We all have some summer rituals, as we go into the hot weather. Make sure that the barbeque is working, and put in a supply of good quality charcoal, or make sure your propane tank won’t quit on you in the middle of your barbeque. Lay in a good supply of meats for outdoor cooking, as well as fruits and fresh vegetables. (I live on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, and the delicious fruits and vegetables raised here sometimes approach the glut level.)
For a wine lover, beginner or expert, there is another, very pleasurable chore. Go to your wine retailer, and lay in a case of wines that will go perfectly with your summer dinners. Make sure that they are good wines, and that you don’t spend more than $100 for the case, taxes included. Impossible? Not at all. For one thing, this is not the season for worrying about serious vintage wines. This is instead the time for light wines, of recent vintages. Trotting out your treasured vintage bottle of Chateau Margaux for a barbeque would be like reading Dostoyevsky at the beach! There are better times and places. Now is the time of year for you to enjoy light, fruity wines that go particularly well with summer menus.
Here on the Eastern Shore, I began the case with a bottle of Chateau de la Chesnaie, Muscadet de Sevre et Maine sur lie 2003 ($7.49). This is a fine, flavorful Muscadet, just right to accompany crabs, either fresh from the traps or in the form of crabcakes. You might also try with the same seafood menu a Willm Gentil Vin d’Alsace 2002 ($7.59). This is a traditional nineteenth century grape blend of grapes said to be grown on hillside locations. I bought it because I enjoy Willm wines, although I am very fond of the Hugel Gentil, which at my retailer was selling for over $10.00—not within the price range if we were going to keep the total case price below $100.
Then I saw some bottles of a family favorite, Monsieur Touton 2002 Sauvignon Blanc. This is a good quality Bordeaux white wine, selling for $7.49. A better bargain, however, was their magnum, at $11.59, so that is what we bought, counting it as two bottles for the case. We opened it just before the Fourth of July weekend, and it was fresh and fruity, without the grassy taste that Sauvignon Blanc sometimes has, which I find objectionable. At 11.5% alcohol, this was a delicious, light wine. With crabs and freshly steamed mahogany clams with garlic butter, it was delicious.
The Chateau des Leotins Entre-Deux-Mers 2002 ($6.69) should also be refreshing. This is a new wine for us, but we like Entre-Deux-Mers. They tend, in that region east of Bordeaux between the Gironde and Dordogne Rivers, to be dry and refreshing. This would be a good choice to accompany grilled chicken, or perhaps, a Caesar salad with chicken.
Say barbeque, and of course, pork ribs come to mind. We have a new smoker that is giving us a great deal of pleasure. To accompany that stronger flavor, something a bit different is needed, such as a nice rose wine. It requires some looking, because many rose wines are a bit too sweet, I find. I am hoping that the Chateau Montaud Cotes de Provence vin rose Vignobles Francois Ravel ($7.79) will do the trick.
What about hamburger fare? What goes best with this all-American food? Well, I’m grilling hamburgers tonight, the real ones, over an inch thick. A bottle of Georges DuBoeuf Beaujolais 2002 or Beaujolais Villages 2002, an affordable bargain at $5.89 each, will do the trick very well. Let this introduce you to the entire scale of classified Beaujolais wines, from the light Fleurie or Chiroubles (my favorite), to the heavier Moulin-a-Vent. You will decide your own favorite, and perhaps, try a mixed case in the future. They are usually $10.00 or less per bottle.
I recently had luncheon with Francois Lurton, and became more familiar with his range of excellent wines from Argentina, Chile and Spain. For this case, I recommend his Terra Sana red Pays d’Oc 2001 ($9.99), and his Terra Sana white from Charente 2002 ($8.49). These are both organic wines, made without the use of chemicals, such as artificial pesticides. Surprisingly, the Terra Sana white is 85% Ugni Blanc, a grape usually made to produce the base wine from which Cognac is distilled. The Terra Sana is a very successful white wine. We enjoyed it with snails as a first course.
Rounding out the case are two rich red wines, for those days when the temperature breaks, and you want a more substantial wine. I was very surprised to find Maitre d’Estournel 2001, whch is produced by Prats Freres, at a bargain $8.49. This is a second wine produced at the fine second growth St.Estephe estate, Chateau Cos d’Estournel. The twelfth wine is La Vielle Ferme 2001, Cotes du Ventoux from the Rhone Valley. Made by the Perrin brothers, the proprietors of the famous Chateau Beaucastel in Chateauneuf du Pape, this was a great bargain at $6.59. Magnums were also readily available for sale. It is a blend of Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault and Mourvedre grapes, used also in the Chateauneuf du Pape blend.
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Bill Shepard is Bonjour Paris’s wine editor, and the author of Shepard’s Guide to Mastering French Wines: Taste Is for Wine: Points Are for Ping Pong.