A wine for all seasons

Good wine by itself is an empty concept. Its values are defined by the circumstances. For whom? When? Where? To find the right wine for an occasion is almost as difficult a job as building up a good team. One needs knowledge, empathy and a touch of luck. When the plan works out, the clogs match, the party comes to life, eyes twinkle and people start talking, and the host can lean back in satisfaction.

 

 

Wines for the summer

 

Good wine is dependent on the situation. It doesn’t have an absolute value. A good wine is one that fits the circumstances, the company, the time and the food served. Of course, it’s not the end of the world when the wine doesn’t perfectly match the main course and it’s not a disaster when a guest admits on tasting of the third glass of Puligny-Montrachet that Chardonnay is not in fact the closest wine to their hearts. But anyone who has experienced such a mishap doesn’t need to prove how much it can hurt. It’s only a scratch for the guest, but for us, it’s a stab at the back: the friendly gesture that came from our heart didn’t work out. Furthermore, we wasted a valuable bottle that could have brought joy under other circumstances. Therefore, it’s worth considering what bottle we open for whom, when and where. Wine and food pairing has a library worth of literature, but wine and the person, as well as wine and weather matching are rarely discussed. In addition to the taste of the consumer and their level of wine education, openness is just as important regarding success, as the quality of the wine.

 

One of the most important elements of the art of coupling is adjusting the wine according to the season. The temperatures inside and outside the bottle crucially influence the experience. As we rarely fantasise about a tub of ice cream on a long winter night, nor do we leave for the beach in the summer heat with hot chocolate in our flask, wines also have their own time and season. If we don’t enjoy a barrique Cabernet Sauvignon at 36 degrees Celsius, on a partly shaded terrace, it’s not certain that it’s the wine’s fault. However, keeping to a couple of simple rules, we can do a lot to ensure everybody leaves the table with a smile on their faces.

Summer wines

 

Summer is the season of the lightness of existence – that of freedom. When the sunshine we have longed for all year starts to overflow and we seek out shade. When evening becomes the middle of the day. During these times the temperature inside and outside the bottle becomes more important. There are two principles we ought to remember: the cooler the wine is, the less the aromas and flavours can be felt, and on the other hand: at a low temperature, acidity, bitterness and tannins become stronger. Translating this into practical terms, in the summer, we should turn to wines with richer aromas, as these are adequately aromatic and flavoursome even when they are served cold. Traditional method sparkling wines also react well to chilling, which also slows down the release of carbon dioxide. Contrary to this, it is advisable to keep full-bodied, high alcohol wines that are aged for a long time in barrels for the winter.

Sauvignon Blanc

 

Sauvignon Blanc stands out among all the wines that are considered as summer wines. It doesn’t fall behind any variety in terms of being thirst-quenching and refreshing, and regarding its quality to be paired with food, it rises above all of them. One of its super qualities is that it can disarm even the infamous wine killers as well. You can’t go wrong with umami-rich artichoke and asparagus, or even cauliflower, Brussels sprouts or broccoli, garlicy tomato salads and balsamic vinegar dressings.

Apart from the obvious sea trio of fish, crab and shellfish, the louder, grassy, elderflower Sauvignon Blancs, like the New Zealand ones, can be coupled with meals made from vegetables, asparagus, green peas and bell peppers. Owing to their intense aromas and really lively acidity, they also cope with the bolder spices of Southeast Asian cuisine.

Classic Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc – Sancerre or the Pouilly Fumé – are the ideal company of hardly or not at all spicy sea fish, crabs and shellfish. Besides Riesling and Champagne, this style goes the best with sushi or sashimi. Those who are not that keen on fish will be happy to hear that it also goes well with tomato dishes and salads, especially with goat cheese in them.

 

 

Red alert

 

Although the colour of summer is not red when it comes to wine, those who are not fans of whites don’t have to switch to a pink diet either in a heatwave. Reds chilled down to cellar temperature is a relatively new trend, however, the rules of the game can be memorised easily. The reds that react best to the summer heat and chilling are the crispier, more fruit-forward wines with less in the way of tannins and oak. The fuller bodied, more tannic, more alcoholic and oaky a red is, the less chance there is that it will work. It’s the case that youth is an advantage, we shouldn’t even try the bottle-aged big guns. The livelier, lighter reds should be served chilled down to 12-14 ˚C, the fuller bodied, weightier ones should be cooled down to 16-18˚C. From the Hungarian lists, Kadarka, Kékfrankos and Zweigelt are the obvious candidates, as are Pinot Noir, Syrah and Grenache from among the international varieties.

 

The tricks of cooling

 

In a standard fridge, the average temperature is between 2-4˚C degrees, and it’s a perfect starting point in the case of whites, traditional method sparkling wines and rosés, as they warm up quickly after being poured into the glass. Based on the 18-20˚C degrees of storage temperature, reds should be put into the fridge for around half an hour. But what if, we need to cool them down quickly? The freezer is an obvious choice, but it’s also dangerous ground as there is no way back from freezing the wine to death. Most wines need around 10-15 minutes in the freezer to cool down properly. For an even quicker result, then twist a wet table cloth around the bottle of wine before putting it into the freezer.