Many wine drinkers will put the big reds away for the summer and switch to crisp whites to match with warm afternoons and evenings. This is where Nova Scotia wines shine, and the 2013 Tidal Bay offerings are a great place to start. Pair these with some local cheese, and you have a great start to an evening get-together.
Other summer wines depend on your menu. What types of food and entertaining does your summer in Halifax include? A barbecue with friends, fresh lobster and oysters, sustainably caught fish, local vegetables, and grilling—all require great wines.
I stock up with rosé and more rosé—from local rosé to my all-time favourites from Provence. The best rosé wines have light and juicy berry fruit combined with great acidity, in a drier tasting style that makes a great match with almost all summer foods.
Local sparkling wines, and Prosecco from Italy also make great low-alcohol starters, which can work with everything from potato chips to casseroles.
And contrary to conventional wisdom, don’t forego red in the summer—just expand your repertoire. Grab a bottle of Pinot Noir and chill for 15 minutes to pair with grilled Atlantic salmon. Try a Merlot with fresh mussels cooked in the same wine. Lighter reds work all year round, but taste best in summer. Take a close look at the alcohol content, staying below 13 per cent to avoid that extra heat (and avoid an early bedtime on a warm summer night).
Sangria is a great summer option, too. Open a bottle of Spanish red and combine with lots of cut-up fruit such as lemons, limes and Nova Scotian strawberries. Add a cup of orange juice, some sparkling wine, and a few tablespoons of sugar, then invite the neighbours over for a great patio happy hour.
Here are some other ideas for pairing wine and food this summer.
Salads: Salads are notoriously hard to pair with wine because of the acidity of most dressings. You’re usually safe with a crisp Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. A drier Pinot Grigio from Northern Italy can also work. For something bolder, experiment with a Gruner Vetliner from Austria. If you’re serving fruit salad go with an off-dry Riesling. For a creamy dressing in a caesar salad try a medium-bodied Chardonnay.
Crudites and cheese trays: Sauvignon Blanc from Chile pairs well or try a L’Acadie Blanc from Nova Scotia. For a red wine serve Pinot Noir or a lighter Merlot.
Shellfish: For shellfish you can’t go wrong with any quality white Nova Scotian wine. Lobster with butter calls for a richer imported Chardonnay. Here you have lots of room to experiment since there is an endless selection of Chardonnays on the shelves from around the world.
Grilling: This is where things get tricky. Most of us think we should pair the meat or fish with the wine, when it’s usually the sauce, rub, or marinade that should determine the choice. Start by thinking about how heavy the food is; with fish, shrimp, veggies and chicken breasts you generally want lighter wine. This is where whites like a crisper Pinot Grigio or un-oaked Chardonnay can shine. If you are adding a sweet or sticky sauce, try Riesling, which works with most things spicy and/or sweet, or experiment with a Viognier’s extra body and juicy, spicy flavours.
Grilled meats on the barbecue require bigger reds. Malbec from Argentina is still very trendy, and works well with most meat, but remember, with this grape you get what you pay for. The best ones are above $15 to $17 and tend to have more structure and backbone to go with food.
Cabernet Sauvignon is always a classic with grilled steak. I recommend ones from California and Chile. My personal favourites with grilled lamb or pork are Syrah from the Rhone Valley in France or Shiraz from the Barossa Valley in Australia. These wines have softer tannins and a nice spicy finish.
A New World Pinot Noir will work with their Portobello Mushroom Burger. And for a good, old-fashioned grilled beef or lamb burger, splurge on the more expensive Zinfandels from California.
The best summer wine food and wine pairings involve good music, great friends, and lots of variety in your selections, so everyone can experiment and enjoy!
The under-$25 wine review
Chateau Routas Rosé
Provence, $17.99, some NSLC locations
That familiar salmon colour in the bottle is sign that summer has arrived, and a welcome sight on retail shelves. Aromas of wild strawberries and violets add to the appeal. Refreshing with nice acidity and a juicy character. Think of biting into an almost perfectly ripe strawberry. Great value and an excuse to roast some oysters on the grill. 90/100
Bodega Norton Reserva Malbec 2010
Argentina, $18.99, NSLC
I’m not always the greatest fan of affordable Malbec, but this one proves me wrong. There is a rich berry compote nose, but then the palate surprise with a balance that defies the rich flavours and spicy finish. A spicy note on the finish completes the package. A nice barbecue wine to go with lamb chops on the deck. 90/100
Jaffelin Macon-Villages Vin De Borgogne 2011,
Burgundy, France, NSLC, $18.83
This is a good place to start discovering Burgundy. Pair with a roasted pesto chicken breast. 90/100
Novas Gran Reserva Chardonnay 2014, Organic wine,
Chile, NSLC, $15.99
Bigger flavours than expected for both the price and the country. If you like a weightier Chardonnay, this one offers some value. 88/100