The best thing about summer – go! No doubt some of you are saying “vacations” or “barbeques” or “sunny weather.” I’ll bet, though, a good chunk of readers would agree with my favorite thing about summer which would be the amazing summer produce! Peaches, berries, zucchini, watermelons and heirloom tomatoes are the epitome of summer to me. Unfortunately, my garden tanked this year, thanks to not enough sun and a wretched family of deer who feasted on my tomato plants. The good thing is all these yummy ingredients are at farmer’s markets and in CSA boxes all over the country. They are even in supermarkets and any respectable restaurant, so it’s very easy to get your hands on them right now. Like any fruit or vegetable in season, it really doesn’t take much to improve upon the flavor of a sun-ripened ear of corn or a just-picked raspberry.
For this same reason, choosing a wine to pair with summer’s bounty can sometimes be difficult. I’ve gathered a list of my favorite summer ingredients and the wines that I’ve enjoyed most with each of them. These are just suggestions; most of the time I like to prepare my summer fruits and veggies pretty simply, and the wine pairings reflect that. Of course, your ingredients may call for different wine. For example, I like to grill my eggplant, but if you’re whipping up something like Eggplant Parmigiana, you might want to choose a red that will stand up to those bold flavors. All in all, it’s all about experimenting and (as always) drinking what you like!
Eggplant with Malbec
Whether grilled or deep fried, ripe eggplant surprisingly pairs up beautifully with a bold red like 2009 Malbec. Eggplant is creamy on the inside, but the skin has some bitterness and even tannic qualities which make it suitable for a bolder wine.
Corn with Torrontes
There is nothing like a grilled ear of corn, sweet in flavor with a few nutty charred kernels. When you dress it up with a pad of butter, you know it’s summertime. This is when I reach for 2012 Torrontes. It is fruit-forward, yet medium to full bodied so it stands up well to the butter. If I replace the butter with a garlic aioli, I’ll swap the Torrontes for Fiorella.
Figs with Mistela
Sweet and soft, figs are delectable little drops of goodness. During their too-short season, I usually just eat them whole or split and stuff them with a little goat cheese and drizzle with honey. Either way, Mistela is the way to go.
Peaches and Nectarines with Moscato
These stone fruits are good in so many things: in salsas, grilled and served with ice cream, braised with pork. But, honestly, I usually end up eating them over the sink with their sweet juice dripping down my arm. If you like to enjoy peaches and nectarines like this – or at least sliced up and eaten as dessert – you won’t regret having a glass of 2012 Moscato on the side.
Zucchini with Tempranillo
This was a tough one for me to figure out. Raw zucchini is not really my thing and even sautéing it with olive oil, salt and pepper was a little boring. So, I added some caramelized onions and parmesan cheese and – voila – it became one of my go-to side dishes. I like a lighter red like 2010Tempranillo with this. I think the sweet onions and nutty parmesan help make it stand up to a red wine.
Tomatoes with Fiorella
Ripe tomatoes don’t need much help, in my opinion. There are so many colorful varieties to enjoy this time of year that just slicing them up and sprinkling a little sea salt over them is presentation enough. They are high in acid, so when eating them raw (which is how they taste best), it’s hard to pick a wine without adversely affecting the flavor. I’ve found that 2011 Fiorella doesn’t disappoint. This dry rose wine has the lightness of a white wine with the fruit characteristics of a red, i.e. the best of both worlds!
What about you? Do you also love summer’s endless bounty of produce? Which is your favorite and what wine do you like to enjoy with it?