WINE Getting a Chill from a Draught
Some cooling wines for summer’s hottest days.
One of our strongest drinking customs is to regard certain wines as seasonal. Robust reds such as Chambertin and
Hermitage are often referred to as "winter wines" because of their soul-warming properties, and a proper Englishman
could never survive the cold months without his vintage Port. Not surprisingly, chilled white wines find their
greatest favor during hot weather. My choice for the perfect summer wines are the light, fragrant whites of Germany,
especially those from the Mosel River and its tributaries, the Saar and Ruwer. The balance of fruit and acid that is
the hallmark of German wines makes for delicious, easy summer drinking, but one of their nicest (and most
overlooked) features is low alcohol content - seven to ten percent, compared with eleven to fourteen percent for
most other wines.
Mosel wines have a distinctive piquant flavor that is often accompanied by small bubbles shimmering along the bottom
of the glass. The Saar and Ruwer wines have an extra acidity that gives them a refreshing prickly taste. Ockfener
Bockstein, Scharzhofberger, and Ayler Kupp are the best-known Saar wines and are found in most wine shops.
Since most summer drinking is casual, the best wines are simple, refreshing, and inexpensive. In German wines, look
for the designations "Qualitatswein" (sometimes called Q.b.A.) or "Kabinett." These are at the lesser end of the
German quality scale, but are by no means poor wines. Avoid vintages before 1976, however, since these wines lose
their charm and freshness in short time.
The wine region which embodies the spirit of summer wine drinking most completely is probably the Loire River valley
of France. In addition to its spectacular chateaux, the Loire offers tourists and wine lovers a wide assortment of
flavors: fresh, light reds, charming roses, sparkling wines, and whites that range from bone-dry to lusciously
sweet. While most are intended for local consumption and are often inconsistent in quality, the best Loire wines are
bold, distinctive, and well-priced.
Beginning on the west, where the Loire (France’s longest river) empties into the Atlantic, we find the home of
Muscadet, a wine which has enjoyed increasing popularity in recent years. One of the driest of all wines (its
absence of sugar makes it one of the few wines suitable for diabetics and weight-watchers), Muscadet is so crisp
that poorly made bottles can be quite acidic. Look for the regional term "Sevre-et-Maine" and the name of a good
shipper, such as the Marquis de Goulaine. Muscadet is the perfect accompaniment to seafood, particularly shellfish,
and should always be drunk as young as possible (nothing older than 1976).
Traveling east, we encounter the sub-region of Anjou. The great diversity of the Loire is concentrated here, with
excellent whites, both sweet and dry, being produced along with the valley’s finest reds and rosés. The Chenin
Blanc grape is used for the outstanding whites of Savennieres and the Coteaux du Layon. Some examples available in
Dallas include the elegant Chateau de la Bizoliere and the soft, fruity Bonnezeaux. The rose, called Cabernet
d’Anjou, is one of the most popular and pleasing of all pink wines. It is made from the Cabernet franc, an essential
grape of the red Bordeaux to the south. Upriver from Anjou are the red wines of Chinon and Bourgueil. Though one of
the standard rules of drinking is never to chill red wines, these light, fruity charmers, like the wines of
Beaujolais they resemble, are actually improved when served slightly cold. (No less an authority than Jean Didier,
professional gourmet for the French restaurant directory Guide Kléber, always demands that simple reds be
served this way.)
Further east along the Loire is produced the popular wine of Vouvray, similar to German wines in fruit and texture.
Vouvrays can be either dry or sweet, depending on the vintage (hot summers make sweet wines) and the producer. Also
made from the Chenin Blanc, most Vouvrays are semi-dry and perfect for summer.
Finally, the Loire’s most celebrated dry whites are realized in the villages of Pouilly and Sancerre, responsible
for the favorite white wines of Napoleon and Hemingway, respectively. Pouilly-Fumé has a unique "flinty" taste, and
some imaginative tasiers detect a smoky flavor. These characteristics are shared by the wines of neighboring
Sancerre, also a product of the Sauvignon Blanc grape. The best names include Ladoucette, Chateau de Sancerre, and
Comte Lafond. These can cost up to $10; the lesser wines, such as a reliable shipper’s blend from Wild-man or
Monmousseau, are better buys.
France also offers other summer refreshments, including the delicious roses of Tavel and Provence, and the simple,
full-bodied reds of the Rhone, which go well with hamburgers and barbecue.
In Italy, summer wines are a way of life. Many have become obsessions with Americans, too, in particular the
ubiquitous Soave. Though they often suffer from irregular quality, such wines as Frascati (the younger the better),
Verdic-chio, Est Est Est, and Orvieto are perfect picnic companions and very affordable.
In California, the wines made from Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc exhibit the same refreshing qualities as their
cousins in France. Perhaps the best all-around summer wines are found in the simple jug varieties, the production of
which is probably America’s greatest contribution to wine. Jug wines, whether labeled "Chablis" or named after the
grape variety which dominates the blend, are flexible, consistent, and great for the money. Big names such as
Almaden, Gallo, Paul Masson, and Sebastiani all produce huge quantities of wine in modern facilities that resemble
oil refineries. Possibly the best of these is Robert Mondavi’s White Table Wine, called "Bob White" in the trade.
The deciding factor in jug wine quality is the blend of grapes; Mondavi’s has more than enough Chenin Blanc to go by
the grape’s name, but chooses the simpler appellation. Other wineries rely on lesser varieties, such as French
Colombard and Thompson Seedless. Whether mixed with Cassis to make Kir or soda to make a spritzer, California jug
whites are the best all-purpose summer wines. Even the addition of ice cubes is not the sacrilege it would be with
more pretentious wines.
Listed below are some of the wines mentioned and their major outlets in the Dallas area:
Ayler Kupp Q.b.A. 1977 (Ehses-Hansen) - The Vineyard $3.39.
Bonnezeaux 1977 - Marty’s $4.19; La Cave $4.59.
Cabernet d’Anjou 1976 (Moc-Baril) - Marty’s $3.19.
Chinon 1976 - Centennial $3.24.
Est Est Est - Marty’s $2.99. Frascati (Villa Banfi) - Sigel’s $3.75; Marty’s $2.99; Warehouse $3.99.
Muscadet "Ch. les Monty’s" 1976 - Centennial $3.99.
Muscadet (Marquis de Goulaine) 1976.
- Warehouse $3.99; Red Coleman’s$4.99.
Ockfener Bockstein Q.b.A. 1977 (Clusserath) - Sigel’s $2.99.
Orvieto Abbocato (Ruffino) - Red Coleman’s $4.29; Warehouse $3.99.
Sancerre 1974 (Comte Lafond) - Goody Goody $4.59.
Scharzhofberger Q.b.A. 1977 (Van Volxem) - Centennial $3.99.
Soave (Folonari) - Marty’s $4.09; Goody Goody $3.89 (per magnum).
Tavel rose "Ch. d’Aqueria" 1976 -Warehouse $4.29; Marty’s $4.19.
Verdicchio (Fazi-Battaglia) - Centennial $4.79; Red Coleman’s $3.99;
Vouvray (Wildman) 1976 - Sigel’s $3.79; Red Coleman’s $4.99.
White Table Wine (Robt. Mondavi) -Marty’s $4.69; Sigel’s $4.99 (permagnum).