When temperatures begin to rise, most of us change our diet and our wardrobe to accommodate the change of season. Another change we may want to consider is our choice of wines.
Are you a wine lover who tends to “like what you like”? When it comes to wine, there are those who don’t have a problem drinking the same bottles throughout the year. If a lighter, brighter wine isn’t exactly what you like, try it with a food that pairs well; you may change your opinion on wines for the season.
■ Sauvignon blanc and sauvignon blends. This popular white wine offers tropical and citrus flavors such as melon, grapefruit, lemon-lime and white peach. It is light and refreshing with flavors that set it apart from most other white wine grape varieties. Pairing suggestions: goat cheese, asparagus, grilled fish and other seafood.
■ Grüner Veltliner. This is often a go-to wine for sommeliers during warmer weather. It has less demand than riesling but is considered by many to be more sophisticated than, say, a pinot grigio. Pairing suggestions: light Asian flavors such as Asian-accented salads and noodle dishes, Vietnamese spring rolls.
■ Albariño. A personal favorite, this Spanish white is becoming more popular with local winemakers. It has the intensity to cope with most light fish preparations. Pairing suggestions: shellfish, light fish dishes, spring and summer soups such as gazpacho, tomato salads.
■ Unoaked chardonnays. Chardonnay can seem heavy with its traditional buttery, oaky flavors. It is a great food wine, but not necessarily a light summer wine. If you are a chardonnay fan, look for the innovative examples of unoaked chardonnay, which tend to be lighter and more enjoyable during the warmer seasons. Pairing suggestions: oysters and other seafood, poached chicken, creamy sauces, fish and vegetable terrines, sushi.
■ Riesling. There isn’t a more sumptuous summer grape than a Washington riesling. This versatile and expressive grape runs the gamut from extremely dry to startlingly sweet. Rieslings may offer key flavors of peaches, citrus and minerals but can range from bone dry to packed with flavors and residual sugar. Pairing suggestions: smoked fish (especially smoked salmon), crab, trout, smoked chicken, salads and lightly spiced Southeast Asian food.
■ Light rosé. Rosés are very popular right now and will definitely add lift and spirit to summer’s outdoor gatherings. Served chilled, these wines have a bit more acidity than white wines, which allows them to take on some of the grilled flavors. There are different levels of alcohol and intensity throughout the rosè styles in the marketplace. It’s a great wine to drink with barbecues, but it can overwhelm more delicate flavors. Pairing suggestions: hamburgers, grilled sausage, fish and chicken or turkey, tuna and even sandwich wraps. The wine has great food-pairing versatility.
■ Red wines. When pork or salmon is on the menu, look for a primitivo. The richer flavors of the meat rely on the weight and texture of the wine, those same flavors would get lost with a heavier wine like cabernet sauvignon. Smoked meats are also good with a primitivo playing off the smoky flavors of the wine.
If you’re serving hamburgers, steak or barbecued ribs, bigger red wines are what you want. Cabernet sauvignon or tempranillo are good matches, but if the spice turns the dish hot, consider something with spice such as syrah or malbec. Although a few of these choices break with the thought of pairing with lighter wines, they are great options for grilled steak or hamburger.
There are hundreds of great wines in the Valley that are perfect for summertime sipping. This list gives you a great start as you explore perfect pairings for seasonal cooking.
• Barbara Glover is executive director of Wine Yakima Valley, an industry group representing member wineries.