Summer’s Almost Over… So Drink Up!

Though it may not feel like it here in the US, it’s almost time for the temperature to start dropping. Whether you’re enjoying a mild heat in New England, suffering through air quality warnings in the humid mid-Atlantic, or staying indoors to avoid the sweltering 110 degrees of the western deserts, all these hot times call for a crisp glass of white wine.

There are, of course, several styles to choose from, from the most aggressive, acidic thirst-quencher to the most pleasant, sugary summer sipper and many in between. If you’re planning to send summer out in style with a glass or two, I have a few recommendations that just might make the season seem less severe. Let’s go to the board:

Sauvignon Blanc: In case you haven’t been reading much of my blog, I can let you know that I swear by this grape. Especially those from New Zealand, the Sauvignon Blanc grape delivers a consistent experience whether it’s grown in France, California, or New Zealand: acidity with citrus flavors, as refreshing as a glass of ice cold lemonade. Very rarely a sweet wine, the Sauvignon Blanc is nevertheless a standard goto for inexperienced wine drinkers. Recommendations under $20: Barker’s Marque, Matua, Kim Crawford

Picpoul: Possessing an acidity and body similar to a Sauvignon Blanc, but with a lighter citrus (think lemon-lime) and more tropical flavor profile, the Picpoul is an underrepresented varietal wine here in the US. Typically from the Picpoul de Pinet region in Languedoc, France, this wine provides the same consistency as the Sauvignon Blanc. Also an aggressively dry wine, it’s still a very pleasant sipping wine. Recommendations under $20: Hugues de Beauvignac, Chateau Petit Roubie, Hugues Beaulieau La Petite Frog (3 liter box)

yellow and blue torrontes cartonTorrontes: Torrontes is a varietal wine that grows extraordinarily well on the western coast of South America. The combination of high altitude, long days, consistently mild seasons, and volcanic soil all create the conditions for a unique, fuller-bodied dry white wine to shine. Torrontes will have a floral and citrus profile, offering perfumey aromas that combine with a decent sweetness and acidity for a very soft, creamy experience. Novice drinkers will especially appreciate the straightforward flavors this wine offers. Torrontes is also a natural complement to most seafood dishes. Recommendations under $20: Gouguenheim, Yellow + Blue (1 Liter Tetrapak), Susana Balbo

Riesling: Riesling is a varietal wine that varies very greatly depending on its region and its winemaker. You can get syrupy sweet dessert wines, bone-dry, acidic tongue-tinglers, and everything in between with flavors across the fruit and floral spectrum. Depending on the terroir, you can also get a good dose of mineral or metal.  Recommendations under $20: Cono Sur, Dr. Loosen, Jacob’s Creek

What do you guys think? Any other recommendations for beating the summer heat? Need to know where to find some wines in your area? Leave a comment, and I’ll do my best to help!

The Best Boxed Wine You’ll Ever Buy (No, Seriously!)

The Back Story:

The first time I’d ever heard of Yellow + Blue Wines was at an organic wine tasting at Weaver Street Market in Hillsborough. I usually taste the wines first, then ask about the ones that intrigue me rather than learning about the wines’ varietals, regions, producers, etc. first. I like to think that somehow makes me impartial. Of course, not having encyclopedic knowledge of wine varietals and regions also makes me impartial through ignorance, but I digress. In this case, I was intrigued before I even put the plastic sipper full of wine to my lips because the stalwart bartender was pouring this wine from a carton.

yellow and blue torrontes carton

Yellow and Blue Torrontes Carton (from http://www.thedailygreen.com)

For all the talk about organic this and green that, most (I would estimate 98% of) wineries still ship their wine in bulky, heavy, decidedly non-environmentally-friendly glass bottles. Not only does creating these bottles use many more resources than necessary, but the added weight increases the fuel consumption required to ship the wine. Those extra few pounds per case add up on a cross-country or cross-ocean excursion for a container full of inefficient bottles. Some wineries are experimenting with lighter, thinner-walled glass, which is a fantastic and applaudable step in the right direction, but most wineries are too rooted in tradition to consider alternative packaging.

