Sweet and Sour

‘E’ Wine of the Week

By Bruce Cochran

Hello Everyone,

Most of us eat and drink different things during the hot summer months than we do during the winter. This week we’ll explore ideas for pairing summertime wines with lighter dishes …

Try a new wine this week!


These days, lighter summertime menus can really challenge our wine pairings. With ingredients from around the world, we can mix flavors and textures like never before. Fruits like pineapple can find their way onto the plate from grilled on their own to being combined in a fruit salsa, where it may be joined by a seemingly never ending array of peppers. What kind of wine has a chance with this?

Beginning, as always, with the idea of drinking what you enjoy, there are some guidelines available to give us a starting point. And, you never know, you may find a new favorite wine that you pour with certain dishes.

Here are a few quick ideas from other wine lovers who are always searching for great food and wine combinations, beginning with white wines.

First, a white wine might be sweet or it might be dry, and that makes a real difference with what kind of flavors it best accompanies. For most dishes, dry tends to work better, but for spicy dishes a slightly sweet wine can be a much better match.

Second, some wines are really tart, while others are much softer. A good general rule of thumb is to pair opposites together. If a dish is tart, like when you squirt lemon juice onto your fish, that tartness can clash with a tart wine. Since a crisp, tart white wine can be very refreshing on a warm summer evening, so you might hold off on the lemon — or at least try the pairing with and without the lemon to see how you prefer it.

But what do you do with, say, grilled fish served with a fruit salsa, something that combines sweet, tart and pepper? What I keep in mind is the idea that even a dry wine can impress the palate as being ripe, and almost sweet, if the grapes were really fully ripened. I think about places like California’s Santa Barbara County, especially the Santa Maria Valley. With its extended fall ripening period, the flavors of these wines can almost mirror the tropical fruit flavors of many fruit salsas, as can the rich texture they often develop. A bit of oak can help the match, as it, too, can add an impression of sweetness to the wine.

Some of us continue to drink red wines during the summer, though many of us switch to a different style of red. Red wines that are fruit-centered, with less emphasis on oak and tannin, can taste good served at a cooler temperature than we’d serve reds during colder months. That can be appreciated a lot when you’re grilling outdoors in hot weather.

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