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Ten Great Summer Wine Bargains

Fine Cooking Issue 80
Photos: Scott Phillips
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It’s summer, and that means the kids are out of school, vacations are on the calendar, and it’s time for picnics and leisurely al fresco dinners. Summer dining is all about uncomplicated, delicious meals that are easy to prepare, and the wines you enjoy with those meals should be equally unfussy.

My idea of a good summer wine is one that’s long on flavor but not heavy with oak or alcohol. Depending on what’s on the menu, I opt for lightto medium-bodied, crisp whites with vibrant fruit or supple, fruity reds with moderate tannins.

I also think summer wines should be good values. With that in mind, here are ten bottles that will please almost any palate and satisfy for under $15 . All are widely available.

Left to right: Rosemount Estate Teraminer Riesling, Hahn Estates Chardonnay, Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc “Private Bin”, Michele Chiarlo Moscato d’Asti Nivole, Little Penguin Shiraz, Echelon Pinot Noir.
Left to right: Bonny Doon Big House Red, Three Thieves Zinfandel, Segura Viudas “Aria” Estate Brut, Falesco Vitiano Rosé

   What it tastes like:  Why it’s a great summer wine:  What to pair it with:
Rosemount Estate Traminer Riesling, South East Australia Spicy peach and apricot flavors with a burst of lime zest on the finish The combination of peachy fruit and mouthwatering acidity in this Gewürztraminer-Riesling blend is simply irresistible— it’s like summer in a bottle. Crab cakes or cold salmon salad
Hahn Estates Chardonnay, Monterey County, California Pear and peach with notes of butter and spice Chardonnay is often overdone and overoaked, but not here. The ’04 Hahn offers a perfect harmony of fruit and oak, making it a desirable partner for a wide range of foods. Grilled chicken or fish with a tropical fruit salsa
Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc “Private Bin,” Marlborough, New Zealand Tart grapefruit and gooseberry flavors with pronounced herbal notes With citrus and herb flavors, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is a zesty summer white wine. Green bean salad with cherry tomatoes and herbs; pan-seared scallops with a citrus reduction
Michele Chiarlo Moscato d’Asti Nivole, Piedmont, Italy Just-picked white peaches and strawberries with a touch of honey It’s light, slightly sparkling, just off-dry, and very low in alcohol— in other words, it could be the perfect summer wine. Fresh fruit and fruit desserts, like strawberry crisp
Little Penguin Shiraz, South Eastern Australia Ripe blackberry, strawberry, and spice flavors with a touch of oak Penfolds, a maker of sophisticated wines, now makes a line of lighter, delicious, great-value wines. The Shiraz is easy drinking and perfect for cookouts. Anything from the grill: pizza, burgers, or smoky pork kebabs
Echelon Pinot Noir, Central Coast, California Luscious Bing cherry fruit with notes of smoke and spice Easy on the wallet and very versatile, this well-balanced Pinot Noir is delicious with most anything from the grill. Grilled ahi tuna, salmon, or chicken breasts; pasta salads
Bonny Doon Big House Red, California Bright, juicy raspberry fruit with rich tannins and notes of black pepper Juicy, youthful fruit, screw-cap packaging (easy access on picnics), and a low price make this lively wine a fantastic summer destination. Herb-marinated skirt steak or any grilled meat
Three Thieves Zinfandel, California Juicy strawberry and cola-spice flavors Many Zinfandels contain a whopping 15+% alcohol, too much for summer (or any time, in my book). The ’03 Three Thieves, with a reasonable 13.5%, is a delicious summer quaff and a bargain to boot. Pan-fried steaks or barbecued ribs
Segura Viudas “Aria” Estate Brut Cava, Spain Crisp apple and citrus fruit with zesty acidity This easy-drinking Spanish bubbly is the perfect way to start any summer meal. Oysters and other shellfish, or bruschetta with herbed tomatoes
Falesco Vitiano Rosé, Umbria, Italy Juicy strawberries and red cherries with a touch of herbs A chilled bottle of this dry rosé and a picnic basket were made for each other. Tuna and white bean salad


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