B.C. Wine Culture

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From patio plonk to pitchers of sangria, hot weather means it’s time to chill when it comes to wine

I can be snobby about wine with the best of them, obsessing about vintages and appellations and soil composition. Kimmeridgian limestone? Double-header trellising systems? Arcane Pinot Noir hybrids? Bring it and I’ll geek out about it.

But not in summer.

Summer is the season for patio sippers, for light, bright thirst quenchers you don’t need to think too much about. I won’t say no to a Premier Cru Chablis if you absolutely insist, but I’m almost as happy with a pitcher of fruity sangria, tinkling with ice cubes and clad in condensation that promises cool relief within.

The rest of the year I might disdain boring old Pinot Blanc, the vodka of wine, with its light body and almost nonexistent flavour. But when the mercury edges towards 30°C, its subtle citrus notes are just what I crave, preferably served under a leafy tree while someone else lights the barbecue. I might even splash some soda into it and throw caution to the wind by adding a bit of ice, though perhaps not if it’s the sophisticated versions produced by Blue Mountain and Clos de Soleil.

Then again, summer is the season of rosé. Around my house, we go through an awful lot of it between May and September. (We’re talking crisp, dry rosé here, not sickly sweet “blush” wines like White Zinfandel. One has to draw the line somewhere, even if one is swilling plonk.)

In summer, I tend to reach for the palest, lightest, Provençal-style rosés, with their delicate salmon hues and wisps of red berry and lemon peel flavours

Some expressions of rosé, such as the ones from France’s Tavel region or Hester Creek’s juicy Cabernet Franc, are big and bold and can easily be enjoyed year round. In summer, though, I tend to reach for the palest, lightest, Provençal-style rosés, with their delicate salmon hues and wisps of red berry and lemon peel flavours, not to mention their budget-friendly price tags. Here in B.C., Quails’ Gate makes a rosé that could have been designed just for hot summer nights, with soft, thirst-quenching notes of rhubarb, strawberry and pink grapefruit.

In any case, bold or light, rosés are glorious food wines that handily pair with flavours both strong and subtle. That makes them perfect wines to sip while grazing on tapas and antipasto, which, as it turns out, is just how I like to dine in summer. Don’t you?

Take a look at what people drink in hot-climate wine-producing regions. They’re drinking rosé. In Spain, it’s sangria and chilled fino sherry. In Italy, it’s Pinot Grigio, spritz and prosecco.

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Take a look at what people drink in hot-climate wine-producing regions. All that blistering sun in France, Spain and Italy produces powerhouse reds, but you won’t catch people in, say, Châteauneuf-du-Pape knocking back inky GSMs when the Sirocco turns the afternoon into a garrigue-scented oven. They’re drinking rosé. In Spain, it’s sangria and chilled fino sherry. In Italy, it’s Pinot Grigio, spritz and prosecco.

I remember my first trip to Italy, how at the end of the day, people would spill out into the streets for the passeggiata, a leisurely stroll before the evening meal, stopping to chat with friends over glasses of inexpensive prosecco. How civilized, I thought. How uncomplicated and refreshing.

And what a great idea to bring home to B.C., where frizzante-style bubbles are becoming more and more popular. Soft and fruity with a mouth-filling mousse, the tank-fermented wines from Evolve Cellars, 8th Generation and others are turning into some of our favourite summer sippers. No need to think about them; just pop the crown cap and enjoy.

Taking it easy. Making it simple. Isn’t that what summer is all about?

Joanne Sasvari is editor of Vitis and The Alchemist magazines. She also writes about food and drink for WestJet and Vancouver Sun, and is author of the Wickaninnish and Vancouver Eats cookbooks.

Joanne Sasvari is editor of Vitis and The Alchemist magazines. She also writes about food and drink for WestJet and Vancouver Sun, and is author of the Wickaninnish and Vancouver Eats cookbooks.

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