Demystifying Wine

by Ian Richardson
Sun staff writer

Summer is finally here and that means grilling out and relaxing with friends and family on the deck or the beach. But before you start thinking of trading wine for a cold frosty beer, remember there are some wines that are perfect for the summer season.
Two great white wines for summer sipping are sauvignon blanc/fume blanc and pinot grigio/pinot gris. Both are light in style with grigio/gris having a slightly fuller body. Chill these wines before drinking to release their fresh fruit flavors that match perfectly with summer’s plentiful bounty. Be sure to put one of these wines on your shopping list when heading to the farmer’s market, they balance nicely with fresh veggies and fruit without overpowering the food.
For grilling you need a more substantial wine that will stand up to the smoky flavors and sauces of grilled meats. There are several wines that can hold their own against the grill. You want to look for simple, fruity, quaffable reds such as: red zinfandel, petit sirah, Australian shiraz, and even a Beaujolais. The fruit in these wines complements the flavors of grilling, and being fuller-bodied wines they don’t run the risk of getting lost in the intensity of the food. Wine also goes great with another summer food-pizza. Since pizza is an Italian dish, pretty much any Italian red pairs nicely with it, also red zinfandel and Argentine malbecs make a nice pairing.
As with many issues with wine there is a great debate on matching food with wine. The traditional idea of white wine with chicken and red wine with beef has begun to be challenged and no two people can seem to agree. So here is my two cents on the subject:
I drink the wine I like no matter what I am eating. Yes, there are wines that pair best with certain foods and complement them nicely, but if I feel like a chardonnay and I am eating a steak I’m not going to run to the store to buy a red wine because that is what I am supposed to drink with a steak. Since I don’t typically find myself at home after a long day of work making stuffed roasted quail with wild truffles and having to decide if that 1985 Chateau Margeaux sitting in my cellar would go great with it, I don’t think I will have to worry about offending anyone when I slap together a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and gulp a glass of zinfandel. (Which by the way makes a very nice pairing!)
Reviewed wines for this issue:
Raftshol Vineyards Claret-This is a Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot. Full-bodied and soft. This is my favorite Michigan red. This wine shows the quality of where Michigan wines are heading. Buy it now if you like it, there isn’t much left of this vintage.
Bel Lago Gewurztraminer– Bel Lago is great at growing grape varieties no one else does and their Gewurztraminer is a perfect example. Full-bodied with a great nose. Wonderful fruit flavors on the start turning slightly spicy on the finish. A wonderfully complex wine. This recently beat out their pinot grigio as my favorite Michigan white. This will make a great picnic wine.
Ironstone Obsession– An off-dry white full of fruit flavors with a subtle touch of carbonation. A nice sipping wine for someone who likes a sweeter wine. Can be paired with spicy foods, Cajun or Asian. This is the current favorite of Karen at The Arbor Light.