As those of you who have been in my wine classes know, I insist that wine does not live in a vacuum. What I mean by that is that wine is shaped and formed in the context of the moment we are in, and the context of a summertime afternoon with friends and colleagues is far different than a mid-winter dinner party or fancy-dancy wine dinner at Chez Ego Trip.
It’s summer, folks! Time to not worry too much about what’s in the glass and instead focus on how it makes you feel (insert obvious joke here). What makes for a great glass of summertime wine? Here are a few pointers:
Acidity. There are few taste triggers the brain reacts to stronger than that sense of re-salivation after drinking something with acidity. You feel it on the inside of your cheeks, back by your molars. Your mouth dries out for just a second then WHOOSH, the tsunami of saliva hits. Your caveman brain translates this to refreshment. Higher acid wines such as Sauvignon Blanc, unoaked Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Grigio, light bodied Chianti, and many others work nicely.
Temperature. The cooler a wine is served, the more the acid is going to pop. This is especially true with red wines, which can easily get flabby if served a bit too warm. For summertime drinking on the patio start with a white wine right out of the fridge, and see what happens as it warms up. For red wines, throw them in the fridge for a half hour and don’t hesitate to plop them in a bucket of ice. Summertime reds should feel cool in the mouth.
Proper foods. Anything grilled will do. Anything with the flavors of the summer garden bounty will do. Avoid sweet glazes or honey, for they will make the wines taste artificially metallic. The ultimate healthy summertime combo? A green salad with Gruner Veltliner from Austria. Yummy.
And finally, you have permission from the Gods of Wine to … drumroll please … drop an ice cube into your glass at anytime. It’s your wine, and if it helps you enjoy it in the moment there is nothing wrong with that. Plus (dirty little secret here) winemakers often add water to the wine during the winemaking process. If they can do it, you can too. Idea: buy some grapes and freeze them. If your wine is too warm, drop the frozen grapes in there instead of ice.