I have a now well-documented love-hate relationship with holiday wine pairing recommendations; I recognize the need, and the hey-just-help-a-bother-out-already usefulness, but I also recognize their familiarity-breeding-contempt ubiquity. For me, holiday wine recommendations are one of those things where I can’t decide if they’re terrible or actually totally brilliant – you know, like Summer Breeze by Seals & Croft.
BUT… I like to help people when it comes to wine, and I kept getting twitter DMs and Facebook messages asking me the equivalent of “any good wine recommendations for a picnic this weekend?” in a run-up to the Memorial Day weekend. And so now that it’s officially too late to do anything about Memorial Day because lots of wine shops might be closed anyway for the holiday, I’ll be a stinker and share what I’ve been Facebook-ing and DM-tweet-ing with a number of people already.
For those sick of hearing about these types of recommendations: sorry, you’ve been outvoted by Inbox (for those sick of Seals & Croft: sorry, I’ve no real advice to help out with that, except maybe drinking a glass of wine and smoking one of those… funny cigarettes….). But before you send me angry emails (most especially in relation to my slightly-irreverent take on the dulcet, laidback tones of Seals & Croft), please note that Memorial Day wine recommendations aren’t any different from any other Summer holiday recommendations – we’re basically talking hot-weather, picnic-&-BBQ wines here, and so what I’m gonna tell you will hold true for any Summertime holiday party wine action that you’ll be facing as the mercury is rising…
As is typically the case when I do this sort of thing, there are no specific wines in the list – you’re smart and brave and groovy and dare-I-say-it downright attractive enough to experiment based on some general guidelines, people. This list, of course, is to be used only when you find yourself in a pinch, or find yourself deciding that you’d like to try (or would like to force someone else at a party to try) something new, or find your local wine shop out of stock when it comes to what you personally prefer to drink in the Summertime. All of thesehave examples that are of good quality and can be found under $15 without too much difficulty (but I’m not saying you shouldn’t whip out the $100 Cab in the 90F heat of a Summer picnic if that’s your thing… okay, well, I am saying that actually):
- Gavi – Italy’s go-to picnic wine for when you’re finally sick of Est! Est! Est! and realize that it’s actually not all that great in most cases. Not as “there” as Riesling, but more “there” than Muscadet, Gavi’s lemon-&-lime liveliness is refreshing, food-friendly, and gulpable while seeming more sophisticated than the alternative of guzzling hard lemonade. Anyway, it’s what I reach for when the thermometer starts to creep above 85F.
- Torrontes – Argentina’s next big thing, or probably actually it’s current big thing. Explosively fruity, and yeah it’s a little grapey sometimes but it’s also got good body (like some Chardonnay in the same price range) without being flabby (unlike a lot Chardonnay in the same price range).
- Tavel – Of course one could list dozens of viable options here, but I feel like France’s southern Rhône rosé star has been outshone by flashier rosés made from just about every red grape under the sun, like Malbec. And while plenty of Sangiovese rosé do rock the Kasbah, I have the feeling Tavel is do for a rebound, because it’s probably still the source of the best Grenache-based rosés for the money.
- Beaujolais-Villages – They don’t suck like many Beaujolais nouveau wines, but they aren’t as awesome as the Beaujolais Crus, either. But there are some sweet spots to be had in the middle, and in Beaujolais-Villages you get the fun, fruity, able-to-take-a-stint-in-the-ice-cooler drinkability of Gamay with a hint of slightly more serious and certainly more food-friendliness of the Crus. Added bonus: they also don’t often come in bottles painted entirely in purple.
- Zinfandel – This is the all-American (in more ways than one) BBQ wine: fruit that is almost sweetly jammy to go with meat that is cooked in BBQ sauces that are almost sweetly jammy. While it doesn’t take too well to being out in the sun very long, it has the added benefit of being a bit higher in alcohol and so if you’re finding yourself nearing your personal threshold of your abilities to cope with family and/or coworkers during a BBQ this Summer, this wine will dull the pain faster than any of the others on the list.
Cheers – and have a safe one!