Don't turn away from red wine in the summer!
And more advice from Anthony Giglio, wine writer, educator and raconteur
Anthony Giglio is the weekly “Wine Wise Guy” column writer and Contributing Wine Editor for FOOD & WINE. Anthony is also the Wine Director for The Centurion Lounge, a groundbreaking network of premium airport lounges by American Express as well as the Wine Director for American Express. Giglio has written 11 books, including three editions of the annual FOOD & WINE Wine Guide review of 1,000+ wines; five editions of the enormously popular Mr. Boston Official Bartender’s Guide, his highly-regarded first book, Cocktails in New York, and his latest, Passport to Italian Wine, the first in a series of regional booklets. Giglio is currently a wine reporter for CBS News Radio and has written for numerous publications including Esquire, The New York Observer, and Worth.
1. Don't turn away from red wine in the summer!
In the summer, you want to get lighter reds in general. Pinot Noir is the national standard that most people understand. Americans tend to talk about wine by the grape. If you know a little bit more about wine, that means red Burgundy. Also, other lighter style reds would be Gamay which is Beaujolais from France or Etna Rosso which is often called the Burgundy of Italy. I would recommend Barolos and Barbarescos as well. Both of these wine regions are found in Piedmont in northwest Italy, and the grape is Nebbiolo. Nebbiolo from Piedmont is a super light, high acid red. Those are the reds that are really refreshing in the middle of the summer. As far as summer entertaining with wines, I think the biggest misconception is that red wine should be served at room temperature. Red wine no matter what the season, what day, what hour, everyone serves red wine room temperature. It is just a misconception. The reds should be chilled! Especially if you are serving wine outside. As a host, the mistake is not to serve red wine and not to chill it. And the good news is that if your guests think it is too cold, and you are outside, it is going to warm up quickly!
2. Don't put ice in your wine!
My entire career has been getting people more comfortable drinking wine. But, I do want to say, please don't put ice in your wine! The ice melts immediately and adds a half of cup of water to the wine. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but you are diluting the original wine so it won't taste as good. You could put frozen grapes in there or those wine ice cubes. Or take ten minutes to make a proper ice bath. You put ice and water in a container and then put your bottles in to chill. In ten minutes, they are a thousand times better than they ever were. If you are going to serve outside at an outdoor party, you should put everything in an ice bucket: champagne or sparkling wine, white wine, and your summer reds.
3. Don't expect the wine you bring to a party to be served!
What is the etiquette of bringing a bottle of wine to a party or as a house gift? Are they expected to open it because you would like them to? My answer is absolutely not! They are not obligated to open your wine. Ask Miss Manners, she will tell you. If you are a super planner like me, and there is a dinner party with courses and wines paired with them, you are throwing a monkey wrench at me. It is sort of like the guest who walks in with a bouquet of flowers. While that is really wonderful and beautiful, I have to stop what I am doing and find a vase, open them up, cut them, and arrange them. And still try to get a drink in everyone's hand while the doorbell keeps ringing. Bring a bouquet that is in a vase! As far as wine, my trick is that I always bring two bottles. Bring something that is the host gift and say "this is for you and this wine is something that I have been saving for us to share, and I can't wait to open it!" That guarantees one good bottle of wine (especially if you know that your host is notoriously cheap or you don't like their taste).
4. Don't be afraid to get advice from your local wine retailer.
Don't be afraid to ask for what you want when it comes to wine. You are not afraid to tell a server if your burger or steak is over or undercooked or if you want your dressing on the side. Don't be afraid to walk into your local wine shop and say, "I want some light summer reds." And they might point you towards some Austrian Zweigelt or things you have never heard of, and that may be more affordable. The less popular they are in my experience, the cheaper they are. You need to go into a retailer and say, "I tend to like $10 Merlots." There is nothing wrong with that. Stop being sheepish about your truth!
If you are bringing a gift of wine, I think you need to spend at least $20. You need to ask some questions. What I would recommend is to say that "I want to spend $20 on a wine that is off the beaten path." Or, "the host only drinks Cabernet or Chardonnay," or "they eat tons of fish all the time, what would you recommend?" If they are doing their job, they should give you three choices. The greatest line any retailer can say to me is that "this $20 bottle of wine is drinking like a $50 bottle!" It is subjective, but I love that. 20, but drinks like 50! If someone has experience with wine and tells you that, that is an excellent choice!