Plans for a garden party or simply lounging by the pool, Will Costello offers his thoughts on the subject with a definitely chill attitude—as in, keep it cold!
“Guest ask me all the time about serving temperatures of wines in the summer, and I always quote a rule of thumb: 20 in, 20 out. For a red wine, that means 20 minutes in the fridge; or if you like it a bit cooler, especially in very hot weather, 20 minutes in the freezer. Don’t worry if you don’t like cold: if it’s 115 degrees outside, like it is here, it will warm up in a few minutes. Same for your whites. Take it from the fridge, wait 20 minutes, and your wine should be perfect. Only Riesling and Vinho Verde from Portugal are the exceptions. In those cases, go get your salt and your ice cubes—even dry ice—to make it as cold as possible. That wine can never be cold enough! Even if it has ice cubes in it from being kept in the freezer too long, it’s still going to be fantastic.”
In fact, as Costello points out, some of the greatest wines in the world are poured chilled. “Take a red Valpolicella from Verona, Italy. The standard table wine is always poured chilled. The same for a Beaujolais nouveau. In fact, you can put ice cubes straight into the glass and it will still taste perfectly fine because the wine itself is so fruit forward; there is no oak. It’s really easy to approach.”
At the pool at the Mandarin Oriental, Costello points to the Erath “Estate” Pinot Noir from Oregon. “It’s a cooler-climate, high-altitude wine. And there’s nothing more refreshing than having it chilled. This way the fruit shows a lot more: strawberries, raspberries, cranberries. A bit of the black fruits are going to come through.”
Malbec is another red varietal that is enjoyable in the summertime. This time Costello makes an example of the Clos la Coutale, a Malbec from Cahors, France. “Malbec can tend to be high in alcohol, and the great part about cooling a wine in that regard is that it tends to make the alcohol show a little less, so you end up with fresh flavors instead of something a little richer.”
Not to forget the all-important rosé in the summertime, Costello highlights the pool selection. “We have a sparkling Moscato from Australia, and a 100 percent cabernet sauvignon rosé from St. Supéry in Napa Valley. Rosé in the summer is very important, and there are several producers in California that are making them.” Of course, it’s hard not to think of Provence in the South of France when you mention rosé. “Our Provencal rosé is from Bandol, which I think is an overlooked appellation in Provence,” explains Costello. “The grape, mourvèdre, is typically a dense dark grape used for blending, but by itself it has these nice lightly herbed characteristics and lots of wild strawberry and wild raspberry. It’s not as clean as some of the wines we make in the States, but you have to have a Provencal rosé on the list. Drinking rosé in Provence is part of life; you don’t have to think about it. You just drink it!
He muses about the mingling flavors for perfect summer sippers. “High acid, low alcohol, and bright citrus flavors,” he exclaims. “Taste for grapefruit, gooseberry, lime zest, and mandarin orange. A sauvignon blanc from New Zealand, an albariño from the west coast of Spain, or a vermentino from Italy. There are some exceptional values out there you can pick up at local grocery stores for $10 a bottle. They have really nice aromatics: lots of jasmines and honeysuckle flowers, and just a little richness on the midpalate; usually never any oak and just a touch of bitterness, which is great foil for any food. The bitterness makes the food show more.”