The weather is warming, the buds are blooming, and the birds are chirping …was Punxsutawney Phil right or what? It really couldn’t make me happier. Spring brings about a lot of great times from cookouts to baseball to outdoor festivals. There always seems to be a common thread with being outdoors during this season and it’s not uncommon to find myself taking in the view and enjoying the beautiful weather with a nice glass of wine in hand. Being the chardonnay-lover I am, we won’t have to argue that white wine dominates patio-time for most of us. But still, there are many great wines that could go against this train of thought.
White wines are simply the easiest to think of when the temps warm up because most are served chilled. It’s almost automatic to think it may be “refreshing”. Understandably then, when I get done mowing the lawn, a warm beer usually doesn’t sound good to me. Sometimes we fall into the easy styles in wine with Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, and Moscato. Purchased at most stores in large formats for a fair price, these are easy buys when we’re staring at a sea of unfamiliar labels.
Going to the heart of French wine with a Bordeaux Blanc is an excellent alternative to some of the crispy, grassy-profiled Sauvignon Blancs. Containing the honeyed stone fruit flavors of Semillion blended with Sauvignon Blanc, these beautiful whites aren’t only for patio sipping…they can carry over to a light grilled dinner. Perhaps an Albariño from Spain would be a nice change. This dry wine shows floral aromatics with light hints of peach and apricots on the palate. Think of it as a Pinot Grigio with bigger flavor. For the Chardonnay lovers, Viognier could be something new to try. The nose of a young Viognier can lead you to think the wine will be sweet. But don’t be fooled, the wine is still dry. However, its soft lush palate could still compliment even a spicy dish. Speaking of sweet, I try not to get carried away during patio-time. Still, a Vouvray labeled “Demi-Sec” has a surprising light sweetness that pairs perfectly with goat cheese and a spicy pepper jam. Now that’s a patio pair!
Pink wine has gained a reputation in its past of being sweet and sticky, and only what your Aunt drinks. The lightly sweet “Blush” wines of the 80’s have given way to our changing palates and our preferences for a drier-style wine. Today we can find rosé production in almost all the wine regions of the world and like the vineyards, they all have their own characteristics. The common theme is they tend to be light-fruited, crisp, and refreshing. A Provence Rosé could be a great wine to start a night. The light citrus and white flower aromas will get your palate ready for a meal. From our own West Coast, a rosé of Pinot Noir could suggest flavors of peach, orange blossoms, or even strawberries perfect for light seafood. Don’t be held back by the negative ideas of drinking pink wine. There is a large selection for a reason!
When it comes to red wine for the season, I immediately gravitate to Pinot Noir. A lighter style from Burgundy or even the Willamete Valley in Oregon could easily satisfy the non-white wine drinker. With a firm tannic grip, yet light and elegant fruit flavors, patio-time could still be enjoyed. If you’re feeling adventurous, something from the French region of Beaujolais could be just what you need. Not as light as a Pinor Noir, the fruit on these wines shows a fresher and bolder profile. The richness is more restrained than some of the other broad-shouldered reds such as Cabernet and Merlot, but can certainly hold its own with a steak dinner.
There are so many styles of wine available out there, and this time of year is fitting to try something new. Go on out and grab something different and give it the patio treatment, you might be surprised when you find one you like.
Featured photo taken at Bella the Corner Gourmet in downtown Lewisburg.
– Rob Magliochettie, Manager & Sommelier, Sam Snead’s at the Greenbrier Resort. LBSPY #76, April 2016.