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Wine of the Week: Summer Whites and Rosés

Thu May 21, 2009

I used to be one of those people who thought a wine had to be red to be good. But my first sticky-hot summer back in New York City—the kind that has you leaving trails of sweat behind like snail tracks—quickly changed my mind. My fifth floor walk-up on 97th Street had no air conditioning, just two little fans, each the size of a breadbox that blew the sweat around on your body like the drier in a car wash. So, on the hottest days, I stayed out until the sun went down, and my favorite thing to do was sit outside at ‘inoteca on the Lower East Side, sipping a glass of pale, crisp, Italian rosato.Italian rosato was nothing like my parents white Zinfandel. It wasn’t even a touch sweet. It was clean, slightly mineraly, kissed with summer fruit and was at least as refreshing as water until my third glass. But most importantly, it wasn’t heavy. Red wine on those nights was like over-stuffed luggage for the palate, and the weight and flavors all-to-often overwhelmed the lighter summer fare. From that rosato, which I believe was a Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, much like the one they’re pouring these days, it was an easy transition to the rosés of Southern France.

These days, I use “rosé season” as one of my seasonal markers, since the transition from spring into summer here in SoCal isn’t so distinct. At K&L, the pink wines start arriving in earnest sometime in mid-May, and they dominate the front section of the store by June. Of what we’ve recieved so far, one of my favorites is easily the 2008 Côtes de Provence Rosé, Saint André de Figuière “Vieilles Vignes.” Made from the Mourvèdre (50%) and equal parts Cinsault and Grenache, this wine tastes like what I imagine Provence to smell like, with its famed fields of lavender. In addition to musky lavender on the nose, there are hints of rose petals and ripe peaches that carry over to the palate. The fruit and acidity are seamlessly integrated on the palate, which has nice weight without being heavy. This is an elegant wine that I’m going to stock up on for grilled fish, bowls of summer berries, Hollywood Bowl outings and attempting to garden my three tiny window boxes on my three-foot-deep patio.

When I’m not drinking the Saint André, I’ll probably be drinking the best wine I’ve ever had from the Vinho Verde region of Portugal, the 2008 Ferreira “Soalheiro” Alvarinho Vinho Verde, Portugal. Unlike most wines from Vinho Verde, which taste a bit like flat Sprite, the Soalheiro captured me with its nose of muskmelon skin (that’s what we call cantaloupe here in the US), jasmine and limestone. Made entirely from Alvarinho (what the Spanish call Albariño) from a single vineyard, this is fermented dry and it shows on its lively palate, which still has a tiny bit of spritz to it, with flavors that mirror the aromas with just a little more fruit, lime blossom and lime zest. I tried this one evening with the importer, Luis Moya, who was contagiously passionate about the Spanish and Portuguese wines he was pouring, and I could easily see why. The wine’s acidity make it ideal for food, but it’s not so searing that you couldn’t enjoy a glass on its own.

Whether you drink these, or head over to your favorite wine retailer to try some others, I encourage you try some fun white and pink wines for the summer. Even if, like me, you think you only like red, you may be pleasantly surprised to find you enjoy much much more once you try something that isn’t over-oaked, syrupy Chardonnay. If you’re looking for more suggestions or have your own favorites, please comment!

Until then…Cin Cin.

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4 Responses to “Wine of the Week: Summer Whites and Rosés”

  1. foodwoolf Says:

    Who’s that dashing figure at the top of your story?

    Just kidding. I just opened a bottle of that Vino Verde last night (actually, it was 1 a.m. but it felt like night time) and it was absolutely surprising with its effervescence and crisp minerality. I had to stop drinking it because I knew I had to make a meal to compliment the wine’s playfulness. It was just too good to be sipping while watching Tivo’d American Idol on an empty stomach.

    But that’s a lot of information.

    Point is, you’re absolutely right. Now is the time for light wines.

    Peace out.

  2. José Tavares Says:

    I’m Portuguese so I love to see (good) reviews of Portuguese wine!
    Just a minor correction to the text. You wrote “Made entirely from Alvarinho (what the Portuguese call Albariño)”. In fact Portuguese call it “Alvarinho”, “Albariño” it’s how the Spanish call it. Hint: In Portuguese it’s not used the ‘ñ’ we have changed it to ‘nh’.
    Hope you find more excellent wines from Portugal!

  3. Leah Greenstein Says:

    Thanks for the the catch and your comment!

  4. Napa Valley Wines Says:

    […] Wine of the Week: Summer Whites & Rosés | SpicySaltySweet […]

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