Summer sure does last a long time around these parts. It’s not like South Florida, where I spent 15 years. There you get the same weather forecast daily from early May to the end of October: 90 degrees, 125 percent humidity and a 1,456 percent chance of a thunderstorm in the afternoon.
So who wants to be drinking heavy red wines in this kind of weather? I do, but then I am a wino. But I do consume a lot more white wines in the good old summertime.
Today I am spotlighting two of my favorite wine-growing regions — Alto Adige in northeast Italy, and Alsace on the border of France and Germany. Alsace is French, but the wines have a definite German style.
These first three are from Alto Adige. It’s a mountainous terrain, with high-altitude vineyards. This is prime territory for crisp, harmonious white wines.
Elena Walch Pinot Bianco 2016: This vintage in northern Italy was almost ideal. Lots of sun when it was needed and enough rain to nurture the vines. “Elena Walch” is a name to search for with Alto Adige wines. She’s a super winemaker, and her wines show her passion. This lovely white offers great acidity, with hints of lemon. There also is a trace of Granny Smith apple in the finish.
It teases with flavors of herbs and spices that I cannot identify. The Italian version of Pinot Blanc comes close to having discernible sweetness, but does not cross the line.
It’s a lovely hot weather sipper, and goes well with seafood and lighter fare. About $20.
St. Paul’s Pinot Grigio 2016: Same good news about the vintage. There are too many dumb Pinot Grigios on the market. This is not one of them. PG exploded in popularity a decade or so ago and, just as with Merlot, a lot of half-hearted wines hit the shelves, hoping to capitalize on the name.
St. Paul’s is a well-respected producer, and this wine shows its class with just one sip — well, maybe two sips. As with most of the Alto Adige wines, this one sparkles with a dry crispness, which amplifies why it’s a great fish and shrimp wine. There’s a floral aspect in the finish and just a shadow of oak from the aging process. It displays a smoothness that stands out. And it’s even good when it’s not overly cold, the sign of a well-made white. About $16.
OK, folks, we’re staying in Alto Adige, but I’m introducing you to a bright, subdued red from one of the region’s best winemakers. This is the Peter Zemmer Rolhut Pinot Noir 2016.
The soil in the Alpine region seems ideal for Pinot Noir; limestone and loam. This gives the wine a defined terroir, or sense of place. This light but elegant red flashes aromatics and bright flavor without any heaviness. It’s not a red Burgundy, but it does not have to be. Nor does it cost $350 a bottle.
The Rolhut comes from vineyards at about 1,400 feet, which guarantees cool temperatures for the grapes when they need it. If you like a good Pinot Noir, you will enjoy this one, as I did. You do what you want with it, but I simply chilled it lightly and sat in the shade and sipped it. Wonderful, at about $20.
Let’s shift to the colorful region of Alsace, where for centuries French and German winemakers, working with grapes from both countries, have produced stellar wines, almost all of them whites.
Hugel Pinot Gris Classic 2014: This producer has produced fine wines for 370 years and 13 generations in the fortified village of Riquewihr. The aroma floating from the glass is soft and clean, with a hint of peach. Alsatian whites age well, and this one, at 4 years old, is still energetic and full of youthful flavors.
This silky white has a long finish; you feel and taste it long after you’ve swallowed it. There’s an almost buttery sensation in the mouth, which really is quite pleasant. It will stand up well to fish or shrimp in heavy sauces, or as a cocktail selection.
“Hugel” is another name that tells you to expect a well-made, well-balanced wine in the bottle. About $20.
Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Blanc 2015: Z-H is another Alsatian champion that has been making wine since 1620. The company is managed by the legendary Olivier Humbrecht, one of only a handful of winemakers worldwide to attain the title of Master of Wine. And there are only about 300 MWs in the world.
Pinot Blanc is such a flexible grape, especially in Alsace. This wine, however, is bolstered with quite a lot of Pinot Auxerrois. It can be drunk young and crisp or it can take several years of aging, when it becomes softer and supple. This one is at the Goldilocks stage — just right. You will find flashes of rich fruit balanced by crisp acidity. Great with food or by itself. About $28.
So turn down the A/C, poach some sole, break out the shrimp and enjoy.
Randall Murray is a Gainesville-area resident. Have a question about wine? He can be contacted at email@example.com. His column publishes monthly.
Wine of the month
1000 STORIES GOLD RUSH
- The wine: Big, bold, dry red table wine.
- The grapes: Blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and Merlot.
- The source: Selected vineyards throughout California.
- The verdict: While the balance of this column focuses on satisfying lighter wines for summer, this one is way out of step. Gold Rush Red is a slap yer face cold-weather wine that you pop open when the snow is swirling, the wind is howling and the beef — or buffalo — stew is bubbling in the pot. I wrote about the 1000 Stories Bourbon Barrel Aged Zinfandel a few months back. This is the next iteration of winemaker Bob Blue’s fascination with the taste and aroma components imparted by partial aging in smoky bourbon barrels. The wine initially was aged in traditional American and French oak barrels. Then a portion of the wine went into new and used bourbon barrels. The result is a hearty, full-throated red blend with smoky nuances telling the bourbon story. I can see this hefty red matched with spicy short ribs. Or a big chunk of bison.
- The price: About $20.