If you enjoy exploring the world of wine varietals, then you’re probably familiar with seasonal offerings — wines that pair well with winter, spring, summer and fall, respectively. But which qualities make a wine the perfect complement for a specific time of year?
The answer is, ‟it depends.” Sommeliers have no official, comprehensive checklist to consult when it comes to choosing seasonal wines. In many instances, seasonal wine choices come down to little more than how a wine makes us feel and the associations it carries. Does a glass of bold red help warm up a long, cold winter night? Or does that same bold red make it easier to relax on a torrid summer afternoon? Ultimately, most — but not all — wine drinkers will express the same preferences, giving certain varietals their strong seasonal identity.
Of course, seasonal menus play a significant role here, too. Autumn meals tend to foreground rich flavors and are served warm. Contrast this with the light salads, fresh fish and grilled vegetables characteristic of summer meals. If you’ve been running the slow cooker all day, the appeal of a full-bodied red may be irresistible. However, delightfully crisp, moderately sweet whites are especially popular choices from June through August.
When entertaining, these open-ended criteria can make it more rather than less difficult to determine which wines are in season. That’s why we sat down with Dennis Egert, Director of Wine and Spirits and the General Manager for Abacus Dallas, to learn more about his approach to seasonal wines, and to find out which wines he recommends for summer.
Can you explain seasonal wines? Why do some varietals work better during certain times of the year?
“Well, in Texas, there are only two seasons — spring and summer! Rosés are really the only true seasonal wines we serve. That said, during the winter months, our red wine sales increase by about 15 percent, mainly in the Red Blend and Cabernet categories.”
How much contact does a sommelier have with the vineyards about what to expect from the upcoming season?
“The suppliers, who accompany the distributor representatives, give us that information during tastings. We can also call any of our contacts, and they can give us supply for upcoming vintages.”
With summer here, what are the wine and food pairings diners should be sure to try?
“I’d recommend an Albarino from Spain with flatbreads and an Oregon Pinot Gris with light fish. Sauvignon Blancs from South Africa are super tasty this year, too. I would drink them now with scallops and cheese.”
Are you already looking ahead to fall and winter wines? How much planning goes into your purchasing and pairings?
“Not just yet. I’ll start looking in October for November and December wines.”
What’s the biggest misconception customers have about seasonal wines?
“That there are strict rules to follow. If you like it, you can drink any varietal during any time of the year. It depends on the holiday or celebration in my book.”
How do you help your customers make the right choice when choosing a wine for their table?
“I encourage guests to drink what they enjoy. Guests that enjoy Cabernet with salmon should drink Cabernet. If they ask for my recommendation, I say, “Pair wine with weight and acidity, and you can never go wrong.”
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