Porch Wines | By Kevin Pelley
Summer solstice, the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere, arrived on Friday, June 21. The summer solstice occurs when the Earth’s axis is the most aligned towards the sun. What this means for wine lovers is more hours of daylight for enjoying your favorite summer white wines outdoors with friends and family.
Whether you call them “summer sippers” or “patio pounders,” or as Élevage’s Executive Chef Chad Johnson calls them simply — porch wines, we all have our favorite wines as summer approaches. What is a “porch wine” you might ask? They are white wines that are made for drinking outdoors, at the beach, near water or on your back porch.
Though porch wines may not be the world’s most complex white wines, they always possess a light, refreshing, thirst-quenching gulpability. Porch wines usually are unoaked. Though oak treatment adds complexity, spice and subtle vanilla to white wines, it also adds weight and body that disqualify it from porch wine status. Instead porch wines are crisp, clean and unburdened with oak. Porch wines also possess a degree or two of lower alcohol making them lighter and leaner, thus allowing you the stamina to last during the longest days of the year. So, viscous grape varietals such as Viognier, Marsanne, Roussanne, Gewurztraminer and oaked Chardonnays are not ideal porch wines due to their higher alcohol, fuller body and creamier mouthfeel. Instead, look for delightful light bodied wines such as Vinho Verde, Sauvignon Blanc, Cortese (Gavi) and Melon de Bourgogne (Muscadet) this summer.
The good news is that these porch wines are also easy on the pocketbook. Since porch wines may not be the noblest grape varieties and they are not aged in expensive French oak barrels, they represent a fantastic value. A good porch wine should never cost more than $20, making them easy to share and a wise investment by the case, which usually saves you 10 percent in most wine shops.
Here are a few to help make this upcoming summer more refreshing and relaxed:
NV Broadbent Vinho Verde $9.95 | My pick as the quintessential summer white wine with its low alcohol (9 percent), lime zest aromas and flavors and mineral notes. Vinho Verde comes from Portugal and literally means, “green wine,” which is a reference to the less ripen nature of the grapes at harvest. Traditionally Vinho Verdes are non-vintage and meant to be consumed with the first year of bottling. Vinho Verde is unique in that the wine is bottled with a small amount of carbon dioxide giving the wine its characteristic slightly sparkling spritz on the palate, making it refreshing on a hot summer day.
2013 Villa Maria ‘Private Bin’ Sauvignon Blanc $14.95 | There are hundreds of New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs to choose from and unfortunately, many are over-cropped, insipid and overly pungent with aggressive grapefruit and citrus flavors that come across on the palate like an assault, causing many wine enthusiasts to disregard the category altogether. However, the Villa Maria winery, which was founded in 1961, has a long history of fine wine production. In addition to the grapefruit and citrus notes, the 2013 ‘Private Bin’ has an array of tropical fruit flavors including guava, passionfruit and gooseberry with refreshing acidity and lip smacking deliciousness. Try pairing this wine with a summer salad and chèvre.
2012 Michele Chiarlo ‘Le Marne’ Gavi $14.95 | The Michele Chiarlo winery in Piedmont, Italy is a family owned and operated 7th generation estate that is world renowned for their impressive Barolo wines. However, this little gem from the Cortese grape is what the locals drink. ‘Le Marne’ is a reference to the marl (mix of limestone and clay) soils in which the vines are grown. The result is a wine with clean flavors of grapefruit, lime pith and white peach with grassy notes and a mineral tinged finish. Try this with ceviche and raw fish preparations. Mowileybud $13.95 | Muscadet is neither a grape nor a region, but rather the name of the wine that comes from the western coast of France’s Loire Valley. Made from 100 percent Melon de Bourgogne, Muscadet has the reputation for being the world’s finest oyster wine. Muscadet, not to be confused with sweet Muscat, is bone dry, crisp and rarely oaked and highly mineral with bright acidity, lemony notes and delicate herbaceousness. If you find yourself shucking oysters for raw or grilled preparations this summer, make sure you have a bottle of Domaine de la Pépière Muscadet nearby. M
—Kevin Pelley, Certified Sommelier Wine Merchant: Bern’s Fine Wines & Spirits, www.bernsfinewines.com