By Rick Riozza
No one gets a heads-up on the summertime heat more than we desert dwellers.
And for a lot of us who travel about, we’re always meeting and greeting people who simply can’t believe that wine actually pours in our summer desert and that we can quaff joyously with the best of them in the heat.
Well—of course we’re not taking down magnums of Barolo or a fancy Chateauneuf-du-Pape, while the temperatures are extreme. (Although I know of an eclectic group of enthusiasts who pride themselves uncorking those stout and heavy 16%+ alcohol Zinfandels to match with their sticky and spicy barbequed ribs—happy days there?!)
But actually, we have a very savvy valley of wine lovers who are becoming more aware of the white wine landscape and the array of very refreshing wines produced around the world for our desert’s day enjoyment, revitalizing our pool parties and providing fun at al fresco evening dinning.
Below are some ideas and suggestions for chilling out with our vino:
Currently, the very fresh, crisp and refreshing wines from Atlantic-side Spain and Portugal can finally be found at our local wine shops and markets. For so long obtaining these wines were difficult but it’s a brand new wide world of wine out there and we’re now able to grab these wines at our leisure—and that’s very refreshing news figuratively and literally!
From Portugal comes the Vinho Verde [VEE-nyoh Vair-deh]. The name means “green wine”, suggesting not the color but that they are intended to be enjoyed in their energetic youth. Vinho Verde is both the name of the region and the wine that comes from the extreme northwest of Portugal that faces the Atlantic Ocean.
It’s cool and very rainy, and the entire area is like one single green garden—yet another reason for its name. And all the green rainy nature of what this wine is about, could well keep us sane in the midst of a hot drought.
The wine exemplifies refreshment in a bottle with bright and complex citrus aromas of lime and pink grapefruit, hints of stone fruit, along with some slight effervescence where one seems to offer a toast with every quaff. It’s the bottle to have around for fun and wine games. And, de rigueur for your thirst-aid kit whenever someone is faint and withered by the heat: fresh, lively, zingy, zesty.
Here the price is right: The decorative bottle, Gazela Vinho Verde, $6, is what we’d call an “entry-level” wine—so reasonably priced, it behooves the uninitiated to buy a bottle just to see how good it is. Light, fresh and straightforward with floral and lemon aromas and flavors, the wine is available at most markets.
After one realizes how this wine handles the hot day, the wine enthusiast may wish to taste a Vinho Verde that’s a bit more up-scale and carries a bit more complexity. Here Vera Vinho Verde $10 is the ticket with its fresh and lively quaff of citrus flavors, stone fruit, and a lingering mineral finish.
Gazela Vinho Verde, because of its price and tasty flavors, has become very popular and can be found at most supermarkets. The Vera and other more developed Vinho Verdes can be found at Total Wine & More in Palm Desert, (760) 346-2029
A grape varietal well known in Portugal and Madeira Islands is Verdelho [Ver-DEH-loh]. It produces an aromatic wine with notes of apricots, citrus flowers, grapefruit, guava, lemon, lime, melon, nectarines, peaches, pears, pineapple, tangerine, and tropical fruits. Its texture is clean, crisp, and rich. Verdelho joins the ranks of great tasting flavorful white wine such as Chardonnay and Viognier; a wine of great character, complexity and length.
Where Vinho Verde was light and energetic, Verdelho is medium to full body and is a lot more contemplative. The palate is still very fresh and minerally with a long and persistent finish. It’s an enjoyable sipper when served cold at around 45 to 50 degrees and it’s also a great food wine—perfect for lunches and light dinners. I’d have it with a cheese plate—especially fresh chèvre. It’s also wonderful with chicken, pork, salads, veal, spicy dishes, and of course fish and especially shellfish.
A great recommendation, with its fragrant tangerine & apricot aromas and ripe creamy fruit on the palate, is the food friendly Herdade do Esporão Verdelho White 2014 at around $16. This wine is the perfect complement to shrimp and lobster.
A wonderful white wine I’ve just come across is the 2015 Domaine du Tariquet Classic from the Côtes de Gascogne in the French Southwest. At around $10 or less, it’s the deal of the season and is perhaps the cheapest and tastiest white wine from France.
Delightfully light and refreshing wine, with more exotic fruit flavors from previous vintages as the producers have tweaked the blend by adding some ripe Sauvignon Blanc and waxy Gros Manseng to the traditional base of the area’s famed Ugni Blanc and Colombard. A scent of fresh cut fruit, floral aromas, and mild tropical notes move to a zesty palate of citrus flavor with notes of passionfruit and pineapple. It will stir up and be the star of your patio party!
The only problem here is that we may be jumping the gun: it’s yet to make our marketplace. So ask for it at your local wine shop; and, it’ll be my project this season to also get it in our local venues. Cheers!
Rick is the valley’s somm-about-town conducting and entertaining a wine events, restaurant venues, and tastings. Contact winespectrum.com