Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial, but widely recognized, kickoff for barbecue season, and it calls for quaffable, good-value wines.
Greet the season with a glass of 2016 Bouvet-Ladubay Cremant de Loire Brut Excellence, a Loire Valley sparkling wine made in the traditional method. Apple and pear flavors, soft bubbles and fresh acidity make it a delightful appertif. And the non-Champagne price is refreshing, too 86 points. From $15 to $25; goodvalue is found at less than $20.
From Italy’s Veneto region Prosecco is a sparkling wine that many wine consumers like, but I find too sugary. That was not the case with the drier Bianca Vigna Prosecco Spumante Brut. Made of 100% glera (a minimum of 85% glera grapes is required in the appellation), the golden-hued, mild honey-scented sparkler has a pleasant apple taste. 85 points. $12 to $15.
Summer’s humidity is instantly reduced with a glass of chilled 2017 Willakenzie Estate Rose Willamette Valley. This pale salmon-colored wine blends 95% pinot noir with 2% pinot blanc and 3% pinot meunier, a grape usually associated with Champagne. It adds up to a pleasant citrus and cherry-scented and flavored wine with a touch of minerality and a palate-cleansing finish. 90 points. $21 to $23
Mount Etna’s volcanic soil yields Sicilian wines with a refreshing minerality. Ideal for summer, the 2016 Pietradolce Etna Rosato is made exclusively of the island’s nerello mascalese grape. Its pale orange tint, light body and orange taste with a saline finish is the perfect wine for a beach party. 90 points $19 (I found it in only one NYC store, but its national distributor is Empson USA).
Italian whites are almost synonymous with good value and tasty wines for everyday drinking, from Sicily to the northernmost Alto-Adige vineyards. The 2017 Garofoli Macrina Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore plays well with summer salads, seasoned shrimp, and grilled chicken legs or wings. Made of pure verdicchio from the Marche region, its jasmine-like aroma and light body carrying white peach flavor capture summer in a bottle. Easy to drink and easier to buy at $12 to $15. 86 points.
Another summer pleasure is the 2017 Arnaldo Caprai Grecante Colli Martani. Grechetto is an indigenous grape identified with Umbria and its leading winemaker Arnaldo Caprai has made it his mission to propagate and promote Umbrian varietal wines. His Grecante has appealing floral, mild basil, and pear scents, and apple and white-nectarine flavors lined with a soft mineral taste. 89 points. Just arriving in our market; expect to pay about $14 to $20.
If you find New Zealand sauvignon blanc too bracing, you’ll enjoy the rounder 2017 Justin Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc Central Coast California. After years of drought, 2017 brought sufficient rain to the central coast vineyards along with record-breaking summer heat, followed by a cool September. The resulting wine has the full mouthfeel of ripe grapes. Its lemon-thyme and white-fruit aromas, melon and lemon-lime flavors are supported with a citrus backbone. 90 points. Its $14 to $19 offers good value.
For a small town, Montefalco is gaining a big name in the wine world. Located in Umbria, Montefalco is enjoying a resurgence of the indigenous sagrantino red wine grape, where the Briziarelli family is planting it along with sangiovese and international varieties with great success.
The 2014 Briziarelli Rosso di Montefalco is a blend of 60% sangiovese, 30% merlot and 10% sagrantino. Its cherry color is a quiet introduction to its boisterous blackberry, cola and herbal aromas. Typical for Montefalco wines, it is full bodied and dressed with rich flavors ranging from blackberry to chocolate to marjoram. Pour this lively wine with grilled lamb chops or spare ribs. 89 points. Just arriving in our market; expect to pay $14 to $15.
I can’t think of a wine with a worse image than Lambrusco, nor a better producer to change it than Lini Winery. Lambrusco’s sticky sweet bubbly image is not without merit. But the Lini Winery, located in Correggio, in the heart of Emilia-Romagna has been producing quality Lambrusco since 1910.
The nonvintage Lini Lambrusco Scuro is designated frizzante, meaning it is slightly bubbly—less gassy than Italian wines labeled spumante. The bitter cherry and herbal aromas give this heft and interest. and the black cherry flavors and dry, mineral finish make it a perfect summer red wine with pasta Bolognese. Serve with a slight chill. 90 points. $15 to $20.
Wishing you an enjoyable holiday with a glass of one of these delightful, good-value wines.
Photos by John Foy