Get into the spirit of the summer season

Posted: Thursday, June 26, 2008

Some have fizz. Most have pizazz. And, of course, they all have a certain buzz attached to them, and not just the type that imbibing can provide (in moderation, of course). The weather might not yet be sizzling hot, but these summer beverages certainly are.

Cocktails

The use of seasonal or tropical fruits, veggies, herbs and even flowers such as borage remains the hottest trend in the cocktail world, particularly at this time of year.

It's also a stretch in which the clear, "clean" liquids - including sparkling wines and the increasingly popular South American offerings pisco and cachaca - grab a firm foothold among cocktail fanciers.

If anything embodies summertime, it's combining these two elements - clear and fresh - either in flavored vodkas (pomegranate, white grape) or cocktails such as caiprinhas, mojitos and cosmopolitans (likely to be enjoying a mini-surge with the recent release of the "Sex and the City" movie).

Beer

Truth be known, there's not much new in the world of brew. The worldwide shortage of hops hasn't yet prompted a huge trend toward other sources of the aromas and the bitterness that often give beer its oomph.

White wine

A wine drinker could spend the entire summer exploring emerging white wines that begin with "V."

Start in Italy, and not with Valpolicella. Instead, try vermentino, verdicchio and vernaccia from the San Gimignano area in Tuscany.

Portugal's vinho verde (not a varietal but a descriptor: "green wine"), low in alcohol and often infused with a slight fizz, continues to grow in popularity. Verdejos are joining albarinos as a favored option from Spain.

The Vouvray region in France's Loire Valley provides a wide array of wines made with the chenin blanc grape, from light and lively dry bottlings to swell sweet stuff. Also prominent in France is the floral, often spicy varietal viognier.

But don't limit yourself to vanquishing the V's. Many of us expect torrontes from Argentina to be this summer's breakout white wine.

Roses and pinots

Man does not live by beverage alone. So finding some potations that match up well with victuals is never a bad idea. A good place to start - and not a bad one to finish - is with roses.

Last summer (finally!), roses got past the blush stigma and gained major favor among consumers.

And why not? These wines are seriously food-friendly, not to mention versatile: A party featuring burgers made from beef, lamb, tuna and veggies is tailor-grilled for the pink stuff.

Almost as dinner-table-friendly as roses are pinots - and not just the "noirs." Oregon has started to kick some serious booty in the pinot gris world. And some wineries in California's Santa Maria Valley are making superb pinot blancs. These pinots and pinks have picnic written all over them.



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