Four ideal wines for a hot summer day

I am organizing an informal wine club for a group of friends and neighbors. It’s a buyer’s club. We pool our money and buy a bunch of cases, mostly directly from importers or local producers. Then we split them between us, so we get a bit of a sample: two bottles each of six different wines. If we like something, we can go buy more.

When choosing wines, the goal is to arrive at an average cost of $25 per bottle, or $300 per case. If we each bought six cases of wine, it would cost us $1,800. A wine bill of nearly two thousand dollars is a pretty big investment to make trying to find a few everyday ready-to-drink wines. (Yes, I know: $25 is a bit pricey for “everyday,” but that’s the average cost, and post-COVID inflation has come to the wine world as well.) We’re dividing our risks as we expand our palates.

The club is also, of course, an extension of my day job as a wine writer and journalist. The difference between pros and wine lovers is access; we’re just being put in front of a lot more wine, whether samples are being sent to our homes or at tastings, trade shows and other events. It’s a chance to put my money where my mouth is when I find a good wine at a great price. The newsletter also becomes a media channel in its own right, and anyone who likes can follow what we buy on our website, mjwinebox.com.

Due to the holidays and recent changes in how the Liquor Control Board of Ontario handles wine types at this price point, this month’s wine box was a little late to purchase and assemble. It only fell, as the children say, at the end of July. Club members are lucky enough to all live in a leafy area of ​​Old Town Toronto, and we all have a garden, a barbecue and a table to sit outside. The challenge for the mid-summer selection was to find wines that could accompany grilled meats eaten outdoors on a hot evening.

Finding the whites was easy enough: a crisp Bellone from Anzio in Lazio, southeast of Rome, and a surprisingly racy organic Chenin Blanc from Languedoc in southwest France. Mediterranean winemakers are particularly good at making whites that beat the heat; by necessity, I imagine. These selections were really about value for money.

On sunny days, the club buys a rosé. As an organizer and cellar master, this month I played the brute and imposed my predilection for full-bodied rosés in the style of Tavel, the appellation and the commune on the right bank of the southern Rhône valley. famous for its deep and structured rosé. I love all rosés, but a lot of rosés these days see so little skin contact that they taste more like white wine to me, and I wanted chewy fruit.

The wine we purchased was from Niagara, the 2021 Hidden Bench Nocturne Rosé, which is made using the old-fashioned saignée method, where a measure of wine is “bled” from the red wine must as it rests on its skin in the fermentation tank. The result, at least for this wine, is closer to a light red than a Pinot Grigio. In fact, the dominant grape variety is Pinot Noir, the red cousin of Grigio. Very dry, it is rich in notes of red fruits: strawberry, cherry and, in the middle of a cool climate, cranberry. And it has just enough tannic structure to get through dinner, but not so much that you can’t enjoy the marinade on the BBQ chicken.

American wine and drink writer Jason Lewis recently published an article on his website, dailydrinking.com, titled “Are Food & Drink Pairings Ridiculous?”. Lewis convincingly proves they are, except when they’re not, concluding, “Couples are no more bullshit than any other pleasure in life.” I get that feeling when it comes to drinking red wine in the summer heat.

It stands to reason that since many, if not most, of the world’s great powerful red wines come from warm places like the Mediterranean basin, South America, South Africa, Australia and California, they should very well do a Dog Day. Indeed they do, and yet they are also good for warming the soul on a cold, dark January night.

My penchant is for lighter reds on warm nights, and one of the reds we bought for the club is made from a grape that makes surprisingly refreshing, almost crisp red wines from a very warm place . Frappato comes from Vittoria in southeast Sicily, roughly sharing its latitude with the North African city of Tunis. It was traditionally grown in a blender, to lighten the heavier wines from the better known Her d’Avolo. It is only in recent decades that it has taken on its full meaning.

The 2019 Frappato from the Vittoria outpost of the Planeta winery, which produces wine all over the island, is a classic example of a light, aromatic red. I like to serve it slightly chilled after about half an hour in the fridge. I suppose if the Nocturne rosé is an aperitif wine that can last until dinner, then the Planeta Frappato is a dinner wine that can be pleasantly started before it. There are good dark red fruits, but also some white pepper and a floral aroma that I associate with hibiscus; many things in a very drinkable wine. You could do worse than pair it with grilled lamb chops or a selection of garden vegetables.

The two other reds that we have selected, a “Super Tuscan” and a Chinon from the Loire Valley, will have their own treatment in future sections, centered on different themes.

Websites for the people and things mentioned above, including the Shameless Sheet for the one I post when I’m not writing for The turntableare:

https://www.mjwinebox.com/

https://hiddenbench.com/

https://www.everydaydrinking.com/

https://planeta.it/

Shirley M. Pinder