Picking up some fresh wines for summer is in the bag — or shopping cart, actually — as supermarkets get in touch with their inner sommeliers.
Grocery store wine aisles that once yielded row after row of generic bottles now boast a wide selection of domestic and imported wines, and some high-end chains even sport a few out-of-the-way “finds.” Picking up a rose for an afternoon soiree or a crisp white for a warm summer night has never been easier.
“We’ve gone from a reality where only hugely distributed wines would ever show up in the big chain supermarkets because they ... didn’t think there was enough demand to do otherwise,” says Alder Yarrow, founder and editor of the wine blog vinography.com.
But as consumers get more sophisticated, “You’re starting to see even the bigger chains ... beginning to stock more than just what the massive distributors will send them.”
When choosing your summer sip, think whites and roses with good acidity. “My supermarket wines consist of mouthwatering, zippy wines,” says Joel Kampfe, wine director at ENO Wine Bar in San Francisco.
A good general choice is a New Zealand sauvignon blanc. They are competitively priced and just right for warmer days. Kampfe also likes Edna Valley Chardonnay, about $11. “Always consistent. Always delicious.”
For Michael Taylor, wine director for Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House in Chicago, summer wines are “really all about refreshment. You want something crisp and light.” It’s also a good time to think pink; he’ll be serving a Bodegas Muga Rosado, a rose from Spain’s Rioja region, by the glass at the restaurant this summer. The wine is made with the red grape tempranillo and retails for around $11. “It’s got a little bit of depth, a little bit of richness to it,” says Taylor.
There are a dozen or so states, including New York, where the wine selection at supermarkets is zero thanks to bans left over from Prohibition.
Still, many states do allow grocery store sales of wine, and what they offer has improved as stores hire wine buyers and give more autonomy to shops to stock what they and their customers like, Yarrow says.
As a resident of the San Francisco Bay area, where summer means slightly more fog, Yarrow tends to drink the same wines year-round. Still, if he’s planning a barbecue, he’ll lean toward a wine like Ravenswood