Last weekend, I pulled a bottle of red wine from my tiny cellar in anticipation of a visit from a friend who doesn’t care to drink white.
My collection, while not in a climate-controlled space, is located in a much cooler section of our house. And despite our lack of air-conditioning and daily highs that well surpassed the 30-degree mark, the wine was at a palatable temperature when I retrieved it. My friend, however, arrived two hours late while the wine sat on my kitchen counter. By the time I poured our glasses, I could swear steam was rising from the contents.
I don’t often drink red in the summertime. When I do, I typically opt for fresh, light, simple styles that can be chilled slightly before drinking. I’m not above dumping ice-cubes and chunks of fruit in a glass of low-end red and turning it into a patio-friendly sangria. My preference, though, is for crisp, dry whites and rosés that don’t leave me feeling as parched on the inside as I do on the outside under the blistering Okanagan sun.
For years, I’ve been trying to convince people that reds – particularly the chewy, full-bodied, high alcohol styles many prefer – do not a summer drink make. But most present-day enthusiasts have cut their teeth on these big, bold wines thus making their palate numb to the relatively subtle, light and simple nuances of whites.
There has been a subtle shift, however, and more people seem to be embracing whites and, in particular rosés – finding pleasure in their refreshment, not just on hot summer days, but year round.
When it comes to hot-weather sipping, I like to keep the wines light and simple and the reason for that is I also like my beverages extra frosty. It’s not unusual for me to sink my bottles in a cooler or bucket of ice until their contents are so frigid, you can see your breath when you drink them.
The caveat with that is the colder the wine, the harder it is to smell and taste. Many of the wines more subtle and delicate components will be impossible to detect. Overchilling an expensive Chardonnay or Bordeaux-style blend with loads of complexity would be a waste.
Here are some summertime dos and don’t:
* Do select wines that are young, fruit-forward wines with loads of acidity. I prefer them dry or slightly off-dry and look for ones with lemony, tree or tropical fruit and some mineral characteristics.
* Don’t choose anything with age or oak and described as oily, soft, round or buttery.
* Do buy wines made from the previous vintage, such as 2007 Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Ehrenfelser, Bacchus, Gewurztraminer, Siegerrebe, Ortega and Riesling. They’ll be fresher with more acidity.
* Don’t buy wines with high alcohol…anything with more than 13 or 14 per cent is too much in the heat.
* Do opt for a dry rosé or a crisp sparkling wine – both offer great versatility with food pairing – steer clear of the white Zins, however.
* Don’t refrain from buying reds altogether. In fact, now is a good time to buy them and stock your cellar. Many will be ready by the time you’re taste for them returns, whereas a lot of the reds available in the fall will be new releases and thus too youthful to drink.
* Do buy wines under screw cap. You can’t deny their convenience for opening and re-sealing, and if you’re keeping them on ice, there will be less risk of water seeping into the bottle.
* Don’t leave wine in your car for anything length of time. Plan your shopping trip so they are the last thing you purchase before heading home, otherwise they’ll get cooked in the heat. Be especially cautious with sparkling wines. If you must delay going home or are doing a wine tour, pack a cooler with ice or refrigerated packs.