The arrival of summer this year continues to be a start-stop thing. The weather has been generally cool with the occasional hot spell but except for one weekend, the hot spells seem more like hot flashes. Early forecasts called for a hotter-than-normal summer and who knows, August may deliver some heat.
In the meantime, cooler conditions make summer wine selection a challenge as we instinctively seek lighter reds and crisp whites for summer entertainment and meals. When the thermometer reads cool, the wines we prefer have more heft and concentration than our instincts might otherwise call for.
This said, the LCBO procurement cycle has long lead times with the result that the typical mid-summer Vintages release will be laden with the wines of summer. This weekend is no exception and there are some exceptional wines to choose from. My best value wines are listed below.
Ontario, Niagara – VQA Beamsville Bench Cave Spring Vineyard Estate Bottled Gewurztraminer 2012
Cave Spring makes fine, delicate white wines and this is a fine demonstration of the CS style. It has 11 g/L of residual sugar but presents a dry character on the palate. The lychee and spice we expect with Gewurztraminer is delivered in abundance. The texture has the slightly fat viscosity of an Alsatian Gewurz and the acid is modest but adequate to provide a nicely-structured wine with a long finish. Serve with spice Asian food.
Dry, white wine – $17.95 per bottle
France, Southwest – IGP Côtes Catalanes Domaine Lafage Tessellae Vieilles Vignes Carignan 2013
Carignan is a much-maligned grape in many circles. Why? Carignan is a grape that requires aggressive vineyard management so its vigour does not grow out of control. Left unattended Carignan vines will deliver enormous volumes of green, astringent fruit – this is the legacy of the Carignan of the Midi, the grape that filled many a carafe in Parisian bistros. Old vines which are tended with care can deliver wines of deep colour and structure, with tannins that fit well with the spicy fruit. This is a well-made old-vine wine with a rustic character, lots of black fruit, crisp acid, a fullish body and a long finish. This is a red made for grilled red meat. Serve lightly chilled.
Extra dry, red wine $17.95
Spain, Navarra – DO Cava Naveran Brut Nature Millessime 2011
Most Cava comes from the Penedes zone in Catalonia. Navarra – the region adjacent to Rioja, is also a major Cava zone and here we have a fine, lighter weight example of what can be done in this northern growing area. There is plenty of biscuit dough on the nose and bright, intense citrus fruit on the palate. The mousse is creamy and persistent and the mouthfeel is lean and elegant. The finish is long and clean. This is an excellent buy – complex and pleasing!
Extra dry, sparkling wine $17.95 per bottle
Spain, Rioja – DOCa Rioja Lopez de Haro Crianza 2008
Crianza wines are young wines from Spain which have received a limited amount of oak and bottle ageing (that is, limited when compared with reserva wines which see extensive ageing before release). This means that a crianza wine will generally be more bright, fruity and fresh when you open the bottle than its more mature reserva cousin. Despite the early-twentieth century label on its bottle the Lopez de Haro crianza delivers on its youthful promise. It is light in weight with bright, crisp red berry-cherry fruit and spice on the nose and palate. The tannins are finely-grained, the acid is bright and tart and the finish is medium long and crisp. This is a fine beauty which will serve well when the days get hotter. I suggest you serve this wine slightly chilled.
Dry, red wine – $14.95 per bottle
Portugal, Vinho Verde – DOC Vinho Verde Maria Popoila Escolha 2013
Vinho Verde has always been known for its aggressive acid, green fruit, slight fizz and freshness. Made with grapes that want to be vinified and consumed when young these wines represent the consummate summer outdoor wines: not very demanding but wonderful when matched with summer dishes. This wine is a departure from the simple green, herbaceous V-V we all know: it has more weight, riper fruit and complexity on the nose and palate that truly stand out. You will find apple, pear, lemon, lime and modest herbs and spice in your glass. This is a very attractive wine that will match salads and seafood, or can serve as an aperitif.
Dry, white wine – $16.95 per bottle
Copyright© W. John Switzer 2003 – 2015.