In mature wine markets, such as northern Europe, the annual opening of patios and the release of summer sipper-style wines is eagerly anticipated by locals and visitors alike. Drinking rosado in Barcelona, rosé in Provence, prosecco in Verona or riesling along the banks of the Mosel is not only hip, it is a rite of passage for many as they sink into the warm days of summer.
In the two decades since The British Columbia Wine Institute (BC VQA) was founded to improve the lot of local wines, scores of British Columbia growers have come to similar conclusions releasing a plethora of summer-styled wines to accompany our short but intense warm season. Perhaps more important — and practiced around the globe — local wines pair so much better with local cuisine.
It's taken some time to pry those big reds out of the hands of wine drinkers but a willingness to experiment, at least when they are out-of-doors or feeding on appetizers, is breathing life into a whole new category of domestic labels.
In short: clean, refreshing, fruity wines that complement summer are attracting wide attention and if the label and capsule, which covers the cork and neck, looks as fresh as the ingredients (sorry, black capsules do not make me want to crack open your summer sipper), so much the better. Sweetness is a personal preference but my experience is consumers are looking for less sugar, more ripe fruit and less alcohol. Screwcap closures are almost mandatory.
Not all the labels will be familiar to you if you seldom stray from your favourite merlot or chardonnay but at the right time in the right place, chenin blanc, chasselas, gewürztraminer, siegerrebe, ehrenfelser and, now, countless white blends that mix many of the aforementioned grapes will delight your taste buds.
Summer's arrival has spurred me on to produce a valuable list of British Columbia white wines made for warm days and long nights on the patio.
Best of all, B.C. whites are relatively affordable so you can revel in your savings as you sip the coming warm, lazy days of summer away.
It's a perfect list for the cabin, or the patio and it should be relevant all summer. Hint: clip or print this list out and stick it on the refrigerator for future reference. And don't forget, lighten up and try something different for summer — you'll be glad you did.
Baillie-Grohman Pinot Gris 2011 Creston $22 Plenty of acidity livens up the green apple, flinty fruit flecked with lime rind, dried herbs and mineral notes. A delicately balanced, food-friendly and generally impressive gris. Go, Creston!
CedarCreek Riesling 2011 Okanagan Valley $18 The fruit is a blend of two northern sites. The nose is a tightly wound citrus- and lime-scented affair that follows through on the palate. Light, juicy fun yet serious, it will pair with a variety of West Coast foods.
Clos du Soleil Fume Blanc 2011, Keremeos, Similkameen Valley $20 Fresh, juicy, delicate style sauvignon with green apple, grapefruit, gooseberry, melon rind and honey flavours with a bit of nettle and sweetness on the finish. Good, solid, easy summer style for seafood.
Hester Creek Pinot Blanc 2010 Okanagan Valley $16 Honey, floral, red apple, guava, citrus, lees aromas. Dry, fresh, soft palate with earthy, lees, pear, baked apple and citrus flavours. Simple, clean and balanced. Perfect for seafood pasta dishes.
Joie A Noble Blend 2011, Naramata, Okanagan Valley 2009 $24 So pure and fresh and focused with intense tangerine, guava and fruit aromas and flavours. This is a delicious bottle of wine that blends riesling , gewürztraminer and muscat. .
Martin's Lane Riesling 2011, East Kelowna, Okanagan Valley $25 Martin's Lane is hillside-grown on the steepest portion of the Mission Hill Road vineyard. Expect crisp crunchy fruit reminiscent of mango, orange, lime and green apple flavours. Indian food, anyone?
Mission Hill Viognier Reserve 2010 Okanagan Valley $18 Red apple, honey, nectarine, ginger, grapefruit rind and spice flavours. Solid fruit and balance to match with spicy seafood dishes. A consistent performer from Mission Hill that is easy to recommend.
Quails' Gate Chardonnay 2010, Okanagan Valley $19 Fresh, juicy, off dry palate with grapefruit, green apple, cedar, butter, honey, lees and hazelnut flavours. Very citrus, leesy, austere style designed for food. A great white for halibut with fruit salsa.
Stoneboat Vineyards Pinot Gris 2011 Oliver, Okanagan Valley $19 The 2011 pinot gris is likely the best yet from Stoneboat; we just love the dry, stony, nectarine flavours and the creamy textures. Oysters, seafood, heirloom tomato salads.
Tinhorn Creek 2Bench White Oldfield Series 2011 Okanagan Valley $23 The mix of aromatic and tropical fruit aromas in 2011 are stunning and well supported by a firm acidic underbelly. A friendly screwcap white that will look good all summer on the patio.
Gray Monk Pinot Gris 2011 Okanagan Valley $17 Friendly ripe and sweet best describes the latest Gray Monk gris and its cherry, citrus, honey melon flavours. The perfect wine to accompany and cool down spicy, Pan-Asian dishes.
Poplar Grove Pinot Gris 2011, Naramata Bench, Okanagan Valley $20 Love the fresh zippy character of this wine which will allow you to have fun with an infinite mix of foods. The simple match is a classic tomato pizza but you can also serve it with a savoury roast chicken.
Hillside Estate Gewürztraminer 2011, Naramata Bench, Okanagan Valley $20 Fresh, juicy, elegant, slightly sweet entry with honey, floral, pink grapefruit, sausage, rose water and lychee flavours and some peach skin on the finish. Delicious and affordable.
Wild Goose Riesling 2011, Okanagan Valley $17 Always fresh and clean, the nose is a mix of mineral, clover floral honey notes with green apple and citrus lime flavours. Solid value and, as usual, very food friendly. Think chicken or sushi.
Anthony Gismondi is a West Vancouver-based freelance wine writer who travels the globe is search of terroir-based wine.