30 June 2010

What to drink when it's hotter than it is in Africa

Everyone has their unique sayings to graphically describe the extreme heat we've had these past days in NYC. Mine is: "It's hotter than a whore on dollar day." I have a girlfriend who says it's "Africa hot." So one day recently, I decided to check the temperature in South Africa - yes, I know it's winter there - and found it to be 30 degrees cooler. In Africa!


Through this heatwave, I realized that I needed to apologize to a friend I dine with regularly. He kindly (& wisely, if I may say so) allows me to choose the wine. Without a thought I ordered bottle after bottle, day after day, of white wine. "I promise I'll let you drink red in the fall," was my rather lame excuse. He was much more gracious than I.


In reality, what I LOVE to drink doesn't change much with the seasons, I'm just more amenable to pairing properly when the weather isn't sizzling hot. In my mind, a great bottle of Champagne is the best choice at -8 or 108 degrees. And Riesling is ususally a close second.


But when the weather is cooling down - don't you love that first 50 degree night? - suddenly you want richer food and richer wine.


I've been thinking about this these past days, especially after a long Riesling tasting on a 96 degree day. Residual sugar really slows you down on a hot day. There's something about the heft of the sugar on the palate that is unwelcome, even in the most beautifully crafted wine.


"Refreshing! Mouthwatering!" Those are the descriptors for a hot, hateful day. So how to choose the right wine from the right place for your poolside/beach/hiding in the AC with the blinds down day? Think about how you like your lemonade. More tart than sweet? Mixed with iced tea? Think Sauvignon blanc. Look for wines from France - Sancerre, Touraine or anywhere else in the Loire Valley. The minerality will be prominent and the fruit subtle and tart. If you like your lemonade sweeter or mixed with mango & mint, look for Sauvignon blanc wines from New Zealand. They will be rich with tropical fruits, but still mouthwatering.

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