Wine For Those Lazy Dog Days of Summer
The sun is shining, and the freshness of summer is in the air. Restaurant patios are buzzing with guests seeking refreshments while basking in the sun. Keep them coming back for this season’s hot new wine trends.
“Nothing screams summer like garden tomatoes, fresh sweet corn, and watermelon dripping down your chin on the back porch,” says Doug Dunlay, owner of Dunlays on Clark in Chicago. “When it comes to wine, nothing screams summer to me quite like fresh Rosé or Riesling from Germany or Alsace, and my favorite summer red wine is Bourgogne Passe-Tout-Grains.”
Many people incorrectly assume that summer wines must only be whites, but they come in all colors and flavors, including Rosés, lighter-bodied red wines, and fully bodied red wines for food fresh off the grill. Dunlay’s favorite wines to wash down the summer cuisine are MugaRosé from Rioja, Spain, and Domaine Bernard Moreau et FilsBourgogne Passe-Tout-Grains AOP from France.
Muga, a blend of 60 percent Garnacha, 30 percent Viura, and 10 percent Tempranillo, provides bright fresh fruit and structure with searing-high acidity. It is delicious as an aperitif, best paired with any cheese, fish, and poultry.
Domaine Bernard Moreau et Filsis is a blend of 75 percent Pinot Noir and 25 percent Gamay. It is a perfect summer red, delivering the structure, body, and elegance of Burgundy. But blended with the bright and fresh Gamay fruit, it softens the sometimes-rough edges. “As my friends to the South would say, ‘it’s slap your mama good,’" Dunlay says.
“When I think of summer, I think great produce,” says Brian Cronin, San Francisco-based master sommelier and author. “It feels like summer when I spend more time eating fresh and vibrant ingredients outside.”
What wine is mandatory to stock up on this summer? According to Cronin, you can’t go wrong with Rosés. Not only will he pair them with summer cuisine, but, if there’s any left for the beginning of fall, he likes to pair them with root vegetables.
“I love Rosés, as well as high-acid, mineral-driven grapes,” Cronin says. “They tend to go well with all of the fresh produce and are great to drink while you’re waiting for the food.”
For great value wine by the glass, Dunlay often pours a Rosé from South France that is a year older. Most distributors will discount these wines by up to 50 percent. They are from Provence, France, and many surrounding areas, and still of high quality. “These wines are as good or better after a year in the bottle,” he says.
Cronin recommends trying white wines from Spain, Greece, and Italy for value summer wines by the glass. They pair well with a wide range of food and are usually inexpensive. With these off-the-beaten-track wines, you’ll be able to expose your guests to a wine they’ve most likely never heard of (something they’ll always remember you for) while helping your restaurant make the margins on your beverage costs.
A word of warning: Albariño is so last summer! Resist the urge to rest on your laurels and spice up your wine list with this summer’s Spanish star: Verdejo. Make sure to go with a producer you recognize or taste the wine first, because this aromatic grape varietal can vary in style depending on designation.
For example, a wine labeled simply Rueda must contain 50 percent Verdejo, and it is typically blended with Sauvignon Blanc or Macabeo, giving it a lighter-bodied and refreshing characteristic. A wine labeled Rueda Verdejo must contain 85 percent Verdejo, but is often 100 percent. These wines have a soft waxy texture on the palate and are often fuller-bodied. What food you’re pairing it with will determine which style you choose for your menu.
You may be familiar with Fiano di Avellino and Greco di Tufo from Campania, Italy. This summer try the third musketeer, the forgotten gem of Campania’s trifecta of white grape varietals–Falanghina. It is a medium-bodied wine with a fresh, clean, and dry taste, has good acidity, and delivers a long and floral finish. It’s almost like it was made for summer cuisine–pair it with hors d’oeuvres, soups, salads, and grilled seafood. We promise you won’t be disappointed.
You may be thinking: “Greece … for wine?” Think again! Sommeliers across the country are flocking to this region for wines that are stunning guests’ palates everywhere. Summer cuisine marks the end of fava bean and pea season, and master sommelier Cronin loves to pair fava beans with Assyrtiko (or Asyrtiko, a lighter-bodied refreshing wine from Santorini, Greece). Although the grape is grown on other Grecian islands, it thrives in the volcanic soils of Santorini, where it develops into a mineral-driven, high-acid refreshing wine perfect for summer sipping.
Now that you’re armed with this seasonal know-how, take your summer wine list to a whole new level. When you assemble these new varietals and applying them to your menu, guests will be able to sample new and interesting wines while keeping your patio packed through Labor Day. Keep the SPF (smiles per face) high while providing an experience your diners will never forget.