Being Cool – Summertime Plonk
Noted playwright, George Bernard Shaw, is rumored to have said, “England and the United States are two friendly nations separated by a common language.”
When it comes to names of food and beverages, it seems he hit the point very well. The English still refer to some wines from the Bordeaux region of France as Claret, a term that goes back several centuries calling to mind that Bordeaux wines were once much lighter in both alcoholic content and in color almost to the point of being relatively clear. Those conditions do not describe today’s wines from Bordeaux at all.
English cookies are “crisps.” French Fries are “chips,” and cheap, easy to drink wine is “plonk.”
Plonk of late has taken on the connotation of mediocre wine but that is not the intended outcome of the term. In New Orleans, we call wine that may be considered plonk to be a porch pounder, a wine perfect for stoop sitting, a wine that is better for a picnic rather than the dinner table.
Summertime is a hot and humid time, and if that is news to you, where the hell are you? Why waste high-end wines on a time when the pleasures of chilling down are not part of your beverage? Cool off and save money.
These wines, noted below, are perfect for this time of year. Many of them cannot be over-chilled which takes a bit of concern from you when you put them in the refrigerator and then forget you did that usually dirty trick to the wines. They are all “value” priced.
- Riesling (a grape varietal) wines from the Alsace region of Eastern France, the meeting place where Germany meets France. Other white wine grapes also come into play like the Gewürztraminer, pinot gris, sylvaner and other local grapes you likely will not find in other locales. The leading point of the line-up is usually the acid.
- Beaujolais Village wines from the Beaujolais region of France. Red wines, gamay grape, that are fresh, fruity and love a chill.
- Burgundy Villages wines can be both white (Chardonnay) and Red (Pinot Noir). They can also be a bit on the pricey side when compared to other wines on this list, but will often be under $28, hardly ever under $20. Quite the bargains on the Burgundy price spectrum.
- Loire Valley Muscadet de Sevres-et-Maine is a classic white wine from the far western edge of this east-west setting valley. Muscadet is a stellar value. The grape is the Melon de Bourgogne, a perfect accompaniment to oysters.
- Rosé from Province. While American winemakers have tried to emulate this amazing, elegant expressive style of wine, the New World expression is usually too alcoholic, too dark, and too expensive. The Province region of southern France is the home to rosé wines and the proximity to the Mediterranean Sea is one of the reasons for this perfect expression.
A few American offerings:
- Paso Robles Pet Nat are wines made in an incredibly old style. Not really for everyone but interesting and enjoyable for most. The central part of the state has laid claim to chardonnay which will have you sharing and educating your less sophisticated friends.
- Malvasia Blanca is the perfume you will want to wear. Floral to the max giving forth with heavy notes of citrus. The Santa Cruz area does the best work here and not much production competition from other wine-centric spots around California.
- Jim Clendenon is such a talented winemaker and his Nebbiolo is lighter, more approachable, rounder than even the juice from the Old Country, northern Italy, which is home to this wine. Loves a bit of a chill and maybe you can take a page out of your grandmother’s book by placing a sugar cube in the glass. Do not tell Jim.
- Canned wines are hot, hot, hot but only in sales, not so in alcohol. Bonterra’s Organic Vineyards Young Red is a gulper. Cans chill faster and wine goes down very easily. Also saves on the extraneous discussion as to what glassware is proper.
- Have to end with a white but this white is a red. Cabernet Franc Blanc from Contra Costa County, California takes the red grape then allows no skin color extraction during fermentation. A nice magic trick and a fun wine with body and acid. Chill!
Load up the ice bucket. Bring along your low-limit credit card and beat summer at its own game.
Read Happy Hour here on myneworleans.com on Thursdays, and listen to The Dine, Wine and Spirits Show, hosted by Tim, every weekday, 4:00 – 5:00 p.m. on WGSO 990AM and streamed, as well as stored (podcast), at www.wgso.com. Also, check out Last Call, Tim’s photo-feature about cocktails every month in New Orleans Magazine.