One of two things has likely happened to you in the run-up to the July 4 weekend.
First, you’re prepared and stocked up on your wines a week ago, in which case, you might want to stop reading.
Or, if you’re like me, popping into the wine store has fallen to the bottom of your list and – yikes!!! – it’s time to stock up for the masses who are expecting barbeque and booze at your place this weekend.
In which case, this article is for you!
The best thing about summer barbeques is, you shouldn’t think too much about the wine. This isn’t the time to whip out that $60 Napa Cab you got while visiting the winery or to show off that hard-to-find bottle of Chardonnay.
Instead, think simple and reach for one of summer’s quintessential wines: sauvignon blanc. Zesty and citrusy, this wine offers enough backbone to stand up to anything grilled. Look for one that’s in the $10-15 range from California, Australia or (if you really want to get fancy) France’s Loire Valley, where the wine goes under the name Sancerre.
Alternatively, check out a pinot gris or pinot blanc, two names for what is, essentially, the same grape. These are deliciously neutral wines – as in, not too fruity/acidic/heavy with lighter, more floral flavors – that are a good foil for anything that comes off the grill.
If you think that red wine sounds too heavy for a hot summer day, then think again. The key is to find something light enough to be chilled (yes, I am suggesting chilling a red wine…go with it now and thank me later) but full enough to stand up to foods cooked over fire.
Zinfandel is the obvious choice, especially for this all-American holiday. These zippy wines offer a combination of spice and fruit that can be surprisingly refreshing. Again, spending $10-15 on one from California (Lodi in particular, but no need to get picky) is the way to go here. If you see one labeled “old vine” or “ancient vines” grab it if you want a wine with a little more depth and flavor.
Excellent alternative choices include wines made with shiraz (a Cotes du Rhone will do nicely), gamay (look for a Beaujolais from France) or barbera (from Italy’s Piedmont region.)
Finally, for those who think pink, find a rose from France’s Languedoc or Rousillon regions. Ideally, it will be a blend of shiraz, grenache and/or mourvèdre for maximum flavor. However, it’s also worth seeking out one made with the sangiovese grape from one of California’s many wineries working the Cali-Itali trend. (The grape is Italian and is typically found in Chianti, for those not in the know!)
So there you have it. Think simple, think inexpensive, think chilled and you’ll have everything you need to wine your way through the holiday weekend.
Happy birthday, America!