As summer continues to sizzle, making people wonder how blizzards and ice storms could ever happen here in Chicago. Office buildings respond to the heat by cranking the air conditioning, turning themselves into virtual meat lockers. This leads to intense extremes: Once inside for more than three hours, once-sweaty office workers might be tempted to brand themselves with a blue USDA stamp of meat-locker approval.
While the sun roasts outside and the figurative specter of a menacing meat hook looms indoors, there’s always a more reasonable way to find a cool, happy medium: Have a refreshing glass of white wine or three. Sipping it alfresco is ideal, as long as this delightful interlude is made in the shade.
Chicago area restaurateurs, sommeliers and merchants are finding the Gulf-Coast/Is-This-Biloxi-style summer weather to be a blessing for the sales of crisp, minerally white wines. Creamy Chards and pallid, one-dimensional guises of Pinot Grigio don’t count, though. This is somewhat gratifying, as Chicago Budget Wine Examiner is known for a somewhat adversarial approach to the dominant wine culture. Despite any twisted glee in being the oenophilic gadfly, it’s also nice to perform the quasi-noble service of revealing high quality value wines.
And now, the weather’s resemblance to hot soup has joined forces with the middling economy and Millennials saying in disjointed unison, “I’ll try THAT.” This has marshaled a formidable march toward vaulting value-priced, interesting white wines to fore. Below are some steamy-day, value-priced suggestions from local purveyors on the front lines:
Michael Taylor – Wine Director, Del Frisco’s Steakhouse: “When the heat is on, I do as the Romans do: drink Frascati! Tenuta di Pietra Porzia, ‘Regillo,’ Frascati, Superiore, Secco, DOC to be exact. This well-balanced blend of Trebbiano, Greco and Malvasia from Rome is perfect for lounging by the pool and beating the heat. With notes of juicy white peach, crisp minerality and a bouquet of fresh white flower, put a nice chill on this vino and let it work its warm weather magic.”
Mike Weiler – Wine Director, North Pond: “I’m not sure if I have some sort of iron deficiency, but I’m drawn to white wines with intense minerality like a moth to a flame. A great example of a wine like this the Domaine Girard Sancerre ‘La Garenne.’ Chalky minerality on the nose; on the palate, there is a surprisingly weighty texture, which is quickly reigned in by sharp acidity. Citrus and hints of tropical fruit lead back to the stony minerality, which drew my initial interest.”
Doug Dunlay – Co-Owner, Dunlay’s on Clark, Frasca Pizzeria: “One of my favorite white wines of the summer is the Raventos i Blanc, Perfum de Vi Blanc, from the Penedès region of Spain. It is an equal blend of Muscat and Macabeo, which displays bright, crisp acidity and vivacious salty minerality. It is a perfect white wine for summer, paired with food or as a standalone delight.