But first, Rhône
Drinks with friends? Take them to a whole new level with Rhône whites, reds and rosés
Chips and salsa is nice and everything, but it can get a little…stale. So why not take it up a notch, when having friends over for drinks? Try new things, create uncomplicated and fun pairings with a range of wines – enough to make the food and drinks a conversation piece.
You know how an apéro can extend well into the evening? Well, why not plan for it with enough food choices to turn it into a light, informal dinner, and a progression of wines that can turn the friendly gathering into an entertaining voyage of discovery.
In the summertime, a good place to start is rosé, and the Rhône provides a nice range. You can get some bright, fruity wines like the Côtes du Ventoux from Ogier, driven by the freshness of the Cinsault grape. Or you can opt for deeper, full-bodied and deep-coloured wines from Tavel, like the Château d’Aqueria – which can even go in the cellar for a few years. Rosés and tomatoes are a match made in heaven, so a simple bruschetta or a Caprese salad with tomatoes, mozzarella and basil will make everybody smile.
After that, Rhône whites, with their one-two punch of luscious fruit and mineral backbone, will provide freshness for hot sunny days, and the stuffing for a range of dishes. A shrimp and fennel salad will resonate with the light anise notes in the Domaine de la Janasse Côtes-du-Rhône, made mostly from the seductive Grenache Blanc grape. The Doria Blanc Luberon from Cellier de Marrenon counts on the crisper notes of Vermentino, Clairette and Bourboulenc for extra freshness, so it’s perfect with quickly grilled shrimps with herbs or marinated chicken skewers.
As long as you’re firing up the barbecue, might as well pull out a nice flank steak or a pork tenderloin that you can serve in individual portions. Cook them with a mix of herbs or a nice dry rub, cut them up to bite-size pieces, and put them over crackers with a simple garnish of black olive tapenade or caramelized onions. Reds from any part of the Rhône will bring those flavours out perfectly. In the Northern Rhône, reds like the Empreintes Cornas from Domaine Eric et Joel Durand or the Petite Ruche Crozes-Hermitage from Michel Chapoutier are made from 100% Syrah, a grape that provides notes of black fruit, anise, olive, herbs and pepper (a turn of the pepper mill on the meat will make those aromas shine). In the South, blends based on Grenache Noir, which provides red fruit and loads of spice, and other grapes like Mourvèdre, Cinsault, Carignan and Syrah, are full-bodied and flavourful, perfect for the big taste of barbecue.
One recommendation? Normal serving temperature for the reds is around 18°C, which is cooler than even an air-conditioned apartment in summer. Twenty minutes in the fridge will help them show their aromas without seeming heavy.
Some foods will do the trick with all colors of wine: green and black olives and a charcuterie plate will keep you going from the first sip of rosé to the last drop of delicious and deep Syrah. The only problem? You’ll just keep coming back for more.
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