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Summer Wine Case Sampler: The Essentials

by Karina Roe

There are certain necessities in life that most of us can agree on: Toilet paper. Toothpaste. Deodorant. Signature Chevre from the France 44 Cheese Shop. The depletion of any of these items can cause severe anxiety and a general unsettledness.

What follows is my personal “case of essentials” for the warm weather that has suddenly burst upon the scene. These wines are either A) always in my fridge or wine rack, or B) the first bottles that pop into my head when I need something quick for an impromptu summer get-together of any kind. They’re versatile, refreshing, and vibrant. They don’t necessarily need food, and they get me excited every time I think about opening one of them. Look out for more summer essential bottles—especially to accommodate grilling needs—in the coming weeks.

Avinyo Petillant Moscato Seco 2017

Avinyo Petillant – $15.99

Don’t be afraid of the word Moscato. Don’t be afraid of the word Moscato. Don’t. Be. Afraid. What you should notice is the word ‘seco’ on the bottle—that means dry! Moscato/Muscat is one of the world’s most aromatically pleasing white wines—one of my top factors in choosing good warm-weather white wines. If it’s pleasant on the nose and reminds me of the smells of summer, I’m in. Better yet, this wine has a touch of spritz to it, further enhancing the light, zesty, summery qualities I love in this wine.

Pullus Halozan – $12.99

What’s not to love about a liter bottle of fun? The Halozan white blend hails from Slovenia, and is a kitchen sink blend of a ton of different white grapes. Youthful, fruit-driven and with just the right amount of ripe-fruited sweetness, this liter will go down faster than you think.

4 Monos Tinto 2016

4 Monos Tinto – $21.99

When I’m choosing summer reds, I want them to be light—but not thin. I find myself craving the flavors and complexities of something like 4 Monos Tinto from Spain, because I love the drinkability of it but also appreciate the many layers of aromas and tastes. This is a lighter-bodied Garnacha than what we usually expect from Spain, but I admire the versatility this bottle has. The nose is perfumed, the palate gives off notes of granite and stony soils, and the finish is ridiculously long and complex. Great with food, great by itself if you’re up for a cerebral journey.

Red Car Rose of Pinot Noir – $23.99

At a certain point, our many offerings of rose from around the world sometimes blend together. But every once in a while you come across a spectacular bottle that seems to come out of nowhere because of its balance and liveliness. This particular vintage of Red Car Rose is just such a wine. Grown on California’s cool, rugged Sonoma Coast, Red Car crafts their rose with the utmost precision while at the same time letting the wine sing of where it comes from. Barely-ripe strawberry, crunchy white raspberry, and a cleansing hint of lemon juice. Perfect for one-upping your rose-freak friends.

Borgogno Freisa – $28.99

I first came across this wine during a recent trip to Chicago. Freisa is one of “the other red grapes” of Italy’s Piedmont region, and if you haven’t heard of it, you’re in good company. This particular version is especially fresh-fruited and has a pretty, lifted floral note that gives the wine verve and finesse. Put a tiny chill on it and watch the wine disappear before your eyes.

Perraud Cognettes Muscadet 2015

Perraud Cognettes Muscadet Sevre et Maine – $11.99

If you made me choose one white wine to drink for the entire summer, it would be this one. Hands down, no questions asked. And before you even think about confusing it for the first wine on this list (Moscato), be aware that Muscadet Sevre et Maine is a place in France’s Loire Valley—not a grape name. The grape used here is called Melon de Bourgogne, and is not sweet at all. The Cognettes Muscadet serves as a perfect example to the style: stainless steel fermented, aged on its lees for a short period of time to add just a touch of texture, and minerally-crisp with a tinge of salinity on the finish. Good with oysters and anything seafood-y… and perfect with 80 degrees and no clouds.

Felines Jourdan Picpoul 2016

Felines Jourdan Picpoul – $12.99

And if you were kind and let me pick just one more summer white wine to drink besides the Cognettes Muscadet, it would absolutely be Felines Jourdan Picpoul. These are the two whites that my ketchup bottles and Oberon beer bottles become very good friends with over the summer in the fridge—they’re just always in there. Picpoul is an ancient variety from the south of France, and gives me an amalgam of aromas including stone fruits, orchard fruits, lime tree, aniseed, and a crisp-clean mineral element. It’s interesting yet flexible, and is happy to do whatever job you need it to do.

L’Agnostique Cinsault Rose – $11.99

There’s really no need to wax poetic about this wine. It’s so delicious that you barely realize that it is indeed still wine—so be careful that you don’t run out of your first bottle too quickly. Buy it by the case—this is what summer lovin’ feels like.

Alois Caulino 2017

Michele Alois ‘Caulino’ Falanghina – $15.99

It’s back! We’d waited so long for the new vintage of the Alois Caulino that we almost forgot what it tasted like… and then were pleasantly reminded of how good Falanghina (fall-en-GEE-nuh) can be in the hands of a fantastic producer like Alois. This little-known indigenous white variety from Campania in southern Italy is fresh, clean and with a slightly rounded character. There’s tropical fruit, citrus fruit, and a curiously “exotic” sensibility that creates quite a bit of intrigue while still maintaining its too-easy drinkability.

Niepoort ‘Docil’ Loureiro – $17.99

If all you know of Vinho Verde as being Gazela (read: low alcohol, spritzy, fruity, fun, but pretty surface-level), you’re missing out on a slew of delicious and serious wines that hail from the same region. While the spritzy Vinho Verdes are fun and easy-drinking, that spritz (in the form of an added dose of CO2 before bottling) usually only shows up when the wine is headed to the United States and other export countries. The real Vinho Verde (will it please stand up?) is salty, mysteriously savory, layered with citrus and orchard fruits… and not spritzy. Try this Docil with grilled shrimp doused with fresh-squeezed lemon juice.

Santa Tresa Frappato – $12.99

“We’re having seafood, but my friends only drink red wine.” After my big sigh of longing to put Muscadet or Loureiro in your basket (what if you just put red food coloring in it?), I’ll lead you to this no-fail Frappato from Sicily. The great thing about this easy-going red wine is that the tannins are so soft, it won’t fight against any kind of seafood dish (tannins are a seafood killer). Put a decent chill on it and enjoy the “made with organic grapes” designation (and cute little rabbit drawing) on the label. Straightforward, consistent, and ultra-delicious. This is every Pinot Noir lover’s new Italian favorite!

Perles Fines Cab Franc Brut NV

Perles Fines Cabernet Franc Brut – $19.99

I am a very easy-going person. I am capable of giving a lot of grace to people, and I keep an extremely open mind. But one thing I cannot comprehend is why some people don’t like bubbles. My brain can’t compute this. Do you like La Croix? Beer? Coke? Pop Rocks? How can you not like sparkling wine?! Some will say that they can’t taste the flavor of the wine because of the carbonation, and I think that has about 40% validity. Truth be told, some sparkling wines are rather limpid and bland—perhaps because they weren’t made with very good quality grapes in the first place. This particular sparkler, however, defies that argument. The spicy, zingy character of Cabernet Franc comes through in this surprising wine. Flashes of rooibos tea, blood orange, and watermelon mingle together perfectly in this fist-pumping bottle of pink bubbles.