By: Emily Johnston, Advanced Sommelier, Les Marchands Wine Bar & Merchant, Santa Barbara, California
Summer is upon us, and as people head to beaches, parks, and porches, wine comes with them. With the warmer weather, we trend towards lighter, more refreshing wines and often, more casual wines. The crew behind the wines at Les Marchands Wine Bar & Merchant in Santa Barbara has some suggestions for summer wines that are both pleasurable and captivating.
Ned Creed is the Director of Online Wine Sales and the Wine Club for Les Marchands. When asked what wine he turns to in the summer, he is quick to answer – “The first cork I would pull is from a bottle from Corsica, Marquiliani Vin de Corse Rosé 2016. The importer beats any description on what to expect from a glass of Marquiliani. Drinking her rosé is like drinking a cloud. There’s an absolute weightlessness to it. Zero gravity rosé!? Now that is the nexus of the universe. The domaine is located on the east coast of Corsica. The nearest town is called Aghione. 239 people live there. That includes Anne Amalric, whose father Daniel started farming the land in the 1950s. The Vin de Corse Rosé is 90% Sciaccarellu and 10% Syrah from vines planted in 1964. The maritime influences and aromatic maquis shrubs surrounding the property impact the nose on this rosé like no other.”
Jeremy Bohrer, Les Marchands’ Retail Wine Manager, recommends light red sparkling wines. “When it’s warm out, and you don’t want anything too heavy or high in alcohol, go for a lighter sparkling red like Lambrusco, Brachetto or Bugey-Cerdon which are lower in alcohol and super refreshing. Patrick Bottex Bugey-Cerdon is a blend of 80% gamay, 20% poulsard made using the méthode ancestrale technique where the wine first goes through a primary fermentation in tank, then a secondary fermentation in the bottle for at least two months. Delightfully fresh, and at only 8% ABV, it is the perfect summer aperitif.”
For me, as Les Marchands’ General Manager and Sommelier, the summer is one of my favorite times to drink dry sparkling whites. My choice is a sparkling chenin blanc from the Loire Valley. Domaine Huet Vouvray Pétillant 2012 is a stand-out with its refreshing apple blossom and pear notes. The pétillant style of sparkling wine has a softer perlage than Champagne, making it especially quaffable in warm weather. Domaine Huet is working with some of the most prestigious vineyards planted to chenin blanc in the Loire Valley. The grapes come from their three estate vineyards: Haut-Lieu, Le Mont, and Clos du Bourg. And Domaine Huet is one of the earliest adopters of biodynamic farming and winemaking.
What do we drink when the occasion calls for something a bit more formal?
Ned: the most remarkable wine that has graced my stemware recently was the 00 Wines Pinot Noir ‘VGR’ 2014 from Willamette Valley. Lea Lafon is making these wines. Her father is Dominque Lafon, the prominent Burgundian vigneron with a family lineage in winemaking that is almost fictional, to the point where streets in villages are named for his ancestors. Lea has been in and around numerous vintages, learning from masters, and tasting more excellent wines than all of us combined. 00 has contracts in premier Willamette Valley vineyards like ‘Hyland,’ ‘Stardance,’ and ‘Shea.’ No mechanical bottling lines. Lush and fragrant are the two words they used to describe this vintage. As your parting gift, 00 also makes righteous chardonnay. Mercy.
Jeremy: During the summer, white takes center stage for me, but there are times when I want a red. I head to the lighter reds, and my current favorite is Beaujolais. 2015 is a superb vintage for Beaujolais. The weather was just right, and the wines it produced are plump, complex and some of the best values in wine right now. We were fortunate this year to get access to micro-producer, Domaine Lafarge-Vial. Lafarge-Vial is a new Beaujolais project from superstar Burgundy producer Domaine Lafarge. The 2015 Lafarge-Vial Fleurie "Clos Vernay” is a stunner. Beautifully elegant, with a nose of spice, red fruits, and a palate of earth and minerals, it’s followed by some firm but fair tannins.
Emily: For serious summer wines, I head to Campania, Italy where you can taste the Mediterranean in your glass. In this region, you can find some interesting, age-worthy white and red wines from Fiano di Avellino, Greco di Tufo on the white side and from Aglianico on the red side. While only recently resurrected, these grapes ha
ve a history that could date back to the ancient Roman and even Greek period. They grow on mountainous terrain and volcanic soils, offering exotic aromatics and fresh acidity. Despite the history of this area, many of the current producers are relatively new. One favorite producer of Fiano di Avellino and Greco di Tufo is Ciro Picariello. While his Fiano di Avellino can age at least 10 years, he only started growing Greco di Tufo in recent years. Contrade di Taurasi makes a great Taurasi DOCG from the Aglianico grape. The dusty tannins and volcanic soil make for a perfect pairing to juicy, barbecued meats.