The torrid summer of 2011 continues to induce amnesia about Snowmageddon. Many buildings have responded to the heat by cranking the air conditioning, turning themselves into virtual meat lockers. This leads to intense extremes: Once inside for more than three hours, many once-sweaty office workers might be tempted to brand themselves with a blue USDA stamp of approval.
While the sun roasts outside and a menacing meat hook looms indoors, there’s always a more reasonable way to find a cool, happy medium: Have a refreshing glass of white wine, or three. Sipping it alfresco is ideal, as long as this delightful interlude is made in the shade.
Chicago-area restaurateurs, sommeliers and merchants are finding the Deep-South-style summer to be a blessing for the sales of crisp, minerally white wines. Buttery Chards and pallid, one-dimensional guises of Pinot Grigio don’t count, though. This is somewhat gratifying, as Value Wine Chicago is known for a sneering, adversarial approach to the dominant wine culture. Despite any twisted glee in being the oenophilic gadfly, it’s also nice to perform the quasi-noble service of revealing high-quality value wines.
And now, the sultry weather has joined forces with a still-sputtering economy and Millennials saying, “I’ll try THAT,” in vaulting value-priced, interesting whites to the fore. Below are some steamy-day suggestions from local purveyors on the front lines:
Michael Taylor, Wine Director, Italian Village: “A real star has to be the Silvio Jermann ‘Vinnae,’ Ribolla Gialla, Fruili-Venezia Giulia, IGT. The Ribolla Gialla grape produces wine that’s absolutely stunning. Aromas are of freshly cut white flowers and stone fruit. The straw colored wine reveals a very dry, mineral driven palate, with tangy acidity that pairs perfectly with seafood. But it’s great for just enjoying as a laid-back summer vino!”
Alain Njike, Chef/General Manager, Park 52: “San Giuliano Moscato d’Asti and St. Urbans-Hof Riesling are the top sellers during this hot Chicago summer. The tropical fruit flavor and crisp texture make these the perfect complement to the sultry weather. Our patrons constantly describe these as ‘sexy’ wines.”
Doug Dunlay – Co-Owner, Dunlays on Clark, Frasca Pizzeria: “One of my favorite white wines of the summer would have to be Raventos i Blanc, Perfum de Vi Blanc, from the Penedés region of Spain. It is an equal blend of Muscat and Macabeo. It is a marriage of the beautifully floral and intensely aromatic Muscat, and the often temperamental, indigenous Macabeo, which displays bright, crisp acidity and vivacious salty minerality. It is a perfect white wine for the summer, paired with food or standing alone.”