Jim Beauregard's Tasting Notes: Wines suitable for sipping in summer
I suppose to answer that question one has to first ask, what makes summer? Heat, vacation, an occasional slowdown of the pace of life, no school, maybe some travelling, holidays, light reading, summer movies. So what wine pairs with all these things?
Light, for starters. It's not typically a season when you see people running out to buy big reds like high-alcohol California Cabernet Sauvignons, Zinfandels or Syrahs from different parts of the world. This is not to say that reds are a faux pas for the months of July and August. Sometimes you go to a steak house. Summer reds just tend to be a bit lighter, as a trip to any local wine tasting will reveal.
RosÚ. Now this comes to mind as a summer wine. RosÚ has a slowly recovering reputation in this country, as for much of our recent history the RosÚ that has been sent our way has been of the sweet variety. But this is not the case when you look at the world wine map.
RosÚ can be bone dry, crisp and refreshing. It's also versatile in its creation: It can also be made from just about any red grape. You can find RosÚ of Cabernet Sauvignon, RosÚ of Syrah, RosÚ of Merlot, Zinfandel, the list goes on — any red grape can serve as the base. It's simply a matter of pulling the juice off the skins very early in the fermentation process.
As grape juice ferments in a vat with its skins, the color in the grape skins flows out into the juice. The longer there is is juice/skin contact, the darker red or purple the wine.
White. The world is at your feet in this category. Whites can be big and bold, or they can be light and delicate. They can stand up to heavy foods, or they can be crisp and ready to drink on their own. Rieslings come to mind. Also Pinot Grigio, as the Italians call it, or Pinot Gris as they say in France. Crisp and high acidity to par with high acid foods and with summer salads.
Maureen Adams' Wine Studio was, I think, working along these lines at their tasting last week. Here are a few examples of wines for summer:
Charity Case RosÚ, California, $14.99, The Wine Studio, Manchester. Mostly Cabernet Sauvignon, with a little Zinfandel. Salmon colored, served slightly chilled at the tasting, it has a clean, refreshing nose of fruits with some vegetal background giving it some depth, a very dry palate with medium, heading toward light body, medium-plus flavor intensity, and flavors of red fruit, strawberry predominating, and a light, pleasing herbal finish. Good balance of components, very refreshing. 90 points.
Charity Case Chardonnay, Carneros, Calif., $20.99, The Wine Studio. Aged in French oak. I will mention here that the name “Charity Case” is a reference to the fact that $2 from every bottle sale is given to a local charity, in this case the New Hampshire Food Bank. A golden Chardonnay, with a medium-plus intensity nose (more than you would typically expect from a Chard), citrus notes, herbal notes, citrus peel. Very dry palate, there's a little hint of oak along the way, but nothing overwhelming (Ages in oak for a time yes, but also spends time in stainless steel). It's got balance, length and concentration. 89 points.
Sokol Blosser Evolution Red, Oregon, $19.99, The Wine Studio. Made from a blend of varietals, not all of them are revealed. It includes Pinot Noir, Syrah and Zinfandel. The wine is purple in the glass, with a nose of black fruit, a very dry palate, and flavors of blackcurrant, black berry, ripe red fruit. Medium acidity and tannin, medium alcohol, medium body; an overall ripe, rich palate, but not overwhelming — yes, you can drink it on a hot summer night. Hints of spice on the finish. It was called a perfect pizza wine, and this led to a long, philosophical discussion of the salami pizza at Alley Cat. 91 points.
Now, if you read this column regularly, you may be thinking, “D'oh, Jim, summer, what about beer?” Quite right.
So consider this:
Dubuisson Scaldis 12, Pipaix, Belgium, $18.75 four-pack, Harvest Market, Bedford. “Belgium is to beer what Cuba is to cigars and France is to wine.” Thus Garrett Oliver of the Oxford Companion to Beer. This brings us into the Belgium Ale ballpark, and into the subset of Belgian Strong Ale.
The “12” in Scaldis 12 means 12 percent alcohol by volume. This puts us in the “strong” category. These beers tend to be pale to gold in coloring, with flavors of both fruit (leaning toward pear and apple), and spice, heavier on the hops, and lighter on the malt.
This one is golden-colored, cloudy, with a slightly off white head, thick, creamy and lasting, with the characteristic Belgian lace (tip the glass so the head goes right out to the tip, then stand it up to see the lace). The nose is very intense and rich with hops and fruit.
The palate is very dry, and very, very rich, medium-plus bodied, heavier than, say, a Duvel, with citrus and white fruit, pear predominating, citrus in the background, and soft malt all along the way. It packs a punch at 12 percent abv. Spicy finish that goes on for quite some time.
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Remember “Sideways”? The author has written a sequel. Look for the review of “Vertical” later this month.
Contact local beer and wine writer Jim Beauregard at email@example.com