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World of Wine: Cool wines refresh in the dog days of summer

Summer's heat usually hits hardest around this time through the middle or latter part of August. Most of us have taken advantage of the warm weather with backyard grilling and refreshing beverages of choice.

Ron Smith
Ron Smith

Summer's heat usually hits hardest around this time through the middle or latter part of August. Most of us have taken advantage of the warm weather with backyard grilling and refreshing beverages of choice. Mine, of course, would be a properly cooled wine.

With some of the gardening vegetables bearing their long-awaited fruits like tomatoes, peppers and fresh sweet corn, along with grills cooking up burgers, brats, ribs or steak, the question of which wine to select might be challenging.

For me, the choice is simple; if there is an opened wine you like, along with a selection of favorite veggies and meat, then that open bottle will fit the bill. No surprise that my first choice is a well-chilled riesling from Germany, Washington or Alsace.

Don't make the mistake that only white wines will do the trick for mid-summer grilling season for drinking. This is where blended wines like Ménage a Trois go well with anything off the grill or out of the garden. In fact, they simply go well on their own.

Ménage a Trois red brings together three very strong and distinct tasting wines: zinfandel, merlot and cabernet sauvignon. These wines are fermented separately, then blended together just prior to bottling. Blends must be a vintner's favorite way of producing wine, as the proportions of each variety can be adjusted to please the public's taste.

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Still favor the white wines for midsummer enjoyment? There is a blend-again another Ménage a Trois-that uses three white grapes: chardonnay, muscat and chenin blanc. Each variety is individually harvested, gently crushed and cold fermented in small stainless steel tanks to preserve freshness and retain its characteristic juicy fruit aromas and flavors. Combine the richness of chardonnay, the "wild and exotic" character of muscat and the softness of chenin blanc, chilled to about the mid- to upper 40s in the refrigerator, and you've got a refreshing treat that is hard to beat.

For some people, myself included, there is nothing like a bubbly wine chilled just right. Coming out of the refrigerator, the temperature might be an ideal 45 degrees, but summertime heat can elevate that quickly, putting it beyond the ideal tasting temperature. Usually that is not a problem, as everyone consumes the bubbly wine before any temperature anomaly can occur.

To retain that perfect temperature, use a bucket of ice and water - two parts ice to one part water - in sufficient volume to have the desired chilling effect on the wine without causing an overflow when the bottle is placed in the bucket.

To pour again, a towel needs to be wrapped around the bottle to prevent dripping ice water on the guests. Ice bucket tends to be in the way, and it stands the chance of being kicked over in a backyard barbecue setting.

So consider a wine chiller - available at most spirit shops - to keep the wine chilled long enough during service. It can be a ceramic or stone cylinder, or something called a "corkcicle" where the pre-chilled wine is opened, a sample is poured out to prevent overflow, and the corkcicle is inserted into the bottle to keep it cool from the inside.

Ron Smith, a retired NDSU Extension horticulturist, writes weekly about his love of wine and its history. Readers can reach him at tuftruck1@gmail.com .

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