YUM!!: The Cheap Summer Wine Guide
Ditch the Champagne
“Frizzante” is the word for Italian sparkling wines, but if you’re thinking “I don’t want to drink Champagne all summer,” hang on: These wines aren’t as effervescent as their French counterparts, and their little bubbles help camouflage the wine’s sweetness. Moscato d’Asti is one variety that’s become popular (even Kanye West and other hip-hop artists are singing its praises). Gwendolyn Wilson Osborn, director of education and content for Wine.com, loves Moscato’s crisp taste and that it’s low in alcohol (usually 6 to 7 percent), so you can have a glass during the day and not want to fall asleep at 2 in the afternoon. Osborn also says Lambrusco, a pink or red sparkling wine, is shaking off its ’80s reputation (does “Riunite on ice…that’s nice!” ring a bell?); try it with salty foods like popcorn or salt-and-vinegar chips. Additionally, we’re loving the new bottled aperitivo IL Spr!z, which is just making its way to American shores this summer. It’s made with semisparkling wine, fresh citrus and herbs.
Portuguese Vinho Verde translates to “green wine,” but that just means it’s meant to be drunk young. The thirst-slaking white is light enough for lunch and picnics but also works as an evening aperitif. A dry wine with the slightest fizz (you won’t see bubbles), it goes well with fish, shellfish and chicken. Osborn says it’s perfect in white sangria too (we love this one, which includes peaches, strawberries, oranges and lemons).
Drink Reds Cold
It sounds weird at first, but, wine expert Mark Oldman says, chilling a bottle of light red wine will make it taste more refreshing and help “focus” its flavors. It will also make it taste less alcoholic, or “hot,” in winespeak (here, Oldman explains why we traditionally drink reds room temperature and whites cold). Beaujolais nouveau, Beaujolais-Villages, Pinot Noir, Dolcetto, Chinon and Rioja Crianza are all enjoyable cold and pair well with most barbecue foods. And don’t worry about exact temperature; 10 minutes in an ice bucket or 20 minutes in a refrigerator ought to do it. (You may have to experiment to find out what you like best.)
Find Your Perfect Patio White—and Stock Up
Maybe it’s a crowd-pleasing Sauvignon Blanc, which tastes refreshing and aromatic whether you’re serving it in a stemmed glass or a plastic cup. Or maybe it’s something slightly more exotic, like Osborn’s other two seasonal favorites, Albariño (from Spain) or Torrontes (from Argentina). They both have floral, citrus flavors and are usually priced low. Whichever you choose, consider buying a case (12 bottles). Most stores offer discounts of around 10 percent when you purchase in bulk. And don’t write off Costco, which, according to this recent report, never marks up wine more than 15 percent and has exceptional deals in the $10-to-$15 price range.
Plan Ahead (but Just 15 Minutes Ahead)
Room temperature white wine is nothing to worry about: In the time it takes you to open up a box of crackers, set some cheese on a plate and catch up with your guests, you can get the wine to the right sipping temperature. Very chilled white actually isn’t ideal, since the cold masks the flavors (the one exception, says Osborn, is if you have really cheap wine; then you want to hide the flavor). But if it’s a decent wine, you’ll kill the aromatics by serving it freezing cold, she says. Just dunk the bottle in a bucket of ice and water for 15 minutes (avoid submerging the cork). You can also keep a clean, empty wine bottle in your freezer and pour a few glasses of unchilled wine into it—after five minutes it should be perfect. Or serve the wine over reusable ice cubes, which cool your drink more slowly than regular ice but won’t dilute the drink. Last resort: Drop a few cubes of ice into a filled glass, swirl it quickly and then pull them out. And if you don’t mind altering the wine’s flavor, slip a few frozen grapes into your glass.