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Two Women on Wine: Light and easy wines for summer

Lots of choices to chill with at the end of the day

Posted: June 10, 2010 6:00 a.m.
Updated: June 11, 2010 6:00 a.m.
Lil Lepore and Shari Frazier Lil Lepore and Shari Frazier
Lil Lepore and Shari Frazier

As the summer heat begins to sizzle, it's time to dust off the patio furniture, fire up the grill and prepare for candlelit patio dinners with family and friends on balmy nights. Our grill goes into overtime during the summer as it becomes our cooking method of choice for chicken, fish kabobs, steak, baby-back ribs, vegetables, hamburgers, hot dogs and just about everything else that can handle the sizzle.

We make sure we have a variety of wines on hand that will suit the occasion and pair with whatever we're cooking.
To get things started on a warm summer evening, we like to serve Prosecco, the refreshing, sparkling Italian wine. Prosecco is lightly fruity from dry to semi-dry and it makes a great aperitif in place of heavy, alcohol-laden cocktails. On a warm summer evening, few things are more refreshing than a glass of well-chilled Prosecco.

Here's a tip: Add a few drops of peach nectar to a glass of Prosecco and you have a Bellini cocktail, perfect for any weekend brunch.

Chardonnay is still very popular at our summer gatherings, so we're well supplied with it. To mix things up a bit, we plan to introduce our guests to a few white wines that they may not have tried. The first is one of Spain's most important whites, Albarino. Medium-bodied and more complex than the average white, Albarino delights the palate with its flavors of flowers, apple, peach, citrus, and cinnamon. Nicely chilled, it pairs well with seafood.

Another succulent white wine is Gruner-Veltliner, Austria's greatest grape. This is a wonderful summertime wine that is crisp, with refreshing flavors of grapefruit and a dash of spice. It's a terrific match with seafood dishes, spicy Asian cuisine or just to sip by the pool.

Some additional summer whites you might want to consider are Pinot Gris from Oregon, Verdejo from Spain, or a Torrontes from Argentina.

Barbecued baby back pork ribs smothered in a spicy, tangy sauce is one of our favorite summer feasts. While Zinfandel and Shiraz/Syrah both work well with barbecue, we like to surprise guests with a glass of white Riesling with the ribs. This dry to semi-dry wine, which is high in acidity and rich in minerals, pairs beautifully with spicy foods, even Chinese and Thai.

Another surprising barbecue wine pairing is Gewurztraminer, an intensely aromatic, full-bodied white that works well with rich and spicy foods.

While you might think that only white wines are summertime wines, red wines are also perfect for barbecues, camping or other outdoor family gatherings.

Pinot Noir has a place at the table year-round because it is the most food-friendly of the red wines. It goes with just about everything, from very heavy to very light fare. For summer, Pinot Noir is especially well-paired with chicken, cedar-plank salmon and other grilled fish, roasted vegetables, and turkey burgers.

Summer wouldn't be summer without grilled steaks and hamburgers. Instead of serving guests Cabernet Sauvignon this summer, which is perfectly fine with steak, we're going to serve Argentina's premier wine, Malbec. Few wines enhance beef as well as this earthy, full-bodied sometimes spicy varietal.

And let's not forget Rosé, also known as Rosato or Rosado. Rosé is perhaps the most underrated, misunderstood wine that is wonderful with any food, anytime of the year. It is a light, crisp and very drinkable wine that we keep on hand year-round. Also served chilled, Rosé is outstanding with grilled foods like chicken, vegetables, salmon, even sausage and hot dogs. Rosé won't overwhelm food, because it's got the right balance of fruit and acidity. Contrary to popular belief, not all rosés are sweet; in fact most of the better rosés are dry and delicious.

For all your summer meals, keep sparkling wines, rosés and the whites well-chilled. Red wine should be kept in a cool place, away from sun and heat. Wine does not react well to summer heat.

Let the sizzle begin and may this summer be a celebration of good family and friends, good food and good wine. Happy summer!


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