In the Wine Versus Beer Debate, Wine Has the Summertime Edge
This article originally appeared, in part, in the August, 2018 issue of Bellingham Alive Magazine
How about this for a review of a refreshing, summertime beverage?
“The color is gold and gives off a medium lemon aroma. Mild tartness keeps (it) interesting…with a clean finish. Floral flavors with earthy undertones are present from front to back. As (it) warms a little, honey can be detected.”
Sounds delicious, doesn’t it? Except this description – surprise! — isn’t about a wine. It’s about a beer.
BEER MEETS WINE
For centuries wine drinkers have been chastised for snobby references to a wine’s flavor, aroma, finish, body-style, and the like, along with the endless conversations surrounding it. Beer drinkers, on the other hand, seemed content to kick back and watch the world go by with a six-pack, brewed with little more than beechwood aging or Rocky Mountain spring water.
My, how the times have changed.
Step inside any local brewpub today and you’re likely to hear conversations about hops, yeasts, and IPAs, backed by a beer-centric menu with statistics about ABV, IBUs and flowery descriptions. It’s enough to leave any wine drinker feeling a little smug.
Beers, once criticized for being somewhat homogeneous, still have a way to go before catching up to wines in terms of variety, versatility, and food-pairing ability. Think about the possibilities with wines; white, red, rosé, their spectrum of flavors, acidity levels, sweetness versus dryness content, and so on. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Which brings us back to summertime beverage possibilities. Yes, a cold beer goes well with a burger off the grill or a hot dog at the ballpark. For many, however, wines still have the edge in pairing with a broader range of food choices for other summer-related events including picnics, backyard barbeques, or outdoor dining on the deck or patio.
But why argue? There’s no reason these two old foes can’t co-exist during the summer months. Both wine – and beer – is now available in an amazing array of flavor profiles to fit the season.
Here are a few wine recommendations to consider this summer:
WHITE, BRIGHT, AND FLAVORFUL
Pinot Gris is a perfect “starter” wine on a warm summer day. Take a chilled bottle along with you on a picnic with some fresh fruit, mild cheeses, a baguette, and a light salad or two and you’re set.
The Chehalem Wines 2016 Three Vineyard Pinot Gris (about $20) from Oregon’s Willamette Valley makes a great choice for a picnic or patio wine. It’s packed with honeydew melon, peach, and nectarine aromas and flavors along with a refreshing splash of citrus fruit, lively acidity, and a whisper of sweetness on the finish.
Grüner Veltliner is one of the current “darlings” of the Washington wine scene…and with good reason. It’s a flavorful, high-acid white wine that seems to have found a home, especially within the Columbia Gorge growing region.
The Savage Grace Wines 2016 Grüner Veltliner (about $23) from Woodinville winemaker Michael Savage is brimming with Granny Smith apple and green melon flavors along with underlying notes of sugar snap peas and slate-like minerality. There’s a weighty, near full-bodied character to this wine that’s balanced by a crisp finish and a mouthwatering kiss of lime citrus. Try it with any seafood, and especially with fresh oysters; served either raw on the half-shell or right off the grill.
And who says Chardonnay has to be a stodgy, pedestrian, overoaked white wine? The Stoller Family Estate 2017 Dundee Hills Chardonnay (about $25) from Dayton, Oregon forgoes the oak aging in favor of stainless steel, resulting in a wine with lovely lemon verbena aromatics, vibrant pear and lemon-citrus flavors, and a brighter, leaner finish. It makes an excellent food-pairing partner with grilled chicken or salmon with beurre blanc (as does the winery’s 2017 Pinot Noir Rosé for about $25 with its tangy red cherry and strawberry fruit flavors and laser-sharp finish).
BIGGER AND BOLDER RED CHOICES
Bellingham winemaker Margarita Vartanyan has really stepped up her game as of late, and her recently released Vartanyan Estate Winery 2015 Tempranillo (about $26) is a great example. This medium-bodied wine’s red berry fruits are capped with nuances of spicy clove, leather, sweet cedar, and vanilla bean. It practically begs to be paired with anything beef; but barbequed pork chops, ribs, brats, or even a pulled-pork sandwich should work just as well with this tasty red wine.
Husband and wife Kyle and Cassie Welch are doing an amazing job with their relatively new winery in Richland, and their Longship Cellars 2015 Star Ship Red Blend (about $28) is nothing short of amazing. 61 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 18 percent Syrah, 15 percent Merlot, and a smattering of Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec, comprise a wine that’s full of complexity and flavor. Fresh roasted coffee aromatics, dark, inky cassis on the palate, and slightly chewy tannins with a touch of bittersweet chocolate on the finish make this wine a natural to pair with a big, juicy steak.
Finally, consider serving the Château Rollan de By 2014 Médoc Cru Bourgeois (about $30) at your next outdoor barbeque. This powerful but elegant Bordeaux blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot displays blackberry, black currant, and ultra-dark plum flavors with toasted oak accents on a soft, lengthy finish. Serve it with variety of burgers and toppings including ground lamb or beef with bacon, grilled onions, and medium- to well-aged cheeses.
Summer is a great time for a cold beer or a glass of wine. Or both! The key: simply provide plenty of beer and wine options at your next big event or impromptu get-together. That should keep everyone happy, no matter the season.