Don’t sweat the wines this summer, it’s the company that matters

When I wrote about wine for the Kansas City Star in the past, my column was about enjoying wine and food together.

But summer is different. The rules of wine and food pairing don’t seem very important on a picnic. The food should be good and the wine tasty but enjoying the moment, the day, the company, is what you’ll remember.

And many times we have no idea what the food and wine combinations will be. We are asked to bring potato salad and a bottle or two of wine.

You might know whether there will be cold food or grilled food but that’s about it. And really, it doesn’t make a lot of difference, does it?

We want wine that enhances our summer pleasure, not wine that is our summer pleasure.

Here, then, are some recommendations for your summer drinking. Most of these are general varietal suggestions. I don’t want you running all over town to find the specific Albarino I talked about. That defeats the purpose of making summer wine drinking stress free. However, I will mention a specifics if its really important.


• Albarino. One of my favorite quaffing wines. It’s from the Rias Baixas (northwest) region of Spain and it has everything you want in a summer white — crisp, silky mouth feel and inexpensive.

• Muscadet. This Loire Valley wine has been paired with raw oysters for years, matching the oyster mineraliness, if there is such a word. But something has happened recently. Chefs have been pairing Muscadet with fried chicken, pork and even with spicy hot food with good results. Light bodied, yes. Light weight, no.

• Pinot Gris from Oregon. Oregon excels at all things Pinot and this white version has the great acidity you associate with a good food wine.

• Sauvignon Blanc. When it gets really hot, above 90 degrees, what you want is a glass of Sauv Blanc from New Zealand. It is grapefruit and other citrus tastes in liquid form. Refreshing. But don’t forget the Sauvignons from Bordeaux.

• Torrentes. My trip to Argentina was greatly enhanced by bottles of Torrentes. Now you can buy it in Kansas City. It’s a peppy, crisp drink.

• Vinho Verde. Low alcohol, high acidity and a little fizz. Vinho Verde is the perfect picnic wine.


In the case of Rose, where the wine comes from makes a difference.

• Mulderbosch. What makes this bottle different from the other roses? Its made in South Africa from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes which gives it a darker color than most rose. The wine has great fruit aromas, good structure from the Cab, and goes with lots of different foods.

• Bodegas Muga Rosado. This wine was my constant companion when I was writing a book. Spanish, balanced, delicious.

• Domaine Ott, Cote de Provence. In 2010, the world of celebrities discovered Domaine Ott. Its curvy bottle and pale salmon color were distinctive. No other rose would do. If you see it, pick up a bottle and taste what the fuss was about.

• Quinson, Cote de Provence. I personally would rather buy three bottles of Quinson than one of Domaine Ott. It has the curvy bottle and pale color also, tastes good, and it is $5.99 at Trader Joe’s.

The Rest

There are times when only a red wine will do, but heavy will not do, so my go-to red wines for summer are Barbera from Italy, Grenache from France or Spain (Granacha), or Beaujalois Village from France.

And don’t forget the divine combination of sparkling wine and barbecue. The bubbles clean your palette for the next bite of brisket.

Read more here: