Summer so far here in Spain has been surprisingly cool. I’d heard that it would be the hottest summer on record and so far it is warm during the day and quite cool at night. Unfortunately, as a result of the cool temperatures, I’ve heard reports from vineyards that some of the vines are a bit behind schedule. Hopefully, if the weather stays nice and we have a long Indian summer, we just might have a late and elegant harvest. Unlike recent years, which have been so hot that the grapes were making “vat-fall” well ahead of schedule, this year might cause the slow maturing grapes to develop more elegant and subtle flavors, or at least we hope so.
But that’s not why I’m typing today. I’m here because I was pouring over my recent Cellartracker wine notes, realizing that I haven’t been entering all of my notes as of late. Really, the talking and the analyzing are much more entertaining than typing tasting notes, maybe I need to try Dragon Naturally Speaking or some other such software. What I noticed was that the last 100 wines tasted go back to late last year, which inspired an idea. With the weather getting sticky and our grill being worked overtime to ensure that every type of meat, vegetable and fish has a chance to bathe in its embers, I thought, “why not see what wines I’ve tasted in the last 6 months or so that I would recommend for summer?” Plus, I ran across a little inspiration.
So without further ado, here is a recap of 8 wines with both the original tasting note and a short note explaining why I think this wine is great for summer heat and hot grills! Let me know what you think and feel free to add your own wines to the list.
- 2005 Bodegas Irius Somontano Absum Varietales – Spain, Aragón, Somontano (7/16/2007)
This wine was very interesting! The nose was nutty, with rose, apricot, and pineapple, but really just kept evolving. In the mouth the wine is very dry with nice big body to it and an overall medium acidity. The finish has a touch of bitter grapefruit that balances out the richness. Hazelnuts, light vanilla from the oak(very light), pineapple, apricot, and much more. This is a wine that stands out in a crowd, both complex, and unique, with a depth that goes on and on. We had this with two other friends, and selfishly I wish that it was only me drinking it. Can’t wait to go back and try it again. 4.5/5
- 2005 Zarate Albariño Rías Baixas – Spain, Galicia, Rías Baixas (7/5/2007)
The nose on this wine is fleshy to say the least with nice peaches, and cream component with a strange herbal quality that I can’t quite lay my finger on. Pink grapefruit comes to mind and it’s slightly bitter zest. In the mouth there is a large amount of fresh lively acidity, that makes this wine light up like a firefly’s belly. Peach, grapefruit, melon and more all come forward as I enjoy the lushness that coats my mouth. Fun wine, check it out! 4/5
- 2003 Alvear Montilla-Moriles PX Fino “En Rama” – Spain, Andalucía, Montilla-Moriles (6/20/2007)
Light pale gold in color. Cantaloupe nose with faint honey notes, light honeydew and white grape hints. Pure and only at the beginning showing a bit of caramel. In the mouth this is a soft wine with a medium to high acidity that is bright and alive. Light salt air on the palate followed by melons, delicate peach and white grape. With some time there is a grassiness that seems to relate to the flor that once protected this fine wine. Full finish that lingers, but pulls you back sooner than expected. 4/5
- 2004 Twisted Oak Tempranillo – USA, California, Sierra Foothills, Calaveras County (12/13/2006)
Gorgeous color on this rich and deep burgundy colored wine. The nose is dense and layered in the glass w/smoky chocolate, cherry jumping out. With time, this opens up to raspberry notes and some toasted oak. I wonder how this will develop. High acidity with some firm but soft tannins, while on the palate the acid shows like a sour cherry that give way to oak, bright acidity and raspberry notes. Not overly complex at this point. Still a young wine with some life left before it fully develops. It does taste like Tempranillo, and shows some of the classic flavors and textures of Spain. On the other hand to me it seems too pure in some ways to not have come from California, I would love to do a blind tasting with a few wines of Ribera del Duero or even La Mancha to see where this would fall. Great effort and I look forward to trying others. Defiantly pair this wine with some lamb chops. 4/5
- N.V. Giró Ribot Cava Paul Cheneau – Spain, Catalunya, Cava (12/8/2006)
Light golden color with med sized bubbles. Creamy citrus nose with yeast and light apple notes. Good acidity and a full mouthfeel that is round and well polished. Citrus, yeasty bread, some green apple and more, the finish is surprisingly long for this wine. Recommended holiday treat! 3.5/5
- 2005 Miguel Torres S.A. Catalunya Nerola – Spain, Catalunya (12/7/2006)
Floral nose with pear and light peach notes. Nice medium acidity in the mouth with a crisp focus. Lightly creamy and fully dry the palate mimics the nose with fwhite flowers, peach and pear. Really a fun wine to drink with a finish that lingers. 3.5/5
- N.V. Cellar Cal Menescal Tarragona Vermouth – Spain, Catalunya, Tarragona (10/5/2006)
