Summer, sunshine, friends, patio wines and bites to eat. It makes me want to leave the office now. As temperatures peak and patios and decks heat up across the Whistler area, our living space gets incrementally bigger allowing parties to spill out-of-doors onto the patio al fresco style.
The question is what does one serve in the heat of summer that can make you forget the reds of winter, especially if you want to be seen as a savvy, on-your-game, wine drinker?
Your guideline should be lighter, fresher style wines that leap (at least a bit) from the glass.
Stylistically, the wines break down into two main categories; namely the pure varietal or un-wooded style with its crisp, fresh acidity or lightly oaked versions with some combination of barrel- and tank-fermented juice that results in a slightly richer and more complex flavour spectrum while still retaining an appealing freshness.
It's not all white wine either — rosés and lighter reds are making inroads into the summer wine scene.
That said, summer is made for sipping wines, at the least, but it doesn't hurt if the wine is, well, gulp-able.
By now you get the picture so relax, have fun and experiment.
To that end we want to kick start your patio party with a bunch of simply delicious wines that, most importantly, are affordable.
We know pinot gris in B.C. so I'm not exaggerating when I say the Bodega Lurton Pinot Gris 2011 $13 from Valle de Uco, Mendoza, Argentina is one of the best white wine buys on the planet. This winery has been grossly underrepresented in Canada for too many years but don't let that stop you from tracking down this delicious and affordable wine. The 2011 is a little lower in alcohol which only highlights its aromatic nose and pristine flavours of ripe yellow fruits all with a dash of lees for complexity. Balanced, fresh and persistent, it really over delivers for its price.
Lurton in the south of France is home to the Francois Lurton Les Fumées Blanches 2008 $13. The latest from Lurton still over delivers for the price with its fresh, smoky, citrus mineral nose that suggests a wine of nearly twice the price. The attack is fresh and clean with a kiwi, melon, gooseberry flavour profile that runs through its grassy finish. Balanced, refreshing and crazy value, it's sold under screwcap. You should back up the truck and load up. Clams, anyone?
A wine such as Alain Brumont Gros Manseng-Sauvignon 2010 $16 can turn around your wine palate and get you headed in a new, more positive space. The Brumont mixes gros manseng and sauvignon from the Gascogne region and the result is a fresh, grassy, mineral white flecked with bits of lemon and pear, gooseberry, honey and quince. Love the intensity and juicy mid-palate in what is a quaffable white wine of considerable interest with food. Clams, mussels, crab will all work here. Good value.
Murray River organic fruit and organic winemaking techniques set the stage for the Yalumba Organic Chardonnay 2011 $17 made with "very little winemaking intervention." Expect a slightly subdued nose of stone fruits, nectarine skins and a bit wild yeasts character. The attack is soft and with more peachy fruit flavours flecked with orange and candied lemon rind and baked apple finish. Fun to sip but try this with fresh cracked crab.
Did we mention affordable? Check out the Oxford Landing Sauvignon Blanc 2010 $13 with its clean and sharp pressed edges. The entry is mouth-watering and the palate a tight mix of nettle, lime and acidity with a hint of bitterness in the finish. Chicken, potato salads, corn, summer — it all works.
Winemaker Marc Kent has hit all the right notes with his Boekenhoutskloof The Wolftrap Viognier Chenin Blanc Grenache Blanc 2011 $15. You will love its bright, floral watermelon, honey, white peach, ginger, citrus aromas while the attack is fresh with peachy viognier fruit leading and the brighter, more electric chenin blanc and grenache supporting underneath. A modern, sophisticated South African white that will work with pork or chicken kebabs or pick your curry.
Rhone white wine is an under-appreciated category, especially from the Côtes. The Louis Bernard Côtes du Rhône Blanc 2010 $15 is a wonderful mix of floral, lemon and quince notes. The attack is juicy and fresh with apricot skin, pear and citrus flavours through the finish. Typically austere but with enough fruit to carry the day. Grilled chicken and or a variety of seafood work here. Good value. Stock up.
Summer is not all white wine. Reds are still required, especially if the barbecue is involved but do give up the powerhouse reds for a few weeks and go with something just a touch less warm and alcoholic such as the Altos Los Hormigas Clasico Malbec 2011 $16. Grown at or above 800 metres on mostly low vigor soils in Lujan de Cujo and Valle de Uco in Mendoza, it offers a fragrant mix of red and black fruit flavours flecked with smoky dried herbs notes. The textures are ultra-silky; the style Euro classy. Serve for dinner all week long. Great value.
Bright plummy fruit dominates the nose of the Louis Bernard Côtes du Rhône Rouge 2010 $15 with just a squeeze of garrigue (dried indigenous herbs) for interest. The attack is soft and plummy with pepper, thyme and a light, meaty, character in the finish. A friendly, honest straight-up Rhone blend for hamburgers or grilled chicken. The blend is roughly 65 per cent grenache and 35 per cent syrah. Excellent value. Simplicity rules.
Our final pick is the Gabriel Meffre Plan de Dieu Saint Mapalis 2010 $15, a blend of syrah/grenache and mourvèdre that features a fresh floral nose with a savoury liquorice component. The entry is firm with blackberry, blueberry and red cherry fruit flavours that finish with bits of curry and dried herbs. Barbecued ribs are the match but turkey would work equally well. Come autumn.Anthony Gismondi is a West Vancouver-based freelance wine writer who travels the globe in search of terroir-based wine.