Friday, July 10, 2015

Chilled Red wine, Will it be your Ah-Hah Moment?

Summer is here and if this past week of humid, hot weather is an indicator, red wine season over for a while.

Or is it?

Light summer whites and of course summer's answer to red, the crisp clean and light Rosé, have taken center stage. Menus have lightened as the farmers markets offer garden fresh options and local fishermen bring home the catch of the day for tonight's meal. Gone are the slow cooked stews and blood thickening gravies of the cooler months as we migrate to the patio to share time with the pesky mosquitos and grilled summer foods.

Swordfish and Striped Bass, Chicken and Slaw, Grilled Pork Chops and Potato Salad are more likely to be on the menu and the wine selections move from Cabernet Sauvignon to Sauvinon Blanc. Seasonal choices are nothing new and each season we adjust our buying habits and offerings to our patrons at Harry's to match the menus being created at home.

Summer doesn't always mean a light meal however, and sometimes the menu has BBQ Ribs or a nice thick NY Strip coming off the grill and I don't know about you but at my house we aren't breaking out a crisp Rosé from Provence to pair with the foods in this genre. Ribs scream for Zinfandel and my Strip steak wants a Cab or Malbec. It is summer time and most nights are white or pink but on steak night the only pink I want to see is in through the center of a well charred outside that is my steak

What to do?

Simple really...Take your red wine to cellar temperature! 20 minutes to a half hour in the refrigerator or just a few minutes in an ice bucket will do the trick. Don't over do it, if you bring the temperature of a big red down too far the wine will lose complexity and then you defeat the purpose of the pairing and you will find a dull wine that doesn't show well with your meal. Bigger Reds like Cabs, Malbecs, and Zins do not do well at refrigerator temperature but they do very well at cellar temperature.

If you have ever served a great California Cabernet on a sultry summer night and it struck you as thick and gloppy with high alcohol, it may have simply been the temperature of the wine. In the summer months the ambient temperature around us rises and so does the temperature of the wine in the bottle that is sitting on the table in 80+ degree weather. Red is more delicate than you think and really wants to be between about 55 and 70 degrees to show well in your glass. Having a bit of condensation on the outside of your red wine glass on that sultry summer evening is actually a good thing.

There is more...

Some red wines do very well at cooler temperatures! Beaujolais, Barbera, and even some Pinot Noir or other lighter bodied, fruitier style wines which will also pair well with summer fare do well at cool and even cold temperatures. When working with customers I often describe them as picnic wines and my suggestion is to take the wine and stick it in the refrigerator, "Pack up the picnic basket" I say, "When you get ready to leave the house pop the bottle into the basket next to the cheese or cold fried chicken and off you go". The wine keeps the food cool and it begins to warm up just a bit as you travel down to the beach or up into the woods. By the time the blanket is set out and the food is served, your wine will be the perfect temperature! Alternately you could pull it out of the refrigerator 15-20 minutes before dinner and let it rest on the counter.

The summer season is a great time for a crisp Sancerre or delicate Rosé but it doesn't mean that you have to hang up your red wine glass. At the store we have a couple dozen great red wine choices that will do quite well in the refrigerator right next to their white and pink counterparts.


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