Postcards from Italy
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Beat the Summer Heat with Italian Wines

Beer is often the go-to summer beverage in the US, but there are some excellent lighter Italian wines which are perfect for your August barbeque, dinner party, or simply for quaffing chilled on the hottest afternoons of the year. If you're looking to add a little Italian flair to your summer, here are a few of our wine tips and suggestions for the season:

wine(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

Sparkling


Don't restrict popping the cork on a sparkling wine for when you have something special to celebrate...a chilled bottle of bubbly is also a refreshing drink to begin a meal or even to pair with food.

Prosecco, with its light, fizzy, and delicately fruity character and relatively low alcohol content, is going through an international boom right now, and Italians have moved from serving it as an aperitif to pairing it with certain dishes during meals. Made in the Veneto region using primarily Glera grapes processed with the Charmat method, prosecco undergoes its second fermentation in steel tanks, which gives it its distinctive freshness...this is a bubbly to drink right away, with no long aging. Try it with grilled fish or seafood or with summer salads.

Aperitivo(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

Lambrusco is an excellent alternative to the much more commonly known prosecco. Steer away from the cloyingly sweet commercial labels and treat yourself to a DOC from a small producer in Emilia Romagna to sample the delicate dry and fruity flavor of this traditional sparkling red which is uniquely refreshing. We especially like Medici Ermete Concerto paired with an Italian antipasto platter inspired by the best products from the same region: prosciutto di Parma and shavings of Parmigiano Reggiano.

Rosé


Rosé wines, which are lightly tinged pink or orange due to the time for which the grape skins are left in contact with the fermenting must, have a bit of a reputation as low-quality, “supermarket” swill. However, many Italian producers make good rosés, and all the most important red wine regions turn out a rosé that is both inexpensive and refreshing.

The low tannins, perfect blend of “red character” and “white drinkability”, and affordable price tag make rosé a perfect picnic crowdpleaser. The highest regarded Italian rosés tend to come from either the far north Piedmont and Trentino or the far southern island of Sicily, and can be paired with all the classic picnic foods, from deviled eggs to grilled hamburgers.

Whites


This is the classic wine of summer, served refreshingly chilled and perfect for sipping on the back porch or completing a summer casual dinner party spread. Our favorite Italian summer whites are the crisp, dry Friuli varieties: Friulano (also known as Tocai), Pinot Grigio, and Sauvignon. Not too fruity, nor too bland, these are the perfect lively wines for hot summer nights. Avoid purchasing older vintages (though you may be tempted by those on sale); these straightforwardly easy whites, usually not aged in oak, are not meant to sit for a long time on the shelf, but to be enjoyed while still young. Try them with lobster rolls or grilled fish and seafood.

Summer wines(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

Looking for something unusual? Hunt down a bottle of Lugana, made from Trebbiano near Lake Garda in the north, or Verdicchio di Jesi, from central Italy in Le Marche. You also can’t go wrong with a Falanghina from Campania.

white-wine-cr-brian-dore(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

Reds


Not all reds have the bold, complex character and intense tannins that make them more suitable for heavier winter dishes. Italy produces a number of brighter, more acidic reds which are perfect for around the grill, with softer tannins and a more lighthearted feel. Try red wines from the north: Barbera or Grignolino from Piedmont and Valpolicella Classico from around Verona are two of our favorite for pairing with grilled meat and vegetables. You can also try Schiava from Trentino or head all the way south to Sicily for Frappato, both are light-bodied reds that are best served slightly chilled.

Though light, these are still reds and pair well with hearty grilled steaks or porcini, your mother's no-holds-barred potato or macaroni salad, or deep fried chicken or vegetables.

Related Links:
What We're Drinking: Some of the Outstanding Italian Wines On Our Table
What We're Drinking, Part 2: More Outstanding Italian Wines On Our Table
Bringing Food and Wine Souvenirs Back From Italy



Contributor: Rebecca Winke

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Condé Nast Traveler Top Travel Specialist: Italy