What's your favourite wine at the moment? It's a question I get all the time and more often than not I shrug it off saying it's impossible to pick just one.
In fact my favourite wine changes all the time but this month, with a little space and a bit of time, I thought I would go through some of my favourite summer wines as they relate to the major grapes and/or wine categories. Sticking with the light and summery theme, the prices are affordable and the wine mostly widely available should you decide to entertain a crowd.
In the old days we would suggest you cut this list out and stick it on the fridge for summer. Today, you could forward yourself the story by email or cut and paste the wine details so you have what you need on your phone. Either way, it's probably worth keeping this list around somewhere until the snow flies again.
The home team is an easy choice for pinot gris but if you want something a little edgy, look for the Haywire 2013 Pinot Gris Raised in Concrete (White Label) $17.39. The fruit, which is grown in Oliver at Secrest Vineyard, is fermented in stainless steel and aged six months in concrete. The result is a fresh, juicy fruit style with creamy textures. A meeting of orchard fruits and dried herbs gives it an authentic Okanagan signature. Chicken, seafood and pasta all work here, as do mild sushi rolls.
If you left the chardonnay fray a while back to escape the oak there's no better time to rediscover this popular grape. Cooler, crisper and fresher but with weight and texture, modern cool-climate chardonnay is on the way back. A current favourite is a delicious local label: Quail's Gate 2013 Chardonnay $19.09. Winemaker Nikki Callaway is making her mark at Quail's Gate with this electric version of chardonnay. This is super juicy and fun to sip, and packed full of fresh, tropical melon and peach flavours. Fantastic value here and versatile enough for halibut or grilled chicken dishes.
Easily the most versatile food wine of the bunch, riesling is made for summer and the Selbach Riesling 2013 (Fish Label) $15.69 is the perfect bottle of juicy, fruity, white wine with a perfect sugar-acid balance. This one is easy to spot — just look for the colourful fish label that was designed in Vancouver. Great intensity and fantastic value all at 10.5 per cent alcohol. Think Indian or Thai takeout and turn a mid-week takeout patio party into a class act.
There's an underground movement toward gamay but you can take the above-ground route this summer with a bottle of Domaine Lathuiliere 2012 Pisse Vieille Brouilly $15.19. It's an amazing price for a Cru Beaujolais chock-full of savoury, stony strawberry fruits with a whiff of pepper. It's made from 50-year-old vines that give it a regal character for a simple red. Chicken brochettes, or pasta salads would work here. Also a great wine to serve with a charcuterie plate.
Is there a hotter grape in the business? Everyone is drinking pinot although finding a well-made inexpensive bottle is a challenge. One of the best to combine price with spice, ripe fruit and soft textures is the Santa Carolina Reserva 2013 Pinot Noir $12.19 from the Casablanca Valley in Chile. The fruit comes off the cool hillsides of the Coastal Mountain Range, which makes for a seamless, floral red with raspberry, black cherries, rhubarb and pepper notes. Fresh, soft and friendly, it can work with most salmon menus or summer pork dishes. Good value here.
Wait a minute, Spain is not a grape variety but in the case of the Rio Madre 2012 Rioja $14.79 it's not your usual Rioja made from tempranillo but rather its flashy fellow blender: graciano. You don't see many 100 per cent graciano bottles of Rioja because it is often overpowering in a blend. In this case, it's mostly in check delivering super ripe blueberry aromas mixed with fragrant, floral notes and an oaky undercurrent. The vines, approximately 20 years old, are planted in chalky soils located at 600 metres above sea level, which no doubt contributes to its soft demeanour. An attractive style you can serve with grilled lamb chops, or serve this alongside a cheese and meat charcuterie platter.
Americans seem like an odd group to be behind an Argentine malbec, but Charles Bieler, Roger Scommegna and Joel Gott, better known as the 3 Thieves Wine Company, are the folks behind The Show 2013 Malbec $16.49. The fruit comes off a mix of high-altitude sites in the Lujan de Cuyo and Uco Valley, and like last year they have gone for fruit balance and texture instead of just sweetness. Expect a dry, savoury red fruit attack with fine acidity and structure that will easily tame your favourite barbecue ribs recipe. A serious block party red.
The king of grapes is hardly a summer style red but that won't deter its legion of fans, and there's always a steak being grilled somewhere. Xanadu 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon $22.09 is not your average Margaret River cabernet. The nose is beautifully proportioned showing hints of oak and spice with plenty of blackcurrant fruit, and the balance and harmony follows through on the palate. Power and elegance is the story of this Western Australian red. Just add chimichurri sauce for the perfect match.
Blends are hot these days but many are far too sweet for our taste. The Chapoutier 2013 Belleruche Côtes du Rhône $17.39, a mix of grenache and syrah, is a far cry from the aforementioned sweet, modern style. Savoury, black cherry aromas bathe this bottle from front to back. Inside, the attack is juicy, fresh, peppery black fruit flavours spiked with meaty barnyard notes. This is classic barbecue red but it can do double duty at any upscale dining event. Simply splash decant for 15 to 20 minutes to up its game. Grilled lamb, roasted chicken and cheese are all easily tamed by this red.
All you need to do now is grab some glasses and add some sunshine for some easy summer sipping. Enjoy.
Anthony Gismondi is a globetrotting wine writer who makes his home in West Vancouver, British Columbia. For more of his thoughts on wine log onto www.gismondionwine.com.