Pours a deep brownish red with a medium intensity. The nose is intense and intoxicating inviting you to inhale deeply. It reminds me of some bitter Italian after dinner treats that I’ve had in the past. Light wood notes come in and you get the feeling that there are some dried fruits floating around though hesitant to show their faces through the weedy underbrush. In the mouth, there is a strong rush of sweetness that becomes well balanced at the finish, along with a touch of bitter herb and a strong acidity that refreshes the mouth. I know I love vermouth and might not be un-biased, but this thing rocks with rich dried fruit flavors, raisins, and then the herbs, rosemary(light), anise, thyme, rue and more. Cherries and rich grape reductions make up the balance. Tasty treat! 4/5
- 2003 Celler Laurona Montsant – Spain, Catalunya, Tarragona, Montsant (7/3/2007)
Dark color with a nose that is herbal with hints of tar, anise, mint, black pepper, and subtle raspberry fruit. In the mouth this wine is lush with fine tannins and a medium acidity. Overall a very elegant wine that I would enjoy drinking almost any day of the week. Nice cherry and raspberry flavors with herbal undergrowth woven within. GREAT wine from a so-so vintage. 4.5/5
This wine is may be a little difficult to find, but the search is worth it. Made from Pinot Noir, Gewurztraminer and Chardonnay, I fell in love with this wine at the first sip! Rich, complex, and nuanced and with a body that would make Ruben himself blush. Pair this wine with your big meaty fish full of smoky flavor and hot off the grill. Think dry-rubbed grilled tuna or coriander crusted salmon. This wine also works well with pork, chicken, and maybe even tenderloin thrown on the grill. Don’t worry about the wine holding up to several different meats. It has plenty of backbone and structure to hold up to such fare. Finally, and sad for most of you, Butifarra is not widely available outside of Spain, let alone Catalunya, but I think this is a wine made for its subtle spices and richness. If you can find this wine BUY it and fire up the grill!
We love Albariño and this one is no exception. The rich mouthfeel is what I want when I have a grilled dish and the citrus makes this the best wine for lighter fish and seafood on the grill. Citric acidity cuts through shrimp, shellfish and even grilled sardines, while the creamy mouthfeel helps deal with the smokiness that we love.
I only chose one fino! I did it out of consideration of all the other delicious wines I came across in my notes, but for me, this is the wine to get the embers glowing with. Pour a glass of this with a handle full of salted nuts in your hand and it’s the perfect summer evening. As the coals burn, slowly heating up that perfectly blackened grate, this crisp and refreshing white will keep you cool. If you have some green olives on hand, you’ll be even happier!
Non-Iberian wines can be included here as long as they fit my requirements, and this one does. Using the emblematic Iberian grape, Tempranillo, Jeff Stai and the cru over at Twisted oak serve up with what I think is a perfect wine for summer grilling. Big rich and toasty with so much fruit that not even Carmen Miranda could support all of it. Think big dry rubbed Pork chops, lamp in a non-traditional cajun rub or even your favorite rib recipe. I wish they exported to Spain, I’m getting thirsty.
I saw this on my list and it brought back fond memories of my brief visit to the winery last November. I do remember, however, that this wine shocked me for its price to quality ratio. It’s a cheap cava that lasts on the palate and can sit comfortably at a table with grilled vegetables. Granted, I love my steaks, but grilled zucchini, eggplant, and peppers, all tossed with fresh Olive Oil, sherry vinegar, and citrus zest. Well here’s a wine that I think would marry this combo without any need for a pre-nuptial. If not this then crack a bottle to serve with the fresh sweet corn you just pulled off the coals. I think you’ll be surprised.
Another rich and complex white. Granacha blanca gives this wine its body, while the Xarel.lo gives it plenty of floral notes. Here’s I white I might just do with the pork loin I made last week. Brined for 8hrs and slow grilled with grape vines, the sweet meat would pair nice with this full bodied white.
Finally no list would be complete with Gabriella and my favorite summer cocktail: Red Vermouth with soda and wedge of orange. Please put down the M&R and back away from the Tribuno. Instead, look for a Spanish Vermouth or even a Qaudy Vya from California. This is the easiest thing to suck down on a hot day and as refreshing as they come. Lightly bitter, with red fruits, and citrus touches, think raspberry lemonade for adults without the sickening sweetness. Oh, and for us, the best thing as of late is finding a new and different vermouth so every glass is a new discovery!
One last red that we recently enjoyed and a great of wine for grilled chicken and rare steaks! Seriously, this wine would be good any time of the year, but especially now on a roof with a grill and some crispy chicken skin or some blood rare steaks.
Hope that list comes in handy. Most of the wines are available outside of Spain and we hope that you get a chance to try one or two. Also, let us know what you like to drink on a hot summer’s day on our forum! One more thing, if you noticed, we didn’t name one Portuguese wine, not because there aren’t wines that wouldn’t be perfect for the grill, but rather because we have a special treat coming soon that we hope you’ll all enjoy! Stay tuned, and stay cool!