Come to think of it, all those boxed-wine companies might be on to something… hmm…

Regardless, the philosophy at Yellow + Blue is based entirely on good will. They truly respect the earth and, recognizing that embracing new, greener technology is actually cost-effective, are passing the benefits on to their consumers. Each carton of wine holds one full liter, one-third more than the standard wine bottle, and they still charge a very reasonable price for their wines ($12.99 for all the varietals at Weaver Street). They currently offer four wines: two from Argentina and one each from Chile and Spain. They keep the grapes for each varietal from a single vineyard, preserving the integrity of the wine while sampling as much of the world as possible. Their only allegiance is to the consumer and the environment.

I’m getting sidetracked again… back to the wine.

The Yellow + Blue Torrontes comes from the Cafayate valley in the Salta province of northern Argentina. The high elevation (around 5,500 feet) leads to a lack of humidity and precipitation and extreme day-to-night temperature swings, two oddly desirable climate traits that prevent mold or other parasites and preserve acidity. All this means adhering to organic practices is remarkably simple, resulting in one of the purest wines available on the market.

yellow and blue torrontes glass and carton

Yellow and Blue Torrontes in a glass (from http://www.astorwines.com)

The Results:

The appearance of the wine suggested a good wine character: the wine had a deep yellow hue, with a slight green tint, and the swirl suggested a very pleasant, creamy texture.

The nose of the wine was immediately floral, though not overwhelming, with a pleasant, not-too-heavy rose scent. Green apple also presented itself along with a honeyed bouquet that lended the wine a much sweeter nose than the taste would warrant.

The mouthfeel of the wine was magnificent, with a good, thick texture and a tart bite. The two words that best describe it are smooth and pleasant.

The flavor of the wine was rather dry, crisp and very suggestive of apple. Despite the dominance of this flavor, the taste was surprisingly complex: a hint of citrus, sort of a hybrid of lemon and lime, came forward, and there was a fantastic mineral finish, combining with the long apple and citrus to leave a few seconds of very sweet tonic water on the palate. As the wine warmed in my glass, it began to release a fantastic floral taste, coming forward even over the apple. This was a very multi-faceted wine. At 13%, the wine suggested not a single hint of alcohol flavor, even when it warmed.

I paired the Torrontes with creole flounder stuffed with crab, shrimp, and peppers, and the combination was immaculate. Even with the wine fully chilled right out of the bottle — er — carton, the fish brought out the floral characteristics and pushed the apple back to the finish, and the dryness and texture countered and cooled the spicyness perfectly. I was thoroughly impressed with the synergy.

An interesting note, as I sampled the wine, All in the Family came on TV. An apparently sweet-smelling wine disguising an aggressive and complex flavor was an interesting counter to Archie Bunker, an aggressive and complex character who hides his sweet side. At least, I thought so anyway.

For the Casual Drinker:

If you’re looking for an easy-drinking wine, this is definitely it. It goes down smooth with a fairly tame acidity, meaning you’re not risking heartburn. Despite how it smells, it’s not going to be a sweet wine, so be prepared. Expect a drier, fruity wine, but not too fruity. I would call it crisp and refreshing. If you’re going to serve it with a meal, try it with lighter meals and avoid pairing it with red meats or tomato-based soups and pastas. The compact carton makes storage simple, and you’re getting one-third more than a normal bottle of wine that fits less overall space.

Even if you’re not into the complexities of wine-tasting, I still think you would enjoy this wine.

The Conclusion:

Considering everything I liked about this wine, the absolute lack of complaints I had about it, the environmentally-friendly nature, and the bang for your buck, I’m tempted to give this wine my highest rating so far, and I will. The 2008 Yellow + Blue Torrontes Cafayate gets a 9/10.

One last note, you can follow Yellow + Blue wines on Twitter @ybwines. He’s one of the growing number of winemakers who actively engage their followers, and he’s a very friendly guy besides. You can also learn more about their wines at www.ybwines.com.

This post was written entirely to Jakon Dylan’s Seeing Things album. Good, chill blog-writing music.

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