In recent weeks, I've been swirling and spitting 2008 Bordeaux and 2006 Brunellos (no complaints, mind you). On the other hand, here's what I'll be swallowing during the dog days of summer at Chateau Tanzer: wines that cover just about any warm-weather contingency and rarely break the bank.
Txakoli. The labels may be written in Martian (actually Basque), but these lightly fizzy, spicy, tangy whites (there's also a scarce rose version and even a few reds) are as thirst-quenching as a gin and tonic after a couple sets of tennis. Txakoli is addictive as an aperitif or perfect with fresh shellfish.
Unoaked sauvignon blanc from the Loire Valley, or pungent alternatives from New Zealand or South Africa. Racy, citrussy, dry and brisk, often with complicating mineral, floral and herbal nuances. Great with vegetables (even asparagus and artichokes!), salads or goat cheeses, or with simply prepared fish.
Chablis. These vibrant wines are so subtle, incisive and minerally you'd swear you weren't drinking chardonnay--and they're way cheaper than their cousins from the Cote d'Or. Plain village wines from top producers can be terrific values.
Rosé. Pale-colored versions tend to be dry and racy, even austere, with more subtle minerality than easy fruit. Use these wines like brisk whites, served chilled as an aperitif or with simple snacks, grilled vegetables or grilled fish in olive oil and light pastas. Or select more deeply colored, suppler examples from warmer regions (especially Spain or the New World). With their distinct red fruit notes they can take the place of light reds, alongside fried and grilled chicken or richer fish dishes.
Beaujolais. The fleshy, ripe and wildly popular 2009s have mostly been snapped up by now, but the vibrant, intensely fruity 2010s offer a more classic Beaujolais experience for purists. Drink them chilled on their own, or with grilled burgers and sausages.
Southern French reds sans pretention. These aggressively priced, immediately accessible wines, especially when they're heavily based on grenache, cinsault and carignane, are downright gulpable in the warm months when they're lightly chilled (see Beaujolais above). Serve them with lamb or steak on the barbie.
Light, young pinot noir. Whether from our own West Coast, New Zealand or Burgundy, young, sappy pinot noir is the universal solvent at the dinner table. Like a gift check at graduation, pinot is never inappropriate.
Full, saturated medium ruby. Brooding aromas of crushed blackberry, kirsch, violet and licorice. Sweet on entry, then concentrated and lively, with ripe, integrated acidity framing the crushed black fruit flavors. This fruit bomb really spreads out to saturate the palate. Finishes with broad, sweet tannins and lovely energy. Its slightly high-toned quality gives it immediate appeal and lift, but it also has the balance to offer pleasure over the next seven or eight years. An outperformer in this vintage.
Region: South Africa
Pale yellow. Raw pineapple, grapefruit zest, pepper and a whiff of gooseberry on the very pure nose. At once broad and penetrating; a serious young sauvignon with dominant flavors of pepper and minerals. The wine's fruit is currently in the background but lovely ripe acidity and sneaky dusty length suggest that this will be better for another year or so of bottle aging.
Dark, bright red. Complex aromas of dusty cherry and sandalwood complemented by pepper, flowers and herbs. At once sappy and velvety, with nicely concentrated red fruit and spice flavors offering considerable immediate appeal. This deep, rich California pinot finishes with sweet tannins and lovely lingering perfume. Rather Burgundian in style, with moderate alcohol. Made by John Raytek, whose own Ceritas Wines are quickly becoming cult items.
Good bright medium red. Superripe aromas of maraschino cherry and cinnamon lifted by a note of rose petal. Sweet, lush and fine-grained, with a solid core of sappy cherry and raspberry fruit brightened by energetic minerality. Displays the flamboyant ripeness of the vintage without going over the top. Finishes with broad, dusty tannins and lingering spice and red fruit notes. You can easily spend $30 these days for mere Bourgogne rouge.
Light, green-tinged yellow. Pungent aromas of lemon curd, yellow plum and white flowers, along with a hint of honey. Shows the typical opulence of the variety but the sappy citrus and deeper pit fruit flavors boast surprising verve and precision. The smooth, spicy finish offers a lingering floral quality.
Pale, green-tinged yellow. Orange and melon on the nose, with complicating notes of white flowers and pungent herbs. Smooth and fleshy in the style of the vintage, with good depth to its citrus fruit and honeydew flavors. Finishes with slow-building minerality, a repeating citrus note and very good length.
Bright, dark red. Spicy black cherry, licorice and menthol on the nose, lifted by a floral topnote. Lush and pliant in the mouth, with a nicely restrained sweetness and good energy to the tasty berry and black cherry fruit. The sweetly tannic, tongue-dusting finish offers impressive length considering this grenache-based wine's very gentle price.
Bright straw color. High-pitched aromas of lemon zest, lime, quince and white flowers. Dry, steely and precise, offering energetic citrus and orchard fruit flavors and a hint of white pepper. Leaves floral and chalk notes behind on the firm, bracing finish. This would be a good cellar candidate.
(50% grenache, 20% cinsault, and 10% each of carignane, mourvedre and cabernet sauvignon): Light, bright orange. Expressive aromas of fresh red berries and citrus pith. Energetic and precise in the mouth, offering tangy redcurrant and strawberry flavors and a hint of white pepper. With its racy, dry finish, this is ridiculously easy to drink.
(60% grenache, 10% each of cinsault, mourvedre and syrah, and 5% each of clairette and bourboulenc): Bright orange-pink. Pungent aromas of dried red fruits, wild herbs and rose, plus a hint of blood orange. Deeply pitched red fruit flavors are complicated by dusty herbal and floral nuances. Powerful but well-balanced and dry, with lively red fruit and spice notes on the finish. Many Tavels can be ponderous, but this one isn't.
Bright red. Assertive aromas of raspberry and cherry, complemented by deeper tobacco, violet and anise qualities and a mounting floral nuance. Juicy, pliant and expansive, offering energetic red and dark berry flavors and notes of musky herbs and spices. Finishes with very good clarity and spicy persistence.
Bright yellow. Oily pineapple aroma smells sweet. Then more minerally in the mouth and surprisingly dry--more serious than the nose suggests. A classic, very dry 2009 with a suggestion of yeasty spiciness and superb acidity and grip.
Since 1985, Stephen Tanzer and his team of renowned, widely published regional experts have spent months of every year on the wine trails of the world, having their passports punched and tasting tens of thousands of wines annually, the best of which are reviewed in the independent, critically acclaimed, bimonthly International Wine Cellar (IWC).
Many wines featured in Second Tuesday will be selected from past, current and upcoming issues of the IWC. But Stephen and associate editor Josh Raynolds will also include superb recent discoveries that would otherwise slip between the cracks of IWC coverage.
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