Memorial Day telegraphs the beginning of barbecue season and a time for drinking refreshing wines.

Like Memorial Day’s Indy 500, you’ll be off to the races with the nonvintage Volage Cremant de Loire Brut Savage Rosé. Cremant is the French term for sparkling wines made in the traditional method, the same as Champagne.

Volage is made from cabernet franc, Loire Valley’s principal red grape, and is briefly mascerated with its skin to produce its poached-salmon color. After the initial fermentation in stainless-steel tanks, the wine is bottle-aged for three years (cremant regulations require only nine months), giving the wine body and complexity. With a very low dosage of three grams of sugar, Volage’s acidity energizes the red-fruit aromas and flavors. It’s the perfect wine for shrimp and lobster dishes, as well as poke, the Hawaiian marinated seafood dish, that is the current mainland rage. 90 points. Retail prices from $25 to $30.

Regular readers know that California chardonnay is rarely sighted in the Wine Odyssey, but when it’s good, it’s very, very good. And that’s what I thought about the 2016 Fort Ross Vineyard Chardonnay Fort Ross-Seaview Sonoma Coast.  

Fermented and aged for 10 months in a mix of 30% new and 70% neutral French oak barrels, the wine is rich and deliciously fruit-flavored without any oakiness. Unfined and unfiltered, its minerality and acidity drives the fruit across the palate recalling the elegance and balance of Corton-Charlemagne. This is a superb chardonnay that will grace your table anytime, and splendidly on a summer evening when a special dinner calls for the very best. 95 points.  Just arriving in the market, expect to pay $39 to $45. 

At the other end of the white wine spectrum is the blatantly festive 2017 Pasqua Romeo & Juliet Passione Sentimento Bianco Veneto. The label shouts “party time,” and the youthful Pasqua brothers, Alessandro and Riccardo, made this off-dry white wine with that in mind.

They gathered garganega, the white grape of Soave, and employed the appassimento method for the red grapes of amarone—a process of drying the the grapes, which reduces the water and concentrates the sugar, resulting in a fruity, aromatic, quaffable wine with a sweet-ish aftertaste. It’s made and priced for putting lots of bottles in an ice-filled tub. But, if your party lacks the tub, just add the ice cubes to the glass or plastic cup. Oh, don’t forget to give some to the neighbors for goodwill. Or, better yet, invite them, too. 83 points. Retail prices are $12 to $15.

While the 2018 Castello di Bossi Rosato Toscana can be served at parties, it is a very well-made rosé wine that belongs on the lunch or dinner table.

Winemaker and owner Marco Baci produced the rosé from organic sangiovese and cabernet sauvignon grapes using the saignee method, a technique that “bleeds” some of the juice from grapes fermenting in tanks for a red wine. Its sheer copper color and light body do not foretell the mouth filling, luscious clementine and cherry flavors supported with bright acidity that awaits you. Perfectly balanced, with a long, pleasing finish, this is one of the best rosés I’ve had this year. 95 points.  And, at $15 to $18, it’s one of the best values, too.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock the past few years, you know that rosé is the new darling in the wine world and Provence is the center of that. In a story of what’s old is new again, this superb rosé comes from a domaine with a history dating to the 13th century.

Commanderie de Peyrassol, founded by the Knights Templar, was a place of rest for pilgrims on their way to the Holy Land. In 2001, the estate was purchased by Philippe Austruy, adding it to his portfolio of wineries in Bordeaux, the Douro and Tuscany.

The 2018 Peyrassol Cuvee de la Commanderie Cotes de Provence is a blend of the estate’s cinsault, syrah, grenache and mourvedre red grapes. Its light-salmon color, pungent orange and thyme aromas, are followed by refreshing orange, watermelon, and citrus flavors and crisp acidity, making this a perfect summer wine. 91 points.  Retail prices range from $17 to $26.

Though you can always resort to the generic pinot grigio for summer, there’s no reason to with interesting and flavorful wines such as these.

Photos by John Foy