Summertime for me means trying to relive my youth, youthful as I may be. That means taking things easy and not too seriously. I want to kick back and drink beer out of a red Solo cup, except it’s not really beer, it’s red wine, and it’s not really a red Solo cup, but a nice tumbler will do! All white party? How about a footwear optional afternoon in the backyard instead?
As you can see, summers of my youth were, how shall we say, somewhat frivolous and filled with simple pleasures. These simple pleasures were the rationale for this selection of red wines.
Summer’s here, let’s not worry too much about the details and instead just find a few wines that’ll make spending time with friends and family easy and carefree.
Photo courtesy of boo_licious via Flickr/cc
Schiava aka Vernatsch aka Trollinger
This is almost embarrassing. Just last week I included a specific bottling of Schiava in my Italian Wine Bucket list because it was great and not imported into the states. Well, lo and behold, Girlan Gschleier is now available here, at least in New Jersey, and is only $23 a bottle. Quite the deal for a bucket list wine!
Schiava, or Vernatsch as it is known in the Alto Adige where the bulk of production comes from, is an ideal summer red. It drinks almost like a rosé and takes a slight chill eminently well. Pair Schiava with salumi and cheese on your next picnic or with simply prepared grilled pork for a fabulously refreshing summer red experience.
Two to try:
Girlan Gschleier $23
Nalles Magre $15
Photo courtesy of Premshree Pillai via Flickr/cc
If you’re looking for something as offbeat as Schiava but a bit richer with that same crunchy fruit profile, all in a decidedly darker vein, you can swap out Schiava’s strawberries for Blaufränkisch’s more peppery wild berry character. The two grapes aren’t really that similar except for their mountain terroir. You’ll find one (Schiava) living mostly south of the border in Italy, and the other primarily in Austria.
While Blaufränkisch comes in many styles, the lighter and perhaps more traditional style is what I would reach for this summer. Another favorite with pork, this is a great wine when we start to dip into spicy sausages of both the pork and poultry persuasions.
Two to try:
Weninger Hochäcker Blaufränkisch $21
Paul Achs Blaufränkisch $20
Piedmont is famous for famous wine. Its less famous wine? Well they’re not very famous! Pelaverga is one of the hidden gems; light bodied, peppery, bright and fresh with a wildly perfumed combination of pink peppercorn, red berry fruit and a little raspy minerality.
Pelaverga’s home is the sleepy village of Verduno, which has mostly escaped much attention from wine lovers in the USA, even though it is home to several wonderful producers. Pelaverga is a great wine to pair with game birds. Duck grilled rare, served rare is a lovely match here, especially when it’s served with a little ratatouille and some pasta with arugula pesto!
Two to try:
Castello di Verduno Pelaverga $20
Summer is not all about light fare, sometimes you just need a thick, juicy steak. Finding a wine that pairs well with that grilled steak without being just too big for the weather can be a challenge. This is where Chilean Carmenere comes into the picture.
Carmenere, a lost grape of Bordeaux that was rediscovered thriving in Chile, combines the softness of Merlot with the freshness and herbaceousness of Cabernet Franc. In fact, Carmenere can be way more herbal than even Cabernet Franc, but like with Chimichurri sauce, that herbal quality and bright, juicy acidity works like a charm when complementing grilled red meats. At your next BBQ go easy on the sauce and instead pop some Carmenere!
Two to try:
Carmen Carmenere $18
Lapostolle Carmenere $12
Photo courtesy of rgomez74 via Flickr/cc
Okay, I surrender. Even in summer you might need something kind of big but still juicy and not too overwhelming. Petite Sirah is just the ticket. Plump with rich fruit, Petite Sirah tends to be a little less rich than say, Zinfandel, with alcohol that is a touch lower and acidity that is a touch higher. The resultant wine was born to wash smoky BBQ from your greasy little upturned lips. It’s just that good.
Weirdly, my favorite pairing with Petite Sirah, though admittedly one of the lighter styles, has always been spicy, smoky jerk chicken. It is a versatile wine that can take a bit of a chill while still being ready to battle your boldest BBQ adventures.
Two to try:
Pedroncelli Petite Sirah $12
Clayhouse Petite Sirah $18
Photo courtesy of bogelo via Flickr/cc