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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Simple, refreshing summer wines hit the spot

 •  All the goodness of 'ohana

By Todd Ashline


Todd Ashline will talk about summer wines with guests who hold Chef Mavro dining reservations during mini-classes, "How to Taste Wine."

Time: 5:30 p.m. Tuesday- Thursday

Cost: Free

Location: Chef Mavro

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To be cliche, "the dog days of summer are upon us."

For most, this means a drop in wine consumption while other summer beverages are enjoyed.

For me, nothing beats a cold beer on a warm summer afternoon, except maybe a cold gin and tonic.

I am ashamed to admit that in the past, my wine drinking has been virtually put on hold for the month of August, although I finally figured out it doesn't have to be that way. There are tons of options that are great for the dog days and summer barbecues.

My general rule for summer is light and white, but then again, as with anything else, there are exceptions to the rule. I prefer my whites for summer to be unoaked and not burning from excessive alcohol. Sometimes a little residual sugar is the call, sometimes some bubbles, then again maybe it's just still, dry and minerally.

One of my favorites for summer is a nice cold, slightly sparkling Moscato d'Asti. Hailing from the Piedmont region of Italy, this white wine is made from the Moscato bianco grape. It is a light-bodied, very fruity and floral wine that exhibits lots of orange and citrus flavors and a hint of sweetness, and light bubbles.

They are simple wines that are very refreshing and pleasant for most all occasions.

A neighbor southeast of Asti produces another summer favorite, the red cousin to Moscato d'Asti, Brachetto d'Aqui. As you probably guessed, the wine is produced in the village of Aqui from the Brachetto grape. This red is very similar in style to the Moscato d'Asti, but with a red grape profile, lots of cherries, raspberries and strawberries. It's creamy on the palate, with a hint of earthiness. As with the Moscato d'Asti, it is slightly sparkling and a hint sweet.

There are many other Italian summer wines to choose from: the sparkling prosecco, and the still whites pinot grigio, gavi and soave. To be very generic, these wines are all white, dry, are very mineral-driven on the nose and palate, and display citrus fruits on the nose and palate. They are all best served chilled and enjoyed when young and fresh.

If a crisp, mineral-driven wine isn't for you, then maybe a sauvignon blanc from New Zealand might be your choice for summer.

White grapefruit, floral, grassy, tropical fruit flavors and spice are common in these sauvignon blancs. They are always dry and have crisp acidity.

If you're looking for a little sweetness, or even more sweetness, this summer, look toward Germany for some outstanding rieslings. The Mosel-Saar- Ruwer is always a safe bet for great light, fruity wines that are perfect for summer.

If you're thinking almost dry, you'll be looking for riesling kabinett on the label. For a little sweeter try riesling spatlese, and even sweeter yet you'll want to choose a riesling auslese. These wines are anywhere from dry-kabinett to sweet-auslese with ripe orange flavors, slate, honey, apple and crisp acidity. Rieslings are a perfect match for summer.

Of course, riesling is made all over the world from Alsace in France, Austria, New Zealand, Australia, and the United States to name a few. They have similar qualities yet are quite different at the same time. Experiment with different rieslings from different areas to find out which one is right for you.

If I'm off to a barbecue, I get excited because it's a chance to drink a nice red there's no better excuse to drink a big, hearty red. I tend to go with big, fruity style reds made from Tempranillo from Spain, or a nice juicy syrah from Australia, or fruit-basket-in-a-bottle zinfandel from California. If you think it's too warm for a big red, drop an ice cube or two in the glass, and they become quite refreshing!

Then there is always Champagne. When isn't a good time for Champagne, anyway? I haven't found one yet. A little bubbly always lifts spirits and brightens the day. Try a nice rose, as they just seem right with summer.

Our summer menu at Chef Mavro is full of light refreshing wines perfect for the season. With the escabeche of diver scallops, our wine pairing committee voted for the pear lime mineral, dry crisp finish of the 2007 Australian riesling from Betts & Scholl. And for our ultimate summer recipe, the grilled Hamakua mushroom macaroni gratin, the Lucien Albrech 2003 pinot gris cuvee cecile from Alsace with mineral, green apple, pear and a racy finish.

Some favorite summer wines I've seen around town:

  • La Spinetta Moscato d'Asti Bricco Quaglia 2006 from Italy, fresh and fruity, with tons of orange and citrus blossoms, and super light in the alcohol department which is a plus on a hot summer day, about $17.

  • Selbach-Oster Riesling Spatlese 2007 from Germany, is on the drier side, with ripe pineapple, peach and apple flavors, with a hint of minerality, very refreshing at about $20.

  • For that barbecue: From one of my favorite Paso Robles producers, Linne Calado Outsider 2006, it's a blend of zinfandel, syrah and mouvredre big and juicy with ripe cherry, plum, blackberry and spice for around $45.