As summer approaches in central Pennsylvania, our wine drinking choices change to better suit the weather.
The best quaffs are white wines of light or medium body that match the season’s warm, humid days and the lighter foods we tend to consume. I submit to you my choices for the best sipping wines to enjoy in these wonderful months.
From the Iberian Peninsula comes albariño, Spain’s finest white wine, known as alvarinho in Portugal, where it is used to make vinho verde (green wine). This apricot-scented liquid has the ability to age due to its acidity, which makes it perfect for lighter summer fare. With a floral nose and splash of brine due to the Atlantic influence, it should be brought together on the palate with soft cheese and sautéed fish. The best Spanish version is from the Rías Baixas region, while Portugal’s finest hails from Monçao, just across the Minho River.
One of the best Italian whites actually originates off the mainland on the island of Sardinia. Vermentino is a dry white wine of floral nose with citrus flavors and an almond finish. A versatile beverage, it’s made with or without oak, as well as dry or sweet. I prefer the product that originates near the center of the island. Complex and clean, this is a wine to try.
I am sure that everyone reading this has had pinot grigio. It’s a ubiquitous wine at almost any gathering, restaurant or bar. However, there are changes afoot, and high-quality quaffs can be found with a little research. In my opinion, the best pinot grigio hails from the Italian province of Trentino-Alto Adige. These mountain wines are light and minerally with good acid and stone fruit undercurrents. Another indication of quality are the words “estate bottled” on the label. This designates that the people who make the wine also grow the grapes, giving them full control of the winemaking process. The words “Denominazione di Origine” on the labels are an indication of quality for any Italian wine worthy of purchase.
Chenin blanc is a grape that doesn’t get much attention, but should be on all wine drinkers’ radar. It’s a popular quaff from South Africa, where it was labeled as “steen” until recently. This overlooked fruit is slowly making inroads on our own West Coast, with Oregon particularly stepping up. This grape makes my favorite summer sipper known as vouvray, a wine from France’s Loire Valley. It’s an amazing white wine with fruit that sings on the palate, as well as integrated acidity that keeps it all in check. Bottled dry, sweet or sparkling, this versatile wine can age or be consumed immediately. The most popular are the bottles labeled “demi-sec.” This is a middle ranking that literally means half-dry (sweet). It is, hands down, the best wine to drink during these summer months spent outdoors.