In the throes of summer, we change our daily living. Things aren’t so formal, as we relax and enjoy the simple pleasures of everyday life. This carries over into the type of wines we drink as well, as we generally dispense with the “serious” full-bodied whites and reds, and turn instead to lighter offerings that pair beautifully with the more delicate foods we enjoy during this time of the year.
Where to turn for summer wines? There are all sorts of options, but let’s get creative and look to Alto Adige in northeastern Italy for our choices. Below are three wines from this region – two white, one red – that are ideal for summer. They will be easy to remember, as they all being with “S”, as in summer (consider also that Alto Adige, a bilingual territory is also known by its German name Südtirol, another “S”).
Sylvaner 2016 Strasserhof – Our first “s” wine from this region is a Sylvaner, a wine that might remind you of Riesling, except that it’s dry (only some Rieslings are dry). This producer is located in the Valle Isarco zone, in the far northeast of Alto Adige. This means very cool temperatures, which helps prolong the growing season and preserves acidity. This guarantees longevity, as these wines are ideal after several years in the bottle, but it also means that these wines offer great freshness upon release.
This particular Sylvaner has appealing aromas of apricot and banana, along with notes of yellow flowers, such as lilies. Medium-bodied, this is dry with good length in the finish, which is clean and dry. I’d pair this with Oriental cuisine or even a humble chicken salad. Enjoy over the next 1-2 years. Very Good (Suggested US retail, $22)
Sauvignon “Lahn” St. Michael-Eppan 2015 – Our next “s” wine is the Sauvignon from the highly respected cooperative producer St. Michael-Eppan (note that in Italy, Sauvignon Blanc is identified simply as Sauvignon). Sauvignon in northern Italy is Sauvignon for Sauvignon lovers, as these cool climate examples show off the wonderful complexity of this variety, in both its unusual aromatics of pear and fennel (yes, fennel, which is striking – I love it!) as well as its herbaceous notes in the finish. This is not as intense as some examples from this region, but those subtle herbal notes makes this wine ideal for slightly more complex summer dishes, such as grilled seafood; a Thai dish such as chicken or pork skewers with satay sauce would also work well. This is a special selection of Sauvignon from the producer; “Lahn” refers to the name of the vineyards where the fruit is sourced from; these plantings are sited 1600-1800 feet above sea level. At $17, this is an excellent value. Enjoy now and over the next 3-5 years. Excellent
Vernatsch “Messianer” St. Pauls 2016 – Yes, I realize that Vernatsch does not begin with the letter “s,” but Vernatsch can also be called Schiava; both are names for the same grape variety, one you find planted only in Alto Adige. This is an unusual red, a delightful one with very light tannins, good acidity and aromas and flavors of strawberry and marascino cherry with notes of brown herbs such as marjoram. Given the lightness of the tannins, Schiava (or Vernatsch, if you will) is often served chilled; in my opinion, the best way to enjoy this wine is after chilling the bottle 30 minutes or so, which makes the wine that much more refreshing. That makes it a perfect summer red; pair it with any kind of vegetable purée or with lighter game birds. This particular example is one of the tastiest, most harmonious, and best made examples of Schiava (Vernatsch) I have every enjoyed (this is a first-rate producer you can trust with all of their wines). Enjoy now and over the next 1-2 years. Excellent ($22)