Here’s something you ought to know about me: I am a red wine drinker, first and foremost. I like my wines full-bodied, earthy and smelly. If wines were human beings, the kind I prefer would be legendary Bears defensive lineman William “Refrigerator” Perry. But, like many red wine enthusiasts, I run into a problem when the weather turns hot. A Malbec or a Cabernet, while delicious with a juicy piece of red meat, doesn’t really cut the proverbial mustard when it comes to lounging on the porch.
Of course, there are very few set “rules” when it comes to what you can and cannot drink, but I would wager that not many of us would be inclined to finish off a hot summer day with a heavy glass of Port. It doesn’t really compute, unless your objective is to never again leave the chair in which you are currently sitting. This is where white wines and Rosés come into play.
Rosés are a great place to begin the transition, because they are, essentially, red wines. The common misconception is that Rosés are some sort of unholy mixture of red and white wine, which produces the pinkish hue that makes it so distinctive. In fact, most Rosés are made from your favorite red grapes, such as Grenache and Malbec. The primary difference is that while traditional red must (“must” being the name for unfermented grape juice) is steeped for quite a while at a high temperature with the grape skins (and sometimes stems as well), Rosé skips a large part of this process. The result is a wine that lacks both the dark color and heavy tannins of your classic red, as the grape skins and stems are where most of the tannins are hiding. Thus, a Rosé has some of the dark fruit flavors characteristic of our favorite red grapes without the astringent tannins that make them less than refreshing for porch-drinking purposes.
Then, of course, there are the actual white wines. The obvious choice for those looking to explore the world of white wines is a big oaky Chardonnay. It has some of the spiciness and body of red wine, without the high acidity that can be found in some whites. However, any visit to your local wine store will confirm that California-style, heavily oaked Chardonnays are quite literally a dime a dozen. Let’s face it: Chardonnay, while great in some situations, is kind of boring. It’s the wine equivalent of a slice of white bread. That’s why I’d like to discuss some less-tried and true whites for a bit.
Do you like wine that’s a little off-dry, but German Riesling makes you physically ill? How about a Chenin Blanc? While the Vouvray area of France produces the best-known Chenin Blancs in the world, I am falling in love with Chenin-based blends from South Africa. A lot of the time, these wine producers will cut the Chenin Blanc with a grape like Viognier or Sauvignon Blanc. The result is a substantial wine with just enough sweetness to be noticeable, but also containing enough acidity to balance it out. Very tasty.
Speaking of Sauvignon Blanc, do you like the crispness and lightness that are SB trademarks, but could do without some of the more annoying green-peppery/herbaceous notes? How about a nice Verdejo? Verdejo is one of the main white grapes of Spain’s Rueda district, and is basically a more tropical Sauvignon Blanc. Here’s a pro tip: Almost everything that the French are doing has a Spanish equivalent that is of the same quality and about 1/3 the price. You heard it here first.
So there you have it. Just a few suggestions to open up your world of wine. Nothing will ever replace your favorite red wines, but don’t write off whites. Some of them pack just as must of a punch as their red counterparts, if you know where to look.
What are some of your favorite white wines? Share them here.
And for more information on William “Refrigerator” Perry, check out my next blog, “Filthy Semaphore Jokes of the Royal Air Force.”