Summer Reds

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When we talk about white wines for summers, we implicitly understand the reference. Summer whites are bright, light, thirst quenching wines that are eminently drinkable. Sancerre ,Muscadet Sevre-et-Maine and Albariño immediately come to mind. Summer reds are more difficult to define. We know we are not breaking out a pensive vintage Bordeaux for the family barbeque or uncorking a luscious California cabernet sauvignon with a bowl of chilled asparagus soup, but it is it possible to reduce the entire universe of reds to a simple rule of thumb for the summer months?

One helpful idea is to think about the climate of the wine’s region of origin. Warm climate reds tend to be juicy with plenty of body and just enough acidity to be mouthwatering. Think nero d’avola from Sicily, malbec from Mendoza, or grenache from the southern Rhone Valley. These intensely flavorful wines will maintain their structure in the face of bold, smoky, spicy summer fare. 

On the other end of the spectrum are the cool climate reds, what we call bistro wines, since they show so well served lightly chilled by the carafe. At their best, cool climate reds are youthful and delicious, tasting of fresh berries often with floral or mineral notes. They won’t overwhelm a fresh salad niçoise, spring pea soup or chicken paillard. Some very fine examples can be found in the Loire Valley, notably the cabernet franc from Chinon and Saumur. Other sources worth seeking out are pinot noirs from Alsace and Central Otago. 

Discovering Grüner Veltliner

Some wines reveal everything you need to know about them with the first sip. They are not grüner veltliners. Delicious, fascinating and widely varied, wines made from grüner veltliner are worthy of a long, passionate courtship. Here are ten essential facts about the wines to get you started.

1. Grüner veltliner is the signature grape of Austria.

2. It yields an aromatic dry white wine distinguished by flavors of pepper and stone fruit.

3. Styles run the gamut from light, fresh and simple, to rich, full-bodied and complex.

4. Grüner veltliners are unusually versatile when it comes to food pairings, complementing everything from a mixed salad, to asparagus, to salmon and poultry.

5. They account for a third of all the plantings in Austria.

6. The finest examples are cultivated on the steeped terraced vineyards of Wachau, Kamptaland Kremstal in Lower Austria, which benefit from extensive exposure to the autumn sun.

7. The wines are delightful in their youth.

8. If you can hold on to a good bottle for a decade or two, it will evoke white Burgundy with its opulence, fineness and flavors of honey and toast.

9. These are artisanal wines -- most grüner veltliners are grown on family owned estates.

10. A high percentage of Austrian grüner veltliner is organic. The country has the highest percentage of land in organic production of any EU country (almost nine percent), an impressive statistic when you consider that the EU grows a quarter of the world’s organic food.