Its about to get hot in Texas, really hot! Any Texan knows that about now and as we move forward into the depths of summer, the temps will rise.
As the thermometers continue to rise well into September, lets make sure you can continue to raise a glass of good Texas wine to beat the heat this summer.
I’m going to explain how several specific wine types can be more pleasing in the heat, and why others can be more off-putting (but not always). I will also offer some unique and perhaps surprising food-wine pairings to go with your next chili cook-off, BBQ, or taco Tuesday.
I’ll offer my own insights and suggestions as well as the input from some other Texas wine experts and culinary talent to offer you the best advice for sipping and savoring every glass of wine and plate of food you encounter this summer.
Changes In Taste:
In the heat of summer, many like me, find themselves making a subtle but noticeable shift in wine preferences. I am normally a ‘dry red guy’ but once the long hot days of summer hit, floral, fruity, zippy, whites start to take over.
Rose’ also becomes my refreshment of choice for almost any outdoor occasion.
Even a Riesling will wind up in my glass more often in the summertime whereas I don’t really seek this out on purpose any other time of year. I even see a small shift in my desire for wine sweetness.
I normally dislike anything beyond off-dry, but when the heat is on, I find that I may crave those of a semi-sweet nature.
Listen to what another peer of mine has to say as well.
Jeff Cope, Houston based founder, and co-owner of the website TexasWineLover, and L1 Somm states ‘I do not think the palettes change, however, I do think people get the perception they need to drink chilled wines in the summer. It's a typical belief, but also because it is hotter, anything chilled tastes better.’
Hear from Neal Addy, Houston based Texas wine writer, WSET L2, and L2 Certified Specialist of Texas wine. ‘Absolutely. I generally think of big, bold reds as "comfort food" wines, to be enjoyed with rich, carb-heavy meals that we tend to crave during cooler months.
That’s not to say we can’t enjoy them with BBQ or other summer dishes, but as we move into the warmer seasons it's natural for most people’s palates to lean towards lighter wines such as whites, sparkling, and rosés. These pair naturally well with seasonal summer foods such as salads and fresh vegetables. And they make great “porch sippers” for those hot Texas afternoons.'
The Best Wines To Pick:
As I have alluded to a bit already, some of your best bets are going to be light to medium bodied white wines, sparking wines, and Rose’. I still suggest toying around with Riesling as well, with the 2022 semi-sweet version from Wedding Oak Winery as my strong suggestion.
- Angelo White Blend- Christoval Vineyard
- Roussanne- Tatum Cellars
- Albarino- Texas Heritage Vineyard
- Pino Grigio- Newsome Vineyards
- Viognier- Adega Vinho
- Sparking White Blend- Hilmy Cellers
- Hye Meadow Winery- Chica (Trebbiano, Riesling, Malvasia Bianca)
- Sparkling Muscat of Alexandria- Kalasi Cellars
- Texas Sparkling Brut- (Chenin Blanc) Messina Hof
- Rose’ of Black Spanish- 12 Fires
- Reserve Texas Cinsault Rose- Lavaca Bluffs
- Vin Gris- French Connection
- Grenache Rose- Ron Yates
First things first, make sure the food and wine you eat and sip are actually those you enjoy having by itself.
Do not expect wine to make bad food good, or food to make bad wine better.
Both should be enjoyable and of good quality to begin with to then synergize the food-wine combination. Pick foods you like, pick wines you like, then start the pairing and matching process.
Back to Jeff Cope again, ‘I have had some pairings that make the food and/or wine taste much better, but I am of the belief drink what you like when you want it.’
Master Sommelier and wine educator Madeline Puckett, author of Wine Folly, the so-called ‘bible of wine textbooks’ for wine rookies and vets alike, has two extremely helpful illustration guides in her book showcasing how various tastes pair well together while others do not.
It also shows how some flavor pairings are either contrasting or complimentary and that getting it right can maximize the flavoring combination or completely erode it.
Summer Texas Eats
This being my third summer as a Texan, I have come to learn that you make friends fast if some of your favorite foods happen to be fish tacos, breaded-fried catfish, BBQ shredded pork, Texas chili, smoked chicken and chicken fried chicken.
Every city, big and small has them, everyone loves them, and anyone I meet can make them pretty darn well or knows someone close who can.
I do not think I go a week without having at least one of each of these dishes truthfully.
So, if these Texas staples are already good as they are, how can these wines make them even better? I’ll tell you...
I asked seasoned Chef and fellow wine lover, Marc Daniels CDM CFPP of Texas Tables Catering Company and the General Manager for Sodexo at Goodfellow AFB dining services, what he would pair with a few Texas summer dishes.
Keep in mind, Marc has been a Chef for 21 years and worked in kitchens around the world.
He has truly seen it all folks.
fish tacos- Sauvignon Blanc with my tacos with hints of a medium body, well balanced acidity level with citrus notes to match my fish tacos.
cornmeal fried catfish- Sparkling wine with fried catfish. Slight sweetness to help balance the saltiness. I like to enhance the flavor, not overwhelm the entree itself.
chicken fried chicken- Tempranillo Rose’. The slightly high acidity helps to cut through and keep up with fried foods.
smoked chicken- Reisling with smoked chicken. Medium - dry with fruity, floral notes.
shredded BBQ pork- Reisling with Shredded Pork. It is the fruitiness of the crisp apple that works well with the smokiness of the grill or the smoker that does it for me.
chili- A good zinfandel with its fruit and spice is my favorite to stand up to the big flavors of a chili. (I also strongly suggest trying Ron Yates 2019 Spicewood Vineyards Cabernet Claret)
Any Do’s and Don'ts with Food-Wine Pairings?
Many will claim there are absolute rules for what you can and cannot pair specific foods and wines.
I feel these ‘rules’ to me are far more flexible than many believe them to be.
Again, if your own pallet says the pairing is good, it is.
Let’s go back to Neal again one more time, ‘The only rule is there are no rules that apply to every palate and situation. If you enjoy a specific pairing then go for it! But there are a few simple guidelines that can increase the enjoyment of your meal. For example, we Texans enjoy our spicy dishes.
Keep in mind that higher alcohol wines can make spicy food taste even spicier, even to the point of becoming unpleasant. Also, wines with higher acidity generally pair well with acidic foods such as tomato-or lemon-based dishes. But perhaps the best tip to keep in mind is that balance is key. Always try to maintain a balance between the wine and the most dominant element of your dish whenever possible.’