Good summers and good wines are intertwined. Wine ties us together through food and great conversation. Open a nice chilled white on a warm summer evening and you’ll know what I mean.
Watch the sunset on the North Shore with a bottle of Jost Tidal Bay. Watch the sails come into Chester Harbour in the evening from the deck of a boat. Sit on a waterfront patio in the late afternoon when the big cruise ships head back out to sea.
These are all memories created in this wonderful place we live, but aren’t they all better with wine?
One of my favourite summer activities is just firing up the barbecue on a summer evening and opening a nice chilled wine. Grilling is a relatively easy way to pair wine with food.
You have the main ingredient, which will likely be chicken, fish, pork, beef, or vegetables. Then you have a sauce or marinade. How hearty the food and marinade or sauce aretogether will determine the pairing.
The simple act of searing gives the food a distinctive flavour that allows many wines to work. A fish dish with a light marinade will pair well with many whites and also with a lighter style red like Pinot Noir. A grilled steak, on the other hand, requires a heftier red with lots of flavour, like a Zinfandel.
So what are the keys to summer wines? They should be affordable. Don’t break the bank to have an enjoyable bottle. They should be fresher in style and tasty with or without food. And they should be lighter in alcohol and easy to drink.
You really need to find a signature summer wine: a go-to bottle that never fails you, and makes you want to buy a case. For me this wine is rosé. And specifically any from France and especially Provence. This style has lots of light berry fruit, lightness on the tongue, and a long easy finish. It’s also versatile, pairing with everything from salads to most grilled food.
If you want to drink locally, there are lots of good Nova Scotian rosés. Our climate suits the great acidity these wines develop. Close your eyes as you drink and you might even taste fresh Nova Scotian strawberries.
If you take one key piece of advice from this article remember this. Chill your reds! The lighter styles like Beaujolais and Pinot Noir, for a half hour. For the bigger reds, at least 15 minutes. Thank me later.
So what wines should you pair with classic Nova Scotia summer foods?
• Lobster boil. Melt the butter and break out the Chardonnay, especially French or Chilean. Avoid heavily oaked versions.
• Steamed mussels or clams. Perfect for Pinot Gris. Keep the Pinot Grigio (the Italian version) for happy hour, and go for a version from New Zealand or the U.S.
• Grilled vegetables. Look for a drier style Nova Scotian white, such Tidal Bay.
• Grilled lamb or beef. Sangiovese is your go-to wine here. It’s not as heavy as some reds, making it better for summer (especially Chianti).
• Grilled/smoked pork chops or ribs. Try a Spanish red—especially Rioja or a Syrah from the Rhone Valley of France.
• Grilled local Salmon or Halibut. Nova Scotia Rosé, lightly chilled
And how about the best wines for each summer occasion?
• The beach. Pinot Grigio: light and refreshing and a great conversation wine.
• Camping. Add some sophistication with a Pinot Noir lightly chilled in the cooler
• At the cottage. A Nova Scotian sparkling wine: refreshing and lower alcohol. And who doesn’t like bubbles?
The under-$25 wine review
Quando Sauvignon Blanc 2014
South Africa, Bishop’s Cellar, $18
I’m a long-time fan of South African wines, hopeful the country will soon hit its stride and live up to its potential. This wine is not a typical Sauvignon Blanc. The fruit is more subdued, with less of a citrus punch. Notes of pear and apple and a touch oxidized on the nose. Nice minerality, flint, and smoke throughout, with an herbal finish. Lots of potential here but lacking in freshness. I have higher hopes for the 2015 or 2016 versions. Pair with steamed mussels. 88/100
Saint Cosme Cotes du Rhones 2013
France, Bishop’s Cellar, $23.50
This is the first time we’ve reviewed the same wine twice and with good reason. Two years ago this was one on my top scoring wines of the year and the next vintage performs almost as well. Perfume notes of violets, with dark cherries and smoke. It has a great balance of soft tannins and ripe berry fruit. Spice box, milk chocolate, and a nice zing on the long finish. Gulpable! Pair with grilled pork chops. 92/100