Summer Value Wines Under $15
Beyond rare exceptions, the wine cellar goes on hold for the summer. Neither collectible nor coveted wines find their places on our Wolfeboro, NH table. Anyone that shares their summer house with steady streams of visitors can probably relate to this fine wine hiatus. Large scale seasonal entertaining inevitably ends with caseloads of empty wine bottles.
Our lakeside summer home in New Hampshire is like chum for bluefish. Friends and family from New York and New England arrive in massive schools at the slightest hint of food and wine. We will plate up to 40 dinners a weekend. Like me, our crowd shivers from the deprivation linked to a void of quality restaurants in the “Live Free or Die” state. Fried clams, boiled lobsters, well done beef, and un-crisped duck breast menus take their toll. I always try to put something special on the table to help everyone celebrate the joys of summer and take a break from the Gulag-era restaurants surrounding them. Mostly, I cook over wood on this:
Summer wine sensibility feels like the off season. The bottles don’t need to be new discoveries, optimally aged, learning experiences, nor perfect food pairs. They just need to be yummy and make guests smile. Each spring I root around for a new <$15 house red and white that I can look forward to drinking, give everyone’s taste buds a ravishing good ride, and easily buy in bulk. So what is everyone drinking lakeside at my house this year?
Lucky us, you can buy this white wine for less than $12 a bottle in New Hampshire. The Pichot family has been making Chenin Blanc since the 1700′s in France and I can buy a case of their work in my town liquor store for under $144 a case. The world seems small. I have a soft spot for Chenin Blanc like this from the Loire Valley when it hides a touch of sweetness just below the surface and has the right acidity to churn saliva. These Vouvrays tease with sophistication and hardly anyone I ever share bottes with can fully escape their overture. We drink the Pichot as the perfect foil for spicy foods, flavorful pastas, or as pre dinner cocktails. Great citrus, lychee fruit, and ripe peach flavors and aromas make everyone swoon. This is a ridiculous bargain, but more importantly it makes everyone take notice and smile at its deliciousness.
It’s weight and mass does not exactly fit the bill of summer wine, yet this perennial southern Rhone Valley value wine has balance and style not seen in previous vintages. Primarily Grenache and then Syrah, great acidity, structure, and rich fruit have it working with all kinds of grilled meats. It seems like Pesquie’s tank aging regimen keeps the fruit front and center without major interference from wood. It packs punch and power in a surprisingly elegant way. If anything can be said to take away from its pure pleasure, the wine has an edge that needs to mellow out. Bottles that remain open for a day have less of this problem. Nevertheless, berry fruit, spice, and lighter cranberry and pomegranate notes entertain and create interest. It shows as much balance and complexity at $13 than many $40 Chateauneuf du Papes. Everyone loves this wine.
Give them a try and let me know what you think.