Drinking in season
As weather changes, so should your choice in wine
by Seth Gross and Craig Heffley
In recent years, we’ve begun to embrace the seasons for their foods while enjoying the produce and meat that come with each calendar month. Not long ago, the norm was to demand a fresh, ripe tomato in January. Sure, we could find them at grocery stores — flown in from halfway around the world — but the taste certainly wasn’t like that of a tomato from a local garden in July or August.
We naturally look forward to thicker soups, bisques, and stews in the late fall and winter months. We even have different wardrobes for different seasons, taking sweaters out of the cedar chest for fall and putting shorts and bathing suits away until next year.
We want you to embrace wine with the same joy and pleasure by drinking with the seasons.
We regularly hear wine drinkers discuss their red-to-white wine ratio shifts, with more white wines consumed during the spring and summer. That’s a great start. With almost 4,000 grapes used around the world in winemaking, life would be dull not to try at least a few hundred different varieties.
Seasonal drinking is the perfect opportunity to do just that. How about Rolle or Vermentino in spring, almost any dry Rosé during summer, or Tempranillo in the fall? Use the normal changes in diet as a way to try wines from that menu’s region or that special ingredient’s country. At the end of summer, how about fresh tomato, basil, and olive oil on grilled bread with a Verdicchio or Dolcetto?
And how about a nice Tempranillo, Viura or Verdejo with a fall pumpkin soup? After Thanksgiving, bring on the big-bodied winter wines; reds such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Tannat, Mourvedre and Negroamaro go well with meatloaf, beef stew served in a boule bread, or French cassoulet.
Mixing it up
Okay, so you’re a die-hard red wine drinker, and you love your Cabernet Sauvignon. But in the heat of summer, do you get the same pleasure from it as you do on a cool, October night? If you just finished mowing the lawn in the warm, sunny spring, do you really want a heavy glass of Malbec at two in the afternoon?
We’re willing to wager that you’ll enjoy increased pleasure from a bottle of medium-bodied, red Castelão from Portugal with a light chill (around 65 degrees). Yes, you can keep drinking reds; just lighten them up a touch so they don’t weigh you down during warmer months. Increase the body and viscosity as the temperature outside drops, and you’ll quickly come to appreciate seasonal drinking.
Drinking seasonally typically means that we work inversely to the temperature outside vs. the alcohol level and body of the wine. The hotter the thermometer reads, the lower the alcohol and the lighter the wine. When WRAL meteorologist Greg Fishel says the dew point is dropping and the cool weather is moving in, we get excited to raise the intensity of our wine selections and increase the body for more staying power and increased pleasure with meatier, heavier dishes.
Drinking seasonally can be embraced as an exciting time on the calendar. Put on your drinking gear — a white T-shirt with red and white wine camouflage stains — and be sure to stay legal in the drinking season: Only drink between the months of January and December.
Seth Gross and Craig Heffley are co-owners of Wine Authorities in Durham. To learn more, call (919) 489-2884 or visit www.wineauthorities.com.
Here are some great options for all seasons:
White: Weingut Binz Riesling Trocken, Germany, $13
Red: Michlits Zweigelt, Austria, $15
White: Ochoa Viura/Chardonnay, Spain, $14
Red: Domaine de Brau Pure Pinot Noir, France, $15
White: Cedrick Bardin Pouilly-sur-Loire, France, $17
Red: Castro Ventosa Mencia Joven, Spain, $16
White: Hunter’s Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand, $17
Red: Falua Conde de Vimioso, Portugal, $13