Before the summer slips away, we raise a glass to hot August nights — and their perfect wine pairings. A good summer wine will be "light, bright and affordable," Leslie Sbrocco, author of The Simple and Savvy Wine Guide, tells NPR's Linda Wertheimer.
Whether you're on the beach, on the go or at the grill, Sbrocco offers recommendations for affordable reds and whites under $25.
When You're On The Go ...
Chandon Brut Classic "Limited Edition #1: American Summer" California
Good things come in small packages: This light, sweet, crisp, sparkling wine in a pint-sized container comes from the California outpost of Moet & Chandon, the French champagne house. "This is their limited edition summertime bottle," Sbrocco says. "187s we call them. They're about two glasses of wine — for me, it's about one big glass."
2011 Mulderbosch Rose, Coastal Region, South Africa
Don't let the pink fool you — this light, bright, affordable wine made from cabernet sauvignon grapes is powerful enough to be matched up with meat or seafood. And it's convenient, too. "The reason I picked it for on-the-go is because it's a screw cap," Sbrocco says. "You don't need a corkscrew ... just throw the bottle in [your bag] and bring some plastic glasses and you're on your way."
When You're Sitting By The Pool ...
2011 Ruffino Moscato d'Asti, Italy
If you need a real thirst quencher, this sweet, peachy, floral wine from northern Italy is a good bet. "You can even add a little seltzer water to it, even add a little slice of lime and make it into a cocktail," Sbrocco suggests.
2011 Pewsey Vale Dry Riesling, Eden Valley, Australia
Not all rieslings are sweet! This bone-dry white is full of complex, citrus flavors — and goes great with spicy food. Sbrocco describes it as dry, crisp, floral and minerally. "If you don't like sweet wines, please, I beg you to try this wine," she says. "It's absolutely beautiful."
When You're Grilling ...
2010 Tormaresca "Torcicoda" Primitivo, Salento, Italy
This big, bold red is the perfect match for a piece of seared steak. "This is coming from the heel of Italy ... a beautiful, warm wine-growing region," Sbrocco says. "You get these big, rich reds, but they still have that gritty and mouth-cleansing tannin that helps beautifully with meat."
2008 Alpha "Reserve" Xinomavro, Amydeon, Greece
"I have been so impressed lately by what's been coming in from Greece," Sbrocco says. "This is just a terrifically elegant wine that still can stand up to the biggest of foods."
Both of these big reds are great for savory summer dinners — and for expanding your palate. Sbrocco says these two exotic Mediterranean wines are the perfect way to "broaden your wine horizons."
LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:
Let's return to our series Taste of Summer.
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SLY AND THE FAMILY STONE: (Singing) Hot fun in the summertime...
WERTHEIMER: Today, we're toasting the season with the right wine for these hot August nights.
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WERTHEIMER: Award-winning wine expert Leslie Sbrocco joins us. She's at NPR member station KQED in San Francisco. Welcome to our program.
LESLIE SBROCCO: Thank you so much, pleasure to be here.
WERTHEIMER: What are the characteristics of a good summer wine?
SBROCCO: Well, the minute I think of summer and sunshine and warmth and the beach and the pool and the grill, it's light, bright and affordable.
WERTHEIMER: You sent us a bunch of wines to try, and you suggest that some of them are better for occasions where you're on the go.
SBROCCO: That's right, I mean, when you think about summertime, what are you doing? You're on the go: to the beach, to a friend's house, to a block party. You're by the pool, which I'll talk about next, or you're taking things off the grill. So that's how I separated out some fun summer wines.
So on the go, I sent you a lovely little bottle of sparkling wine from Chandon, which is the California outpost of Moet & Chandon, the French champagne house. This is their limited edition summertime bottle.
WERTHEIMER: They're about the size of Coke bottles.
SBROCCO: Yeah, they are. Aren't they cute? They're 187s, we call them, and that's about two glasses of wine. For me, it's about one big glass, so...
WERTHEIMER: Well, I've got a glass of it here, and it's very light and a little bit sweet. Now, what about this pink one I have here?
SBROCCO: I picked a wine from South Africa, and it's Mulderbosch Rose. Again, light, bright and affordable, under $10 for this bottle of wine.
WERTHEIMER: I'm trying it.
SBROCCO: And the reason I picked it for on the go is because it's a screw cap. You don't need a corkscrew. Obviously, you don't have to pack that in your bag when you go. Just throw the bottle in and bring some plastic glasses, and you're on your way.
WERTHEIMER: Now, if we were thinking in terms of sitting by the pool, or in my case it would be sitting on the back porch...
WERTHEIMER: What would we think of for that?
SBROCCO: What you want if you're, you know, basking in the sun, and you want a dip in the pool, you either want to come out and grab something a little sweet or, conversely, something that's bone dry and just will quench your thirst. And both of the wines that I picked do just that.
The first, I'm going to go sweet. So this is a Moscato d'Asti.
WERTHEIMER: This is fabulous. It smells like honey, and it tastes delicious.
SBROCCO: That's right, and you can even add a little seltzer water to it, even add a little, you know, lime, slice of lime and make it into a cocktail.
WERTHEIMER: And the other one I have here in my hand is a dry riesling.
SBROCCO: That's right, Pewsey Vale, which is the name of the winery, and it is just dry and crisp and floral and minerally, and if you don't like sweet wines, please, I beg you to try this wine. It's absolutely beautiful.
WERTHEIMER: OK, let's try off the grill. I assume that most people are going to throw a big old hunk of meat on the grill when they barbecue. So, that's why you sent us these big red wines?
SBROCCO: I sent you big reds because, yes, when you have some ribs slathered in barbecue sauce, or an old rib-eye or fillet or for the vegetarians among us, I've picked two sort of exotic Mediterranean wines that people might not know about that are perfect and help broaden your wine horizons, if you will.
WERTHEIMER: So this the Tormaresca.
SBROCCO: This is the Tormaresca Primitivo, the Torcicoda. This is coming from the heel of Italy. You know, Italy's shaped like a boot; we're down on the heel here, and a beautiful, warm wine-growing region, and you get these big, rich reds, but they still have that gritty and mouth-cleansing tannin that help beautifully with meat.
And then, you can move down to Greece - and people go Greek wines, oh, what are you talking about.
WERTHEIMER: I think they need our help, though.
SBROCCO: But I have to tell you, Greek wines, I have been so impressed lately by what's been coming in from Greece. The one I've sent you is - the grape variety is called Xinomavro, and this is just a terrifically elegant wine that still can stand up to the biggest of foods.
WERTHEIMER: It's a little lighter than the Primitivo.
SBROCCO: It is. This would even go with salmon with freshly chopped tomatoes on it.
WERTHEIMER: Well, all of these wines are wonderful. Thank you very much.
SBROCCO: You're welcome. And they're all affordable, all between $10 and $25.
WERTHEIMER: Leslie Sbrocco is the author of "The Simple and Savvy Wine Guide." She hosts a television program on KQED in San Francisco called "Check, Please." She joined us from KQED Radio in San Francisco. And you can find Leslie's recommendations on our website, npr.org. If you do decide to take some of this wine on the go, please be careful and responsible.
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WERTHEIMER: This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.