Summer is never a sure bet in British Columbia, but when it finally arrives it seems the call of the outdoors is irresistible for most locals, and that usually includes organizing, or attending, some sort of garden party or barbecue soirée.
For some, the invitation to dine out of doors can be perplexing, beginning with what to wear. From there it can snowball into what to take in terms of food and, more importantly, what to drink.
We can't help you too much with your wardrobe, or even what the menu should include, but know that in a province full of budding oenophiles, which wine you take to the party may say more about you then how you're dressed or what you eat.
OK, it may not be that crucial, but do you really want to be the 10th person who arrives at the party with a bottle of Apothic red from California?
Summer means you can be adventurous, and in 2014 the chance to bring something original has never been easier.
This month we present the perfect case for summer. Each of our selections is a fine example of its origin and grape variety and, given the carefree nature of summer, we've tossed in some value as well. Even if the soirée is just you and a date on your deck, you can be sure he or she will be impressed with your wine picks — and I promise to keep them a secret.
You can kickstart any party with a delicious bottle of Ormarine Picpoul de Pinet $15 from the Coteaux du Languedoc in France. Fresh, skinny, lively and food friendly, its Meyer lemon, honey, spicy, ginger aromas attack as do its juicy, citrus/honey, grapefruit and ginger/pear flavours. Expect some amazing intensity and length at a super price. Appetizer-friendly, and easy to open and pour since it comes under screwcap. Simply chill and serve.
Sauvignon blanc always shouts summer, especially if you're grilling fish or chicken. New Zealand has dominated this category but the pendulum is now swinging back to France and the Loire Valley. Don't miss the Joseph Mellot Destinea Sauvignon Blanc $20 and its fresh, juicy, creamy palate with lemon grass, grapefruit, passion fruit and floral flavours. You will look über cool pulling this out of your BC Liquor Store bag.
Farther west, across the Pyrénées, Canadian Nathalie Bonhomme continues to impress us with her refreshing Spanish wines led by a delicious summer sipper made from verdejo. El Petit Bonhomme Blanco $15 from Rueda, is a mix of grassy, nutty, nectarine skin aromas with a slightly softer, rounder mix of melon and bruised apple flavours. Sushi, anyone? Or serve it with simply prepared seafood dishes. Olé.
A Naramata, B.C., white well worth tracking down is the Terravista Fandango Albariño Verdejo $25. The blend is albariño/verdejo, in a 68/32 mix, all grown on the Naramata bench. This is a refreshing, electric, fun, juicy, citrus, floral white flecked with dried herbs that is just plain delicious to drink.
Taking a riesling to a party could make you an instant hipster. Our summer pick is Selbach Riesling (Fish Label) $18. You can set your watch by this Johannes Selbach riesling and its Vancouver-designed fish label. Fresh, juicy and crunchy is how he likes his fruit and wine, and you'll get it in spades from this remarkable bargain. Green apples, lime, mineral-grassy, nectarine skin flavours mark the palate. Sip solo or try this with a favourite curry dish.
For your summer soirée don't forget sparkling wine. It can elevate any party indoors, or out, instantly. The lightly effervescent Italian Prosecco appears to be the current party choice and we recommend the colourfully wrapped Anna Spinato Prosecco Organic N/V $15. Fresh, fruity, nutty, floral flavours with bits of candied grapefruit rind mark its medium-length, but not too sweet, palate. Try this with spicy appetizers.
Rosé is another wine that could set you apart from the crowd. But make sure it's dry and it comes from Provence. Our recommendation is the excellent Chateau Miraval Cote de Provence Rosé $29. Its pale colour is Provençal perfection; the nose, fresh red fruits and yellow watermelon; the palate, savoury (garrigue) with electric stony, citrus minerality. Any summer salad is a match.
Red wine drinkers have an equal number of wines they can turn to for summer, including some interesting blends from the south of France. Up first, the classic summer barbecue red zinfandel: Lake Sonoma Zinfandel 2010 $25 is a Dry Creek Valley zin made by the Stewart Family, owners of Quails' Gate in West Kelowna. The attack is round with fresh brambleberry, black cherry, resin, licorice, chocolate and pepper flavours. Barbecued meats or chicken would be a fine match.
Summer or not, modern Rhone blends should be on any party list. The Louis Bernard Côtes du Rhône Rouge 2011 $15 is an unoaked mix of 70/30 grenache/syrah made with 20-year-old fruit. It has both roundness and structure underpinning its aromatic, smoky cherry/raspberry nose and flavours. Try it with grilled meats.
Cabernet sauvignon is not really a summer red in my book, but some folks can't live without a big warm red that works with grilled beef. Our value pick is Renacer Punto Final Cabernet Sauvignon $16 from Argentina, the home of beef. Expect a leaner, fresher style cabernet with savoury, minty red fruit flavours and a touch of resin in the back end. Burgers are the perfect match.
Our fascination with silky, round pinot noir continues — it's made for early evening summer soirées. The Undurraga Sibaris Pinot Noir Reserva Especial $16 comes from a much improved appellation — Valle de Leyda in the cool San Antonio valley of Chile. The result is a delicious drinking pinot with celery, cherry, cooked rhubarb, tobacco and licorice flavours. Salmon is the ticket here. Good value.
For the last bottle in your dozen, make sure you have a syrah for ribs and pork. There's crazy value in the Falernia Syrah Reserve 2010 from Chile's Elqui Valley with its smooth, rich textures and juicy black pepper, meaty, black cherry, blackberry and licorice flavours.
Summer — there's no better time to explore the world of wine without leaving the neighbourhood, and this perfect case will make it easy.
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