Summer Wine Secrets

This article is a reprint of an article Phillip wrote for the Triangle Downtowner.

When you’re hosting a party, one of the most stressful things in planning is choosing a wine. When it comes to food, you can easily cater to Mike’s gluten allergy by using potato buns or accommodate Susan’s aversion to onions by leaving them out of the green bean casserole. But with wine, whether it’s a neighborhood cookout or a potluck dinner, it’s almost impossible to please every wine drinker.

Another advantage food has is that we are apt to talk about how a dish is special to us or how we somehow contributed to the meal. Think of all the times you have heard someone proudly mention, “Oh, this was my grandmother’s recipe!” or “These tomatoes were picked fresh from my garden.” Wine is no different; people love a story.

Thus, as a first step any decent wine consultant will advise you to serve a wine with a personal story. It can be as simple as, “This was a wine I enjoyed at a First Friday tasting recently,” or as involved as, “My husband and I were traveling through western France, came across the Saint-Emilion wine region of Bordeaux and absolutely loved the wines!” This small bit of forethought in your selection process will form a connection between your guests and the wine, leading them to see the wine in a positive light before they even take a sip.

Think of it this way: if you’ve already won their minds, all you have to do now is win over their taste buds.

Often while hosting or attending summer parties, we are confronted with a myriad of food choices that are not necessarily compatible with the same wine. Furthermore, you can have foods, condiments, and marinades with intense and competing flavors. No wonder so many wine drinkers usually opt for a big, oaky Chardonnay or a concentrated Californian Cabernet Sauvignon – you are able to taste the wine because it overpowers the food! However, when pairing we are not looking for simple addition, we are looking for a synergistic effect.

Break the assortment of foods down into manageable parts by asking questions. What is the main course? Is it a meat? Which type? Will it be grilled? Will there be any marinades, sauces, or other flavors? Is there a unique spice that shines through?

All these questions can help you hone in on the right styles of wine for your guests or your party, but it often takes that extra assurance of asking your trusted wine expert for affirmation or recommendations. While our soon to be released website will conveniently recommend wines for any occasion, I have made some general suggestions for a few classic summer foods.

Perroud - Amethyste - BrouillyGazpacho: Try a deep-hued rosé to match the fresh summer tomatoes and vegetables such as a Bordeaux Clairet or an Argentine Malbec rosé, or for the truly adventurous, a Fino or Manzanilla Sherry

Burgers: This will truly depend on your condiments (toppings can sometimes be more important than the protein!), but an aromatic, fruit-forward and rich red, such as a Spanish Mencia or a French Syrah are my favorites.

Brats: Your perfect summer wine: dry or off-dry Riesling! This might have many of you scoffing, “White wine with grilled pork?” But it is the ultimate local pairing in Germany, and think of how often you have had pork served with some sort of fruit-based sauce.

Ribs: Give an earthy or spicy red a chance, such as a Monastrell, a Tempranillo, or a Chilean Syrah.

Salads and Pasta Salads: Crisp, aromatic whites are versatile here, such as Sancerre or other Sauvignon Blancs as well as Viognier.

Chicken: Depends on the marinade, but a nice Italian Verdicchio or a light, fresh red, like Frappato or Gamay are flexible choices.

Grilled Shellfish: A bright, citrusy white is great with fresh shellfish, grilled or otherwise.  Try a Muscadet or a white from Rueda in Spain, or even the large party standby, Pinot Grigio.

Corn on the Cob: Try a sturdy, fruit-forward white, such as an unoaked California Chardonnay

Fresh Fruit: Refresh your senses with a sweet Moscato d’Asti or Brachetto d’Acqui. A little bit of bubbly and a little bit of sweetness can’t go wrong!

Whatever the occasion may be for enjoying wine this summer, make sure to stay out of the big-box store and shop with the experts!