sicily 's gravel-voiced, cigar-smoking Nero d'Avola the other day. But to my taste, the best of them still come from Garnacha Tinta, the workhorse Spanish grape that migrated across the Pyrenees to southern France, where it emerged all prettified as Grenache.
In a pinch, a French Grenache-based rosé from, say, Tavel (a region where they make only rosés) will do. I've even had a few memorable Australian Grenaches. But perhaps because I learned to drink wine outside bullrings in the heat of a Spanish summer, I've always favored rosados. The Basque province of Navarra isn't one of Spain 's fashionable wine regions, but it still makes better rosado than anywhere else. Chivite's Gran Feudo remains the standard, while newcomers such as Inurrutia are quietly making some of the tastiest summer wines in the world.
And when you're thinking pink, don't overlook Champagne. Rosé Champagnes have shed their frivolous image: These wines can stand up to roast chicken, pan-fried fish, or almost any other summer entrée. Add a splash of fresh tangerine juice for a stunning Mimosa.
Barbecue and Grill Wines
When considering what to drink with grilled food, I tend to recall occasions when I've had meat cooked over a hot flame in some far-flung corner of the world and the wine that partnered with it on each occasion.
In Spain, lamb is typically roasted over bundles of twigs and vines then served with Tempranillo, Monastrell, or even Cariñena from the Priorat. In South Africa, a backyard braai can include steaks of impala and kudu, and usually Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah. In Argentina, the grilled beef is so flavorful that the less that's done to it, the better. Malbec is the accompaniment there. And on a summer night in Walla Walla, Washington, neighbors gather around the grill for drinks, talk, hamburgers, and a bright Bordeaux blend.
The wine and spirits editor of Travel & Leisure magazine, Bruce Schoenfeld formerly served as a contributing editor of Wine Spectator. He has written about wine for Gourmet, Food & Wine, Saveur, Wine & Spirits, The New York Times, and many other publications. He's also a two-time Emmy Award winner, a celebrated magazine sportswriter whose work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Sports Illustrated, Outside, and GQ, and the author of two books: The Match: Althea Gibson and Angela Buxton, about two 1950s tennis players, and The Last Serious Thing, about the 1989 bullfighting season.
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