FMN – June 2019 – Wines for Summer Heat

If this week is any indication of impending summer heat, we may be in trouble. Whether you are locking yourself away in your air conditioned cave, or braving the heat poolside, you will need something to survive the kids being home from school. I’m assuming that ‘something’ will have a percentage of abv associated with it.

I admit to loving an ice cold beer by the pool or while I’m manning the grill but that can be short-lived in this Death Valley heat. One too many beers can lead to that bubble-guts, bloated feeling that we all dread; a situation I refer to as ‘beered out’. For this reason, my light, crisp white wine consumption becomes embarrassingly frequent and borderline excessive.

The mention of Bordeaux causes most consumers to envision a red wine, but white wines made from Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillion, Muscadelle and to a lesser degree Ugni Blanc, Colombard, Sauvignon Gris, Merlot Blanc, Ondenc and Mauzac account for 10% of the total production. The fact that these white grapes are used in sweet, dry and sparkling production remains a testament to their versatility. Most of these white wines, like their red counterparts, are a blend of varieties taking into account winemaking styles, appellation typicity and local regulations.

Although there are some examples with a hefty price tag, mostly the dessert wines, much of the white wine production drinks above their retail price point. This bargain pricing, although multifactorial, largely comes from the lack of popularity in our domestic markets. So the next time you go to reach for your New Zealand or California Sauvignon Blanc, give some white Bordeaux a try.

Pinot Blanc (aka Pinot Bianco, Weißburgunder, Klevner), the white berried mutation to Pinot Noir has had little following in the marketplace for decades. Varietal wines are produced but due to uncontrolled yields, the outcome remains rather lackluster. Shamefully most wine growing countries relegate this grape to a work-horse ‘filler’ used ideally for blending; especially in sparkling. With historical roots in Burgundy and even once as an accepted blending partner for Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Pinot Blanc has fallen on hard times.

A few regions, however, continue to give more respect to Pinot Blanc with lower, controlled yields and use of wine making techniques that enhance its smoky perfumed attributes.  Germany, Austria and Alsace have continued to demonstrate worthwhile examples. With slightly less aromatics and less body versus Pinot Gris, this variety continues to struggle for market attention but provides great value and a crowd-pleasing feature for the novice as well as discerning wine ponce.

Sometimes you want a wine that is light, refreshing and not overly cerebral. These elements perfectly describe the wines of Vinho Verde, Portugal. A denomination in the north western part of Portugal, Vinho Verde’s green connotation refers to the youthfulness of its wines, not the color. Although there are some varietal examples most wines are a blend of different allowed grape varieties: Alvarinho (Albariño), Arinto, Avesso, Azal, Loureiro, and Trajadura.

There are some slight variations in wines due to grapes used and climate and soil variations between the 9 sub regions. Most regional whites, however, are light, crisp, slightly petillant, and lower in alcohol (9-11% abv). So for the temperance-minded consumer, you can swig these down with almost blatant disregard. They also make a good starting point for any wine based cocktails you want to serve pool side.

Remember to keep those wines cold as your sipping in this intense heat. There are a myriad of products such as wine sleeves and chillers but I find a metal bucket, ice, water and salt make the easiest and long lasting example. And just to nauseate the wine snobs out there, out of desperation, I have put some ice in my white wine to keep it cold…in a red solo cup. The latter comment mainly comes from my inability to have glass by the pool, but that’s another story.

Suggested Wines:

Château Roc Meynard Bordeaux Blanc Sec 2016                              Bordeaux, France               $18.99

This wine blends 50% Sauvignon Blanc and 50% Sémillion, allowing the two to come together over 6 months of stainless steel aging. The nose has evident tropical fruit, especially citrus with a slight floral / blossom note. The palate is dry, as the term sec on the label indicates, with bright mineral-laden acidity, medium plus body (likely from the weightier Sémillion variety), well in check alcohol, and flavors mirroring the nose. The wine finishes with a palate cleansing tart citric acid quality.  This has the texture to stand up to grilled seafood, the elegance to have with raw oysters or clams and the price to just chill it down and sip by the pool.


Selbach-Oster Pinot Blanc 2016                               Mosel, Germany                                            $21.99

Don’t let the pale color fool you; this wine is packed with aromatics and flavor. The nose has aromas of tropical fruit (kiwi), rich orchard fruit (pear, peach), and a sweet blossom note. Although the label states dry, I have a slight off-dry perception with crisp malic acid apple-like acidity. The body is medium but with an interesting viscous-like fat mouth-feel. Flavors of orchard fruit (apple, pear), slight lemon curd and a hint of slate-driven minerality fill the palate along with a brine-like finish. Pair this with salty soft pretzels, stinky soft cheeses, and evening boat rides.


Encostas do Lima 2016                                               Vinho Verde DO, Portugal                          $11.99

This 80% Loureiro and 20% Trajadura wine comes from the Lima sub-region of Vinho Verde. The wine stays true to expectations with aromas of lime, citrus blossom, orchard fruit (apple, pear), and wet stone. The palate has a slight off-dry element that hides behind a bright palate-cleansing acidity. Flavors of tropical citrus and orchard fruit meld into a tangy mineral finish. I’d pair this wine with creamy cheeses, ceviche, and beach / pool therapy.