Author mug By The Glass

Roberto Viernes

Beat wicked summer heat
with chilled, crisp whites

Has it been HOT lately or what? Monday marked the first day of summer and it is already shaping up to be a scorcher! The heat and humidity have put me in the mood again for refreshing whites.

Our climate just isn't conducive to big, high-alcohol, super reds. Don't get me wrong: If I'm in a nice air-conditioned restaurant, I can enjoy a thundering red wine with the best of them. But when I'm at home, or when I finally get to a restaurant after fighting traffic and walking through a hot parking lot, I've found the best way to quench my thirst is with a chilled glass of a nice, crisp white wine.

Here are some I've been quenching my thirst with:

The 2003 Wieninger Blend ($12) is an Austrian blend of the grape gruner veltliner (groo-ner velt-leener) -- which many wine writers like to call "gru-ve" (groovy) -- along with welschriesling and sauvignon blanc. It smells of white flowers, sweet pears and poached apples, with a hint of sweet sage. It reminds me of sweet things, but is refreshingly fruity-dry, with a nice, vibrant, citrusy flavor, low alcohol content and bright, balancing acidity. I like it alone, but it would go great with an ahi carpaccio (that's poke to you and me). Or a light, white-fleshed fish with lemon-caper sauce would also do in a pinch.

Gramona Estate in the Penedes region of Spain, close to Barcelona, produces the 2002 Gramona "Gessami" Vina Bianco ($11). Spain is really hot right now, in both temperature and chic-ness. The blend in this wine is 70 percent muscat and 30 percent sauvignon blanc. The aroma alone is intoxicating (pun intended), with exuberant notes of pua kenikeni, lychee, some sweet grapey-ness and ripe apricots. It is quite buoyant, with fresh, fruity flavor and even a touch of spritz on the finish. I can drink a whole bottle in one sitting, it's so cleansing. Try this one with ceviche (another style of poke), sushi and even some light curry dishes.

The wine I'm most likely to be drinking on a blistering afternoon is 2003 Chateau Graville Lacoste ($14), from the Graves district in Bordeaux, France. It is made with semillon, sauvignon blanc and muscadelle, all traditional varietals in Bordeaux. It reminds me of freshly sliced melons, grapefruit, figs and pears. The light texture and pleasing, cleansing, acidity really put out the fire in my palate. It has so much forward fruit that you can drink it all afternoon and into the night, paired with great shellfish dishes such as steamed crab legs dipped in butter or a baked fillet of mahimahi with lemon-butter sauce. Oh boy, now I'm hungry.

I'm looking forward to summer and all the fun that goes with it. The lengthy sunlight hours really heat things up, but you can be sure that I'll have plenty of light summer white wines to stave off thirst and pair wonderfully with all the seafood platters anyone could conjure.

Roberto Viernes is wine educator with Southern Wine & Spirits.

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