When summer finally descends upon us in south Louisiana, we change the way we cook and eat, preparing lighter, fresher dishes that keep us cool and sated in the scorching weather.
So, too, should we change the wines we drink with our meals, selecting those that complement the seasonal fare.
Changing wines with the season is like changing your wardrobe; it’s just a practical way to get more comfortable in the heat. It shouldn’t be intimidating or expensive. In fact, the nice thing about summer wines is they’re light, very drinkable and lower in alcohol content, which means they tend to be on the more affordable end of the spectrum.
In general, the best wines to pair with summer foods are those that are light, crisp and have enough acidity to balance the types of cool soups, salads and seafood dishes that are popular this time of year.
That means white wines like pinot grigio (or pinot gris as it’s known in France), chablis, sauvignon blanc and chenin blanc, and lighter reds like pinot noir, which isn’t too heavy for a hot summer night yet still has enough body to stand up to the smoky, charred flavor of grilled meats or barbecue.
It also means drinking rosés, which are versatile, refreshing and often overlooked by occasional wine drinkers in this country, who mistakenly associate them with the sweet, pink box wine that was so popular in the 1980s.
“Most people assume a rosé is a white Zinfandel,” said Steve Staples of Glazer’s. “But really it’s a very light, crisp wine that pairs well with so many different foods.”
Rosé wines are great for the summer because they’re light enough to serve with salads, seafoods and lighter grilled meats, but many of them have also have enough body to stand up to burgers and barbecue. They run the gamut from inexpensive to moderately priced and range in characteristics from very light to medium bodied.
We asked several local wine distributors to weigh in on what types of wines they like to drink and serve this time of year. They had plenty of good recommendations, both for general food and wine pairings and for specific wines available in this area.
They also suggested some recipes to go with them, as well as some practical advice.
First, pair the body of the wine with the type of food your serving, and look for wines that have a good acidity. Heavy rich wines go with heavy foods and vice versa.
Second, be mindful of the temperature. Wines shouldn’t be served too cold or too hot. The ideal temperature for whites and rosés is between 50 and 55 degrees. For reds, it’s between 55 and 60 .
Finally, drink what you like and listen to your own palate. If a wine doesn’t seem to go with a food, it probably doesn’t, so don’t force it.
By the same token, however, be open to trying new wines and flavors. Cabernet sauvignons and chardonnays may be your go-to wines in the winter; but try putting them away until sweater weather returns and experiment with some of the lighter varietals that beckon.
Summer wine-food pairings
Below are some general recommendations for pairing wines with summer foods. The characteristics of the suggested varietals are broad and vary from wine to wine, but they’re a good starting point.
•Dry and crisp with good acidity.
•Goes with most summer dishes, especially salads, seafood, and grilled chicken or pork.
•Portuguese varietal that is very light, spritzy and refreshing; not strong enough to stand up to meals.
•Goes with appetizers or fruit salads.
Pinot Grigio (or Pinot Gris)
•Light and crisp with a hint of herbaceousness.
•Goes with salads, shrimp, light fish dishes, fresh fruits desserts.
•Light but well-rounded with slightly mineral or seabreezy nose.
•Goes with: salads and seafood, especially oysters and fish.
•Light to medium-bodied with good acid and hints of grass.
•Goes with spicier seafood dishes, boiled crawfish.
•Light to medium-bodied, citrusy.
•Goes with: seafood, grilled white meats like chicken and pork.
•Spicy, fruity with a bit of bite.
•Goes with spicy Asian-inspired dishes, sushi.
•Light to medium bodied with good acidity and a little spice.
•Goes with grilled pork, chicken, barbecue.
•Like a cabernet sauvignon but not as heavy; herbaceous and a bit peppery.
•Goes with burgers and barbecue.
•Spicy with red-berry tones.
•Goes with heartier barbecue dishes and smoked meats.
Favorite Summer Wines for 2011
We asked four local wine distributors for their favorite summer wines and the types of foods they like to pair them with. Our panel included Kelly Firesheets at Artisan Fine Wines, Jason Johnson at Purveyors of Fine Wines, Steve Staples at Glazer’s, and Ian McCaffery at Martin Wine Cellar, which is owned by the regional distributor Wines Unlimited. The wines below were among their top picks. All are available locally, most are good values at less than $20, and several are great bargains at $10 or less.
RIESLING - ASIAN-INSPIRED DISHES AND SPICIER FOODS
•Kung Fu Girl Riesling; Washington state $12
VINHO VERDE - VERY LIGHT AND SPRITZY; GREAT WITH LIGHT APPETIZERS AND FRUITS
•Famega Vinho Verde; Portugal $7
PINOT GRIGIO/PINOT GRIS - LIGHT AND CRISP; GOOD WITH SALADS, APPETIZERS, FRUIT
•Acrobat Pinot Gris by King Estate; Oregon $9
•Adelsheim Pinot Gris 2010; Oregon $10
•Quadri Pinot Grigio; Italy $10
CHABLIS - GREAT WITH SEAFOOD, ESPECIALLY FISH AND OYSTERS
•Domaine Jean Claude Bessin Chablis ViellesVignes 2008; Bourgogne $18
SAUVIGNON BLANC - PAIRS WELL WITH LOTS OF SEAFOOD DISHES, LIGHTER GRILLED MEATS, SALADS AND PASTAS
•Cono Sur Sauvignon Blanc Vision 2008; Chile $12
•Groth Sauvignon Blanc 2010; Napa Valley $15
•Honig Sauvignon Blanc; Napa Valley$15
CHENIN BLANC - WORKS WELL WITH SPICIER SEAFOOD DISHES
•Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc+Viognier 2010; Napa Valley $15
OTHER WHITES - RECOMMENDED FOR SEAFOOD AND LIGHT GRILLED DISHES.
•Guindon Muscadet Sterlis; Loire Valley $12
•Argiolas Vermentino 2010; Sardinia $13
•Six Hats Petit Chenin; South Africa $10
WELL-ROUNDED SUMMER WINE THAT CAN COMPLEMENT EVERYTHING FROM COLD SOUPS AND SALADS TO GRILLED MEATS AND EVEN BARBECUE
•Chateau St. Martin de la Garrigue 2010; Cote de Longue Doc $12
•Chateau Thivin Beaujolais Rosé; Beaujolais $15
•Chateau de Trinquevedal Tavel Rosé 2010; Provence $17
•Charles and Charles Syrah Rosé; Washington state $12
PINOT NOIR - GREAT WITH GRILLED CHICKEN AND PORK; AND SOME BARBECUE AND BURGERS
•Camille Giroud Bourgogne Rouge 2008; Bourgogne $22
•Stoller JV Pinot Noir; Willamette Valley, Oregon $25
OTHER REDS - RECOMMENDED FOR BARBECUE AND BURGERS
•Louis Jadot Beaujolais Villages 2009; Beaujolais $8
•Charles Joguet Chinon Cuvee Terroir 2009; Loire Valley $15
•Cline Zinfandel; California $12-$14
•Charles and Charles Red Blend; Washington state $10-$12