Honing Your Wine Chops with Summer Fruits
For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s summer! And while I envy anyone who’s close to the beach (any beach) I’m too busy having fun in the local natural grocery stores and Farmers Markets as the best summer fruits are in season. So I really can’t envy them seriously. That’s because it’s time to ready the palate for wine!
While we know what wines pair with whatever food, we sometimes forget that many of the descriptions we give to wine are often fruit/veggie/natural-item sourced. Notes of apricot, peaches, nectarines, blueberries, plums, watermelon, strawberries, and more are often used when we’re doing blind tastings. Or even non-blind tastings. We will go non-fruit with more rustic, earthy, masculine wines. Spice box, leather, tobacco, horse sweat (yeah, I know), forest floor, etc., are just some of the descriptions for those wines.
As I said in the first paragraph, it’s summer! Time to hone those wine chops with the seasonal fruits that are available. This time of year I’m drinking Rosé, Viognier, Grenache Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Rousanne, Chardonnay, Rieslings (primarily Kabinett), and Pinot Gris/Grigio. While I’ll have the occasional Pinot Noir or Merlot, most of my red wines are resting quietly, waiting for cooler weather. With that being said, even their descriptions – particularly if they’re New World – are fruit-based.
Plums are in season, so I purchase several varieties at a time and snack on them, not just for the low-calorie nutrition, but also because “plum” is a key flavor profile in Merlot. I’m discovering that notes of apricots, nectarines, and peaches exist in other wines other than just Riesling and Gewürtztraminer. I’ve also discovered that dried pink grapefruit peel (recipe experiment) has the fragrance of “cat pee” which I find so appealing (no pun intended) in Sauv Blanc. And the characteristics of cherries, strawberries, watermelon, and summer fruit are spot on for Rosé descriptions.
I often visit Gilcrease Orchard, which is a non-profit, volunteer-run organic farm located in the far NW area of Las Vegas. They have Armenian cucumbers this time of year, and I will snack on them with no salt or dressing. Am I the only one to notice that there are notes of cucumber in Pinot Gris? A sip of Spätlese will bring the flavor of a just-picked pear to your eagerly-awaiting tastebuds. The pears at Gilcrease are tiny, but they are tiny flavor bombs. And they have notes of Spätlese in their flavor profile.
Berries are in full glory. For instance, I have a huge container of blueberries that I’m going to be using not only for juicing and smoothies, but also for just eating and savoring each nuance of flavor. But then again, that’s what I’m doing with every fruit I can get my hands on. When they’re at their peak is the best time to eat, savor, inhale, and enjoy every bite so that later on, when they’re no longer around, you still have the fresh memory of the great fruits of summer. This is especially important in the winter when your memory is all you have to depend on when you’re tasting and evaluating wines.
Refresh your memory. Eat fresh fruit. Drink good wine. What can be better than that?