There is little about Independence Day to suggest opening a bottle of fine wine, other perhaps, than a bottle of Champagne to start the celebration. Or, since it’s our national holiday, make that a bottle of U.S.-made sparkling wine and save that bottle of Champagne a week or so to honor the French National Day on the 14th.
Independence Day occurs in one of the hottest seasons of the year, during weather that hardly calls out for wine, especially when there is plenty of chilled thirst-quenching beer available. For most Americans, the day calls for barbecues and char-grilled meats, sweet corn, and salads, dishes normally not associated with wine save possibly for those robust reds which never show at their best in the heat.
Yet it seems a shame not to include wine around the grill. Of course it will be too cold if you keep it in the ice chest with the beer. But that’s better than letting the hot sun bake it. Yet with all that barbecue sauce and charred bits on the palate, does the choice of wine really matter?
Admittedly, a lot of you will have your celebration in air-conditioned premises where intense heat is not an issue — a plus for the wine. But still, those sauces and relishes… What’s a wine lover to do.
Read Maria McKinley’s column of June 30, that’s what. Find one of those roses she describes. Always delicious in warm weather, roses don’t mind what you eat with them. As Marie points out, the best of them come from the South of France and from coastal Italy and Spain. But the Fourth of July is our day, so try for one made in the USA. Too many of them are still too sweet in spite of recent efforts to dry them out to resemble those from the Mediterranean, but with a little help from a good retailer, you can find a delicious pink wine with a refreshing finish for that saucy barbecue.
But even we wine aficionados have no problem with a cool brew around the grill.
I love rosé wines. In general, like so many others, I’m a seasonal wine drinker but I know individuals that will drink only red or only white. In my opinion, they miss out on the adventures of pairing wines with food and trying new wines. Just saying… I enjoy mostly robust reds in winter and crisp whites in summer but rosé is an option that works well anytime.
Rosé wines can be made from a number of different grape varietals and production techniques, even from the run-off of red wine fermentation, although that process is not considered the most desirable. The color of rosé is a result of how long the grapes stay in contact with their skins, noting the longer they remain in contact, the darker the finished product. Color more often will determine the intensity but not necessarily whether the wine is sweet or dry.
According to the website vinsdeprovence.com, the Greeks settled in the area now known as Marseille, France around 600 BCE, bringing vines and wine production to Provence. The site is thought to be the oldest wine-growing region in France. These early wines were light in color and are believed to be the first known rosé wines.
Joshua Malin of vinepair.com says Americans are second only to the French in rosé consumption and, while the California blush zinfandels were all the rage in the 1980’s and 90’s, recent trends have swung U.S. consumers toward dry rosés. Rosés from the Provence region of France are historically more dry than California rosés and some California vineyards are now responding to that trend.
Eric Ripert, James Beard award-winning French chef and co-owner of Le Bernardin, a Michelin 3-star New York restaurant, tells April Walloga of Business Insider, Inc., his favorite rosé is from Provence, a Domaines-Ott, Chateau de Selle Rosé. Chef Ripert and I have something in common. I love Domaines-Ott rosé and I have the beautiful empty bottle to prove it!
Rosé wine selections are limiting in both restaurants and retail stores where there is often just a handful of choices. Along with California and French rosés, be sure to give Spanish and Italian varietals a try.
Rosé wines are best consumed young, with just a year or two in the bottle while a blush champagne or sparkling wine can carry a few more years.
Holing up in Burgundy for a few days last month reconfirmed for me one of the best known secrets among wine professionals — the producer is often more important than the commune or a famous name. That’s certainly useful knowledge when buying Burgundy where per-bottle prices are as high as prices anywhere. It was certainly useful for my budget while wining and dining there — and in Alsace and the Rhone Valley.
Even in the villages of their birth, the wines of Laflaive and Matrot and Noellat were priced at 50 and more euros. But such villages — Puligny-Montrachet; Chassagne-Montrachet; Meursault — names recognized wherever wine is bought and sold, names which by virtue of recognition command high prices even at home. And these are the wines sought out by our importers and retailers. They are wonderful wines and deserve respect, admiration, and, of course, enjoyment.
Unfortunately, on this side of the Atlantic, we can’t do what I was able to do while on site in Burgundy, where I could find wines from second estates of the great names or made by the wine makers of those estates on their own small vineyards. Nearly every restaurant or wine shop offers wines from area villages not known outside the area.
Fortunately, however, our importers have awakened to the reality that good Burgundy is produced in some of the satellite villages around the great names, and we are seeing wines from Macon, Mercurey, Montagny, Auxey-Duresses coming to our shops. As one would expect, some of these are better than others, but when one of them is good it is very good and equal to its famous neighbors. Many of them can be bought for less than $20 retail, so once you find one, remember it. This is a case where name recognition pays off.OLDER POSTS »