Put down that Pinot Grigio! Consider spicing things up by sipping something new this summer. In search of some hip new wines, I asked a few of Baltimore’s sommeliers and culinary experts to share their secret weapons for summer dining. Here are their top picks:
Grüner Veltliner: An indigenous white grape from Austria, Grüner Veltliner is my personal pick for summer get-togethers. Bright flavors of citrus fruits, Granny Smith apples and hints of white pepper, balanced by crisp acidity. These qualities make Grüner Veltliner a great match for a variety of summertime dishes, including fried chicken. In Europe they shorten the name of this grape and simply order a glass of GrüV (pronounced “groovy”), making it fun to order, too! Some GrüV producers to look for include Anton Bauer, Hillinger, Huber and Loimer.
Riesling: If you think Riesling is a dessert wine, you haven’t been paying attention! Food-friendly dry Rieslings are not just found in Germany; California, Australia and Washington State all make stellar examples as well. Patrick Morrow, executive chef at Ryleigh’s Oyster, holds a competition for the best “oyster” wine each October, and last year there was an upset. “It always seems that Sauvignon Blanc is the favorite to win. This year we had a surprise: it was a Riesling,” says Morrow. “Dry Rieslings have great acidity and balance, which pairs well with oysters. The slight sweetness gives a nice sweet and salty contrast as well.” Chef Morrow suggests Washington State Rieslings from Kung Fu Girl or O.S Winery.
Rosé: In the warmer months, we look for lighter wine. But that doesn’t always mean white— sometimes you need to think pink! Marcie Prince, general manager of Iron Bridge Wine Co. in Columbia, says rosé is the perfect summer wine. “Rosé gives you the best of both red and white worlds,” she says. “It has the crisp acidity of a white wine but the balance, body and complexity of a red.” Prince, also known as the “Goddess of Wine,” recommends French Rosé from Domaine de Cambis or Domaine Tempier in the Languedoc-Rousillon region or a sparkling rosé from Burgundy crafted by Louis Bouillot.
Torrontes: Torrontes is an aromatic white grape with aromas of peach, nectarine and citrus fruits. Bright, flamboyant and affordable, this native white grape of Argentina is a summer favorite of Jerry Pellegrino, chef-owner of Corks and Abacrombie restaurants. “In the summer I spend a lot of time in the backyard grilling,” says Pellegrino. “I pair a glass of Torrontes with grilled clams drizzled with olive oil—it’s the perfect starter for my guests and keeps them busy while I am grilling the steaks.” Chef Pellegrino recommends looking for Torrontes producers Trapiche, AVE and Susana Balbo. —Laurie Forster
Laurie Forster, The Wine Coach®, is a wine educator who creates corporate events, group tastings and seminars. The author of “The Sipping Point: A Crash Course in Wine,” she lives in Easton, Md. thewinecoach.com.