Wines of the Week

Light and Bright for Warm Weather Sipping


Well, it’s that time of year again…when delightfully cool mornings give way to toasty warm and wet weather all the way through October.  That means we have to shift our habits of wine enjoyment a bit, because in general, big heavy reds and mouthfilling whites aren’t all that refreshing when it’s 95 degrees out around the pool.

So this is when we start searching for lighter refreshment and lighter-bodied wines…but still with the complex flavors and aromas that make it all so much fun.  Once in a while, we can head for the bold varietals when we’re cooking up that big dinner…and we definitely grab those bottles of Zinfandel for our Saturday barbecue out on the patio.  But casual times call for bright, exhilarating flavors and textures -- wines that tickle our teeth and please our palates without being weighty or cloying.

Fortunately, we have a lot of choices.  First, of course, are the zippy whites, like Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, dry Rieslings, and others.  Rosés are becoming more popular by the hour, especially since they can be made in an enormous range of styles from just about any red grape.  And then there are the sparklers, especially Prosecco.  Sales of this bracing white from northern Italy grew over 21% last year, and there’s no end in sight.  Industry professionals believe that the increased popularity is because Prosecco is lighter and sweeter than Champagne, which attracts many consumers.  There are so many sparklers and rosés that offer a pure, satisfying experience.  They have the complexity on the nose and palate that earn them a place on our summer sipper list. 

Masottina Prosecco Treviso Brut NV ($12)
Delicate light yellow color, with very fine sparkle, there are layers of lemon, pear, mandarin oranges, and green apple flavors.  This one goes on the summer sipper list, too.  Quite refreshing.  WW 85

Torresella Prosecco Extra Dry Veneto NV ($17)
Pronounced sleek minerality arises from the glass with a palate of sleek peach and a delightful creamy mouthfeel.  Quite fine, and a good value.  WW 87

Inman Endless Crush Rosé of Pinot Noir Sonoma 2018 ($29)
Pale blush color is a clue to a lighter-bodied rosé which is expected, since it’s made from Pinot Noir.  The nose evokes sensations of bright pink flowers, with flavors of tiny wild strawberries.  Very fresh on the palate and nicely balanced.  WW 88

Alois Lageder Haberle Pinot Bianco Alto Adige 2017 ($20)
Another wine to add to your summer sipper list.  Bright juicy flavors of pear, apple, and peach on a lively frame of acidity.  WW 86

Beckmen Vineyards Grenache Rosé Purisima Mountain Vineyard 2018 ($25)
Pleasing salmon pink in the glass with refined aromas of white strawberry and pink flowers.  A bit sweet, with bright juicy hints of strawberry, watermelon, and tropical fruit.  WW 88

District 7 Chardonnay Monterey 2017 ($18)
Lively pear, oak, and vanilla aromas are up front, followed by harmonious flavors of peach and apricot.  Excellent summer sipper.  WW 89

Dutton Goldfield Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast Redwood Ridge 2015 ($62) – This Pinot is deep and opaque in the glass, unlike most others.  A symphony of Old World aromas rises from the glass:  earth, tobacco, licorice, and leather.  The fruit flavors chime in with cherry, raspberry, and maybe even some black tea.  Not your everyday Pinot Noir.  Give it time to open.  WW 91

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Ask the Wine Whisperer
What is the difference between wines aged in French oak or American oak? – Jena W., Tallahassee

The differences can be quite pronounced, depending on how long the winemaker leaves the liquid in contact with the wood, whether the barrels are new or have been used once or twice, and the barrels’ sizes.  But in general, American oak has a looser grain and imparts richer, more intense flavors.  French oak, being tighter-grained, imparts flavors that are more subtle.  Also, winemakers often age wines in a combination of new and old, French and American oak.  It’s not unusual to see a tasting note that says, “Aged 30% in new American oak.”  The other 60% might be French or American barrels that have been used once or twice.