When I think of summer in Memphis, I immediately start sweating and get thirsty. My quick fix: a crisp white wine.
One of the best to beat the heat is Grüner Veltliner, the signature grape of Austria. Grüner has a perfect combination of acidity, freshness, citrus and stone fruit flavors, and a mineral quality that makes the wine zippy and bright. In summer, we tend to want lighter fare such as grilled fish, vegetables, sushi, and salads. All of these foods match perfectly with Grüner.
One consistent theme for my summer selections is acidity — all wines need to have it in order to be refreshing. Albariño, northwestern Spain's signature grape, fits the bill perfectly. The grape itself is very high in acidity but is balanced by a high sugar level as well. This, however, does not equal cloying sweetness, since most producers ferment their wines dry. It just means that ripe fruit flavors, such as peach and tangerine, are expressed. Albariño complements shellfish — shrimp, scallops, clams, etc.
Sauvignon Blanc is another fresh and clean wine for summertime. While Australia is better known for its reds, I think that its whites are more interesting.
There aren't many Aussie Sauvignon Blancs in the Memphis market, but the ones that are here are delicious. They tend not to have the overwhelming, and sometimes invasive, gooseberry and grapefruit notes of New Zealand versions. While citrus is a hallmark of this grape, some not-so-good versions tend to have just that and nothing more.
When selected wisely, Riesling can be stunning or at the very least tasty. This grape certainly has its place in the summer wine arsenal. Dry versions possess some of the most thirst-quenching and refreshing qualities of any wine and can pair beautifully with summer foods. Their razor-sharp acidity and bracing citrus and mineral notes are mouthwatering and just plain fun.
Another interesting grape varietal that has loads of refreshing qualities is Gewürztraminer. Anderson Valley, California, and Oregon are excellent sources of dry-style Gewürz. These regions emphasize the impressive and unique floral characteristics that are a hallmark of this grape type. The aromas are incredibly enticing with notes of jasmine, honeysuckle, ginger, and lychee.
Argentina's signature grape, Torrontes, has some similarities to Gewürztraminer when it comes to aroma profile. Torrontes also can have aromas of white flowers and ginger, but it can have rosewater and orange blossom notes as well. This South American white has loads of fresh acidity and a zingy texture with flavors of pink grapefruit and Key lime.
Stadt Krems Grüner Veltliner 2007
Kremstal, Austria $18.99
Licia Albariño 2007 Rias Baixas, Spain
D'Arenberg Broken Fishplate Sauvignon
Blanc 2008 Adelaide Hills,
FWW Riesling 2007 Wachau, Austria
Cono Sur Riesling 2008 Chile $10.99
Handley Cellars Gewürztraminer 2006
Anderson Valley, California $19.99
Foris Gewürztraminer 2007
Rogue Valley, Oregon $15.99
Colome Torrontes 2008 Salta, Argentina