What a beautiful time of year this is. The deep, dark winter is behind us. The days are getting longer, and our world seems to burst forth in all its verdant glory. Aside from all the pollen and allergy attacks, spring is my second favorite season (behind fall). One reason is that the temperate climate allows us to take full advantage of being outdoors. The blustery arctic winds of winter are gone, but it is still too early for the sweltering dog-days of summer. It’s nature’s air conditioning. And it’s the perfect time to enjoy relaxing on your patio or deck with a crisp, chilled beverage . . . time for a cool change.
Wine drinkers tend to get comfortable with specific types or favorite varieties and, regardless of the setting, rarely stray from their wine of choice. Whether that choice is a sweeter white wine, like a sparkling Moscato, or a big, bold, dry red like cabernet, tastes certainly vary. But because springtime brings change, the new season is a great time to break out of your comfort zone and try something new.
A friend and fellow wine lover coined the name “patio-pounders” to describe these wines because they’re so easy to drink and so satisfying to the palate. So, in the bon vivant spirit of things, let’s explore a few of these exciting new patio-pounding options.
In the last few years, dry rosés have established themselves as real players in the market. For many wine drinkers, their first taste of wine was pink and that pink wine was most likely white zinfandel. In fact, I was well into adulthood before I realized zinfandel is not a white or pink wine but a dry red wine. White zinfandel was invented by Sutter Home winemaker Bob Trinchero in 1975 and tends to be too sweet for those who prefer dry wines. So, if you remember tasting sweet pink wine and you spot a bottle of rosé, your eyes may immediately make you think a-ha! Sweet! But let your tongue convince you otherwise.
Remember, all grape juice is white. It’s the amount of contact with grape skins during processing that determines the wine’s eventual color. Using varietals like pinot noir, grenache, and Syrah — grapes known for making dry red wines — vintners pull the skins early to make a lighter color and are still able to balance vibrant fruit with a drier finish to produce rosé.
Another reason to give these dry rosés a try is the value. You can purchase an outstanding bottle of rosé for under $25, and many for under $15. Most are ready to drink when released, so there is no need to hold them.
Light, smooth, cool, and refreshing. Sipping a glass of rosé on your deck while watching the sunset in the west . . . now that’s the good life.
Riesling was a real quandary for me. Growing up in Missouri, the riesling varietal has been well-established in our German heritage and wine-producing region. And as popular as riesling is, I’ve always found it too sweet for my palate, so I shied away from it for years.
However, in every documentary I ever watched about those studying to take their master sommelier exam, candidates proclaimed riesling as their favorite varietal. I didn’t understand it. These were the finest palates in the wine world. How could they get past that sweetness?
Then someone pointed out they were talking about dry riesling.
A high-quality dry riesling is not always easy to find and can be pricey, but it’s always worth it. Regions producing good dry riesling include Germany, Alsace, and Washington. German wines labeled “trocken” or “GG” (grosses gevachs) bear an indication of limited residual sugar and ensure a drier wine. Characteristics of dry riesling are acidity and minerality with a supple structure balanced against a cool, clean finish. One prominent indicator of a good riesling is the bouquet. They often smell of petrol or kerosene. While this may sound off-putting, that’s the aroma of the good life. And riesling pairs well with a wide variety of food choices.
All these wines should be enjoyed chilled, which means between 49 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Americans tend to drink white wines too cold, which can dull the flavors and aroma. A good rule of thumb is pulling the bottle out of the fridge (or ice) 20 minutes before serving.
So get out of your dry red or sweet white comfort zone and try a few of these delightful springtime patio pounders.
Cheers to the good life.
A few other “patio pounders” you may want to try…
French White Bordeaux – Subtle citrus flavors with an old-world terroir. Primarily come from sauvignon blanc and semillon grapes. The best wines can be aged.
Pinot Blanc – A white wine grape with strong minerality, but usually more fruit-forward with higher acidity.
Sauvignon Blanc – Tends to be more semi-dry with citrus-forward fruit and herbaceous notes.
Glossary of Common Wine Terms
Liveliness and brightness that gives wine a lift and activates our salivary glands.
When all aspects of wine (acid, sugar, tannin, alcohol) are harmonious.
Refers to the complex aroma of wines. Sometimes referred to as “nose.”
Taste sensation which can cause puckering of the mouth. Opposite of sweet.
The impression of textures and flavors lingering on the tongue after swallowing.
Describes tastes that exhibit impressions of fresh fruit (citrus, apple, cherry, etc.).
Describes tastes and flavors of fresh herbs (basil, oregano, rosemary, etc.).
Describes the “umami” of the wine — not fruit, herb, or spice — but often related to the terroir of origin. Quite simply, it can be described like the taste of licking a rock.
The taste and aroma of perceptible sugar.
Tasting term that implies balance of fruit, alcohol, acidity and tannins.
Compounds in wine which leave bitter, dry, or “puckery” feel in the mouth.
Geologic characteristics unique to a vineyard’s soil composition.