Here in the Carolinas the summer can come early. Even in this part of the state, inland and a little elevated, summertime begins in mid-April and lasts until it decides to leave. Mornings can be cool with temps in the 50’s but by about 10:00 we are moving up into the 80’s and higher, with an afternoon rain forecast almost every day which rarely comes, by the way. These days call for a nice cool drink, and since I really don’t care that much for beer, a nice white wine will do just fine. Lower alcohol and less sugar than a mixed drink, wine is the perfect accompaniment for relaxing, reading, writing or just being lazy. So here are three wines I recommend for a day like that.
PICPOUL de PINET
This is a lovely wine from the largest wine producing region in France, Languedoc-Roussillon. The name of the wine itself refers to the grape used to make it, Piquepoul blanc, rather than the region. Light in color with a slight shade of greenish-yellow, it is a citrusy wine that balances both sweet and tart perfectly with a hint of grapefruit and lime with a splash of melon to cut the acidity perfectly. More flavorful than a traditional Pinot Grigio, this is a wine that will become a favorite as it blends so well with trout or poultry, but really drinks best on its own. I took a chance on this wine a while back as I was drawn to it by a very attractive bottle. Since, it has become a family favorite.
The wine consists of 100% Picpoul (Piquepoul) grapes, a very traditional, local variety grown on sun drenched hillsides with vines averaging between 15-20 years old. A very generous nod is given here to tradition and history as harvesting is done at night at perfect maturity. In France it is considered to be the go to pairing for shellfish and seafood. At about $11 this is not only a value, it is a treasure.
PROPHECY PINOT GRIGIO DELLE VENEZIE
The slogan of this company is “See the unseen. Try the Untried.” This is a different type of company in that it is not restricted to any one country. Rather, it imports grapes from the finest wine-growing regions of the world, Italy, France, California, and crafts them into certain varietals using the appropriate grapes. What strikes you first is the unusual art on the label. Designed by Victo Ngai, an award winning illustrator herself, the label shows a woman, a STAR, blending inspiration and intuition with flowing pure water and the strength of the eight pointed golden stars surrounding her. What strikes you about the wine though, is its purity of flavor, and it’s surprisingly clear appearance. Although it clearly has the taste of citrus, a pinot grigio staple, one can also get a taste of pear and apple which gives this wine a very crisp taste bordering on natural carbonization. Don’t misunderstand, this is not a carbonated beverage. But, the purity and complexity of it almost lends itself to feel that way. The bouquet is light but fragrant, and it would benefit from a few minutes before pouring. Legs, while almost invisible are definitely there, and coat the glass with a nicely clear to opaque effect.
I have enjoyed this wine often, having been attracted to the bottle because of the label. After drinking it, I think it would pair well with a flaky, tender fish such as flounder or trout, though it may be kind of lost with something more substantial like a cod or some shellfish. I think though, its finest use would be as a pure sipping wine, served with some cheeses and very interesting conversation. A romantic evening with that special someone also would not be out of the question.
MATUA SAUVIGNON BLANC
A beautiful wine from New Zealand that just says summer. Light, airy and fresh with a fragrance of citrus that escapes from the bottle from the moment it is opened. I don’t know what summertime is like in the lands down under, but if there are any wine drinkers there, this must be a sellout. Sauvignon Blanc is a very special wine, and here at Matua, even more so because back in 1974, it was the first of its kind produced in this country. Grapes are chosen from across Marlborough giving you the most crisp, clean flavors. These vineyards, located at the northern tip of the country’s southernmost island, benefit from stony soils, sunny climate and wide temperature ranges giving the grapes a rich and hearty flavor that stands up so well to foods such as poultry and shellfish. But it is the influence of the citrus, the unmistakable hint of grapefruit and passion fruit that really makes this a superior wine to enjoy outdoors. Bring out some cheese or fuss over some risotto and this wine will exceed any expectations. Each step of wine enjoyment is a superior experience with this wine as it is nice in the bottle, pleasing to the eye, fragrant upon opening and an almost explosive taste that rewards the senses. This is a truly outstanding wine at a value price.
There you have it. Three wines to add to your summer enjoyment. So kick back, relax and enjoy. And if you have friends over, impress them with your wine choice by serving any of these chilled or over ice. In fact, impress your guests with your “drink fussiness,” and instead of ice cubes, freeze some white grapes and use them in place of cubes. It’s a real nice touch. We will discuss some reds next time.