Article By: David Singer
HOPEFULLY by the time this article is published the sun will be shining and Jack Frost will have been put to bed for another year. Spring has finally sprung in New England and it's time for a little "spring drinking". Our clients' palates are changing once again from mostly heavy and full-bodied beers, wines and cocktails to ward off the winter's chill to lighter and more refreshing styles of drinks.
Too often wines featured in restaurants and retail stores are a little slow in keeping up with clients' tastes. This is not to say that Cabernet is dead during the months of May through August, but there is certainly a trend of the big wines' sales slowing down during this time. And for good reason, too. The warmth of great stick-to-your-ribs comfort food that lets you temporarily forget winter will make you feel like you're the stew in the crock pot in the middle of summer. The solution is to restock your list with more of the bright, crisp and the occasional aromatic wines.
One of the most well known of these is Sauvignon Blanc. Marked by its bright citrus, grassy and mineral notes, it is a versatile wine that can be used all year around. The bright fruit-forward styles from New Zealand and South Africa, and the crisp minerality of Sancerre and its neighbors are especially excellent for the warmer months. Add some oak-influenced styles from California to balance the richer favors with fish in the winter.
One of my most beloved lesser-known grapes is Gruner Veltliner, mainly planted in Austria. It can come in a few different styles. One is crisp with citrus, much like a Sancerre, usually topped off with a strong white pepper note. Another is a much rounder style that may or may not be aged in Acacia wood. Finally, the dessert styles are well worth noting as well. Similar to perhaps a Riesling in style, the white pepper quality is an excellent twist. The finest regions for Gruner in Austria are Wachau, Kamptal and Kremstal.
Another great white grape that must be mentioned is Riesling. Both unfortunately and fortunately many of our clients mistakenly believe that all Riesling is sweet. Unfortunately, because it means they miss out on some fantastic wines. Fortunately, because the law of supply and demand then results in one of the great wines of the world being available without its insane cost. Bordeaux 2OO5 anyone? But I digress. The wine world has many different exceptional offerings of some selective Riesling that is off- or bone-dry. From Austria, Australia, Canada, France, Luxembourg, and the US, the grape known for being one of the longest-lived, works with quite a large number of foods and clients.
It wouldn't be fair to write an article on summer offerings without talking about a red, or at least a reddish, wine. Bracing for laugher the next time I enter my gym, I will admit it: I really like Roses. Refreshing and fulfilling, top Roses are serious wine. Some of my favorites are made from saignees of the top wine of the estate. Quality, affordable and refreshing, what more do you want for summer drinking?
Beer is another area of the libation menu that should be looked at. Too often the beer list is the same if it is January or July. As much as I enjoy a good Stout, Guinness is not my first choice when looking for a cold one in August. Hefeweizen is my perfect beer for the summer. Crisp and complex, wheat beer was made for summer without tasting like you're making love in a canoe ("mating" close to water). What I'm about to say next might be blasphemy to some beer drinkers, but a good Shandy is just delicious. There are a few different interpretations; the most satisfying I've found is lager with ginger ale. Or, if your clients are feeling adventurous, use ginger beer instead.
Finally, the cocktail offerings should vary with the seasons. Take advantage of the seasonal fruits. There are a multitude of purees and fresh juices to make a myriad of cocktails for any palate. Turn your employees' creativity loose on the infinite possibilities. Who knows, it might be the next Cosmo. Enjoy the fruits of the season and remember, the only thing more fun than spring drinking is summer drinking. 'Tis the season of barbeques, picnics and patio dining - enough said.