WASHINGTON — I originally thought about postponing this article until the weather warmed up just a bit more, foolishly thinking it would be at least August before the legendary D.C. summer sent the thermometer into the notorious “hot and humid” territory.
But given the recent streak of 90-degree heat, I think it’s definitely time to break out the chill busters.
It really hit home when my wife and I were celebrating the Fourth of July in a friend’s backyard. It was an afternoon affair and the temperature unmercifully hovered in the high 90s. I made several attempts to cool off by floating around in their pool, but was quickly becoming waterlogged and looked more like a raisin than a grape.
Then it hit me: Raisins are dried grapes; wine is made from grapes, I should have wine!
Exiting the pool, I made my way over to the patio to explore the contents of the ice chest. A grateful smile crossed my lips and a silent prayer of thanks was given for the assortment of wines that awaited my glass. From torrontés to sauvignon blanc, the wines were full of promise of bright fruit and crisp acidity, just waiting to refresh and soothe my parched palate, lowering my internal thermostat several degrees and making the hot afternoon a little more bearable.
The common theme to finding a summer sipper that can help cut the heat is acidity. Abundant acidity in wine provides a thirst-quenching quality that cleanses the palate and keeps the fruit — more accurately, the sugars provided by the fruit — in check.
Coincidentally, it is this very same quality that makes these wines cut the heat of spicy cuisines such as Indian, Thai and Chinese.
Most of these wines are grown in cooler regions were they can develop naturally high levels of acidity. That’s why many wines made from grapes grown in vineyards located at higher elevations or exposed to the cooling influences of ocean currents have plenty of tart, mouthwatering acidity to cleanse the palate and sooth the soul.
Here are a few of my favorite wines that can help you beat the heat and keep your cool this summer:
The ultimate thirst-quencher is a wine I have sung the praises of several times before on Wine of the Week. The Nonvintage Casa Bianchi New Age White Wine from Argentina was made for hot days. Pour a well-chilled portion over ice, then add a squeeze of lime for an incredibly refreshing aperitif. A blend of 90 percent torrontés and 10 percent sauvignon blanc, the citrusy-based wine provides a wonderful backbone for flavors of peach and nectarine to shine through. The slight fizz gives a revitalizing boost to the palate. $8
On hot summer days, I enjoy just a touch of sweetness in my white wine. The 2013 Charles Smith Kung Fu Girl Riesling from Washington state has a very pretty nose of orange blossoms and lychee that compliments the additional flavors of peaches and nectarines on the palate. The subtly sweet underpinnings are built on a slightly mineral-laden body, but there is more than enough acidity to keep it bright and light in the mouth on hot days. A great match for sushi. $11
One of my favorite summer sipper varietals is definitely albariño, the lovely white wine from Spain. The 2016 Martín Códax Albariño from Rias Baixas, Spain, is a delicate, well-integrated wine that features scents of honeysuckle, jasmine, nectarine and melon. Flavors of orange blossom and white peaches are buoyed by delicate mineral notes and soft acidity. Medium-bodied and highly versatile, this will pair beautifully with a wide range of seafood and poultry dishes. $12
If you’re looking to enjoy some shrimp — or other seafood — on the barbie, consider serving it with a chilled glass of 2016 Matanzas Creek Sauvignon Blanc from Sonoma Valley in California. It strikes the perfect balance between thirst quencher and grilled-food moving buddy. Aromas of grapefruit, pineapple and melon are buoyed by steely citrus on the nose. On the palate, tropical fruits — think guava, papaya and pineapple — dominate the front of the palate, but are kept light and bright, thanks to the refreshing acidity. Perfect with grilled shellfish or snapper. $19
Hint: If you know ahead of time what wine you’ll be serving outside, buy a few extra bottles and make ice cubes with it. You can add the “ice wine” cubes to your glass of wine to keep it extra cool without diluting it. Be sure to use plastic ice cube trays since metal might interact with the wine, giving it an unpleasant taste.