Bold cabernets and spicy syrahs have their time and place (paired with a thick stew or braise, perhaps in front of a roaring fire), but during the dog days of summer, most agree that wine is a drink best served cold.
Lately, though, we’ve been wondering: Beyond its proximity to the refrigerator case, what else should we be looking for when picking the perfect bottle for a balmy evening?
We caught up with Jordan Salcito, wine director at Crown restaurant in Manhattan, to get a professional sommelier’s take on the best wines for warm weather.
“I like to drink wines that have a good amount of acidity — it makes them bright and refreshing,” Jordan said. “I also like wines that are lighter in body and have less alcohol than wines I’d drink in the cooler months.”
She shared some of her favorites for summer sipping, and inspired us to break out of our chardonnay-and-sauvignon-blanc rut to try something new.
Give Riesling a Chance
“Some people think German Rieslings are sweet — not true!” Jordan said, dispelling a common myth about the delicate white wine, which can range in flavor from dry to super-sweet. Look for Rieslings labeled Kabinett, which Jordan describes as “just slightly off-dry, and refreshing on their own or with a meal.” Rieslings labeled troken are also dry, though be careful: The term trockenbeerenauslese refers to intensely sweet dessert-style wines that can have up to 30 percent residual sugar.
Jordan’s favorite Rieslings come from the revered Mosel region in the north of Germany. “Riesling grapes are naturally very high in acidity, but the wines from the Mosel are particularly ethereal, on account of the cool climate and famous blue slate that lines the very steep vineyards on which the vines grow,” Jordan said. They’re also low in alcohol, which comes in handy on hot afternoons.
Champagne Taste, Champagne Budget
Let’s be honest: It’s always a good time for bubbly. But the summer’s good-times, impromptu-party atmosphere makes it an especially good time to pop open a fresh, lively bottle of something sparkling.
True Champagnes only come from the Champagne region of France and often associated with expensive brands like Cristal and Dom Perignon. Not to worry. Jordan just visited the region for the first time this month, and came back brimming with wallet-friendly suggestions from her travels. “Some of my favorites right now are made by small-grower producers, and the wines are a fraction of the cost,” she said, calling out Pierre Peters from the Côte des Blanc and Chartogne-Taillet from Merfy in particular.
Champagne we can regularly afford? Sounds like a reason to celebrate.
Coming Up Rosés
Pink wines have gotten a bad rep in the U.S. over the years, thanks to memories of hyper-sweet white zinfandels and Boone’s Farm hangovers, but Americans are finally starting to catch on to what Europeans have known for years — rosés are dry, fruity and a great compromise when you can’t decide between white and red.
“I love to drink rosés during the summer, and they make dynamic wine pairings,” said Jordan. “The fact that they’re served cold makes even the richer ones quite refreshing. Some of my favorites are Lopez de Heredia rosé, Domaine Tempier from Bandol (pale in color and so refreshing), and the 2010 Vin Gris rosé from Robert Sinskey in Napa Valley.”
For the best of all worlds, Jordan recommends the sparkling rosé Tant Mieux, made from the Ploussard grape by Philippe Bornard in the Jura. “This wine is made into a sparkling wine by the ‘Method Ancestrale,’ which leaves the wine effervescent and not overly bubbly, and just slightly sweet, like ripe strawberries” Jordan said.