The annual parade of weather volatility known as May and June — scorching one day, cool and cloaked in gloom and mist for the next three, bluebird skies and 82 degrees of perfection for the following week — seems kaput. Now, the temperature is set to roast and there it remains, day after day, until sometime in September.
The oven heat compels us to the refrigerator for cold liquids. For decades my kind pal beer waited in the fridge, shellacked in cold sweat and eager to help. Beer remains, but now it shares shelf-space with wine. And lately vino's sultry pleasures have tempted me more than beer's back-slapping friendliness.
That's because I discovered acid.
You're thinking, "This Drinking with Doug — he sure knows how to party!"
Hold onto your hallucinations. I'm talking about the mouth-puckering acids — think, lemon — we find in certain kinds of wines. They live to enliven your summer. Yes, summer wine slinging is about more than rosé.
"Wines that are higher in acidity are a little bit livelier. Brighter. Cleaner on your palate," said Will Frischkorn, the owner of Cured in Boulder. "They pair especially well with food."
I used to work with Will, and grew familiar with the shop's vest-pocket wine shop. I appreciated how the shop placed together the style of wines we are discussing here — you can visit the section and walk away with something zippy to accompany that plate of smoked brisket.
Have you tried vinho verde for your hot-weather porch-pounding? It's a good place to start. Like most of my favorite styles of summer-enhancing wines, it's relatively low in alcohol (typically between 9 and 11 percent) and juicy with acids. An added bonus: it's slightly effervescent, which adds welcome jazz hands to the whole package.
Cheap (usually less than $10), thirst-quenching, simple, widely available in Boulder County liquor stores and wonderful with most foods — this Portugese treat, made from a variety of grapes from the country's far northern province of Minho, is a summertime must.
So is txakolina (you're not tripping, and it's pronounced chah-kuh-leena), another effervescent, low-alcohol, acid-laced wine made in Spain's Basque Country — the Basque language explains the spelling. Where vinho verde is awfully simple — there is an element of just straightforward effervescent grape juice to it — txakolina presents more mystery and intrigue. Slightly drier than vinho verde, with more citrus bite and a whisper of something saline, txakolina (it's also called txakoli) offers another boozy respite from the heat. And it pairs with most foods; do not hesitate to down it with seafood in general, and oysters in particular.
Summery wines thrive on the Iberian Peninsula (the Spanish and Portugese understand heat), but it seems every wine-producing region offers its own takes on swelter-weather vino. France's Languedoc-Roussillon region (southern France), for example, offers Picpoul, an affordable jolt of acid-brightened vin that might wash down too easily. Ditto for Muscadet, a type of wine made in northwestern France from a grape called Melon de Bourgogne that has been dubbed the ultimate oyster wine. Seriously — you can somehow taste oyster shells when you sip Muscadet. Both Picpoul and Muscadet are easy to find in Boulder County liquor stores.
More Europe? Consider Italy.
"They grow so many different grapes, and make so many wines from those grapes. You could drink a bottle a night from Italy all summer long and not taste the same thing twice," said Will. "They all are built for food."
I'm partial to wines made from vermentino, a white grape grown widely in Sardinia and Liguria — the birthplace of pesto. It's racy with acids — like all of the wines in this story, it literally will make your mouth water — and when you inhale you might think the glass contains grapefruit and pear.
Missing red wines during the summer? Turn to Italy again. No other country offers such a wild diversity of acid-backed, food-friendly red grapes and bottles that welcome a chill before serving. Chianti, for example, improves during the summer when it's slightly cool. Cured, among other places, sells liter bottles of Ampeleia Unilitro, what Will calls "our quintessential summer red" and made from alicante grapes.
Meanwhile, Rob Linhart at Hazel's Beverage World — Linhart is a fabulous wine resource — insisted that I try an Italian style of red wine called bardolino. I bought a bottle (less than $20), cooled it down for a spell in the fridge, and began swooning with the first sip. In my notes about the wine, I wrote: "Raspberries and cherries out the wazoo. Killer with charcuterie or salty sheeps milk cheese."
Rob also directed me towards an Austrian style of white wine made within the city of Vienna called Wiener Gemischter Satz that achieved a palate-electrifying balance between fruit and acid — some sweet and sour mix of honey, pineapple and lemon.
The Austrians, Germans and Alsatians (Alsace is French, but its German roots are deep) are just as skilled at conjuring summer-relief from a bottle as the Mediterraneans. During the past few weeks I have savored an Alsace Blanc from Hazel's that combined the theme of this column — acid! — with something almost unctuous or oily, in an excellent way. The wine, a blend of three types of grapes, smelled like roses. I also brought out a chilled bottle of Alsatian Pinot Blanc during a hot Saturday night party; one of the guests took a sip and immediately whipped out his iPhone for a photo of the label.
"I'm buying that," he said. And at less than $20, it won't do much damage to his wallet.
All of these summery wines complement a wide range of foods. Spicy Asian and Mexican foods, for example, improve with between-bites sips. Picnic-happy cheeses, especially those made from goats and sheep's milk, find something like marital bliss with acid-washed wines. A cool red Chianti with a salad of fresh tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and basil? Bellisimo.
The long roast on, Boulderites. Run those fans, get into the cool mountains and hunt for bottles of liquid acid.
Longtime journalist and Boulderite Doug Brown writes about adult beverages for the Camera. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter @drinkingwithdoug.