WoW 1 Aug 2015 052
Photo by Wayne Crawford

Summer wines complement seasonal food

By Wayne Crawford

Summer arrived June 20, bringing warm weather to inspire outdoor culinary adventures paired with good wine and cool drinks.


Reasonable temperatures in the mountains with warm-to-hot days and cool breezes at night, enough rain to keep the dust down and streams flowing enhance culinary adventures like barbecues, picnics, brunches and evening entertaining in the shadow of the Appalachian Mountains. Featured foods might include pork chop sandwiches with gravy and grits and a side of fresh fruit, seared flank steak in red wine marinade, green tomato soup with lump crabmeat, burgers with green tomato mayonnaise, barbecue ribs or chicken, or grilled shrimp gumbo salad followed by mixed stone-fruit pie – all Southern foods recommended in Southern Living.


Wrapping my head around pairings for these diverse foods struck me as a delightful way to introduce summer wines and to think outside the box on wines to recommend. As always, the Big Canoe Wine Group sampled several choices in its annual “On the Boats” June wine-tasting. To this group engaged in wine-training, wine is an important complement to good food and convivial conversation in the warm Southern style characteristic of ‘Big Canoeians.”


My first recommendation is sparkling wine and Champagne, white or rose. Always delightful as an acclamation wine, these are increasingly the right choice for a meal. Consider pairings with lighter Italian, Spanish and American sparkling wines or soft, easy-drinking Champagnes, perhaps a Bollinger NV or a sparkling Domaine Chandon Rose from California. We shared a surprisingly delightful rose prosecco produced by Enza, laced with a touch of merlot – a great accompaniment for grilled chicken, fruit salad and those burgers with green tomato mayonnaise.


Equally well received and the second choice of the June tasting was the Domaine Chandon NV Etoile Rose sparkling wine from California, which pairs nicely with fruit and summer salads and the stone-fruit pie – a great sparkler on its own.


The barbecue ribs, chicken and steaks open a large vista for red, rose and white wines. My first choices for pork ribs and steak would be an American zinfandel (see last month’s article in Smoke Signals Online, Living section). Given its rich blend of red grapes, the Essenciel De Paradis rose from Provence complements grilled or barbecued pork and chicken.


The fried green tomatoes and the green tomato mayonnaise on a burger go nicely with Louis Jadot Beaujolais. The grilled shrimp gumbo pairs nicely with a white wine from the Rhone, or consider any albarino from Spain and pinot grigio from Italy.


The key to enjoying summer meals with wine is to expand your wine selection and seek out interesting new wines. My challenge this year to readers has been to expand your wine-drinking experience. Italian whites – for example, Orvieto, Avellino, verdicchio and the wide host of Italian sparkling wine including Asti and prosecco – complement many of the dishes highlighted.


‘Wines drinking well now’

Enza NV Sparkling Rose, $15: Made with prosecco grapes and a touch of merlot, this wine is 95 percent glera (prosecco) and 5 percent merlot. Enza is light pink in color with green apple, strawberry and rose aromas. On the palate, it exhibits crisp, fresh fruit with strawberry and apple flavors, a well-balanced medium body and a long finish. Best Buy.


Domaine Chandon NV Etoile Rose Prestige Cuvee, Yountville, Calif., $27.95: On the eye, note tiny bubbles and a salmon color with copper highlights; on the nose, plum, strawberry and cinnamon; and on the palate, plum and strawberry fruit with a medium body, hints of vanilla and a medium finish. Best Buy.


Essenciel De Paradis 2013 Rose, Provence, France, $12: This wine is a blend of 40 percent syrah, 30 percent grenache and 30 percent cabernet sauvignon from Rhone winemakers Michel Tardieu and Philippe Cambie. Aromas of rose petals, spices, fresh fruit and minerals are noted in this well-crafted wine with a long finish. Best Buy.


Walnut Block Wines Collectables 2012 Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand, $13: This wine exhibits aromas of passion fruit and lime with herbs and spice. On the palate, it offers fresh, crisp fruit with citrus overtones and a medium finish. Best Buy.


Sonoma Loeb 2011 Chardonnay, Calif., $20: Fresh and lively, this wine offers zesty citrus, white peach, melon and floral notes that linger on the finish.


Other summer wines to consider include: Serge Dagueneau & Filles 2012 Les Pentes Pouilly Fume, Loire Valley, France, $24; Grgich Hills 2011 Fume Blanc Dry Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley, Calif., $24; and Louis de Grenelle Rose Corail NV Saumur, Loire Valley, $20.


‘Drink what you like’

In my next article, I will follow up on pairing wine with summer culinary adventures by focusing on white wines from Italy.


Wayne Crawford is a certified specialist of Wine CSW and a member of the Society of Wine Educators, American Wine Society and French Wine Society.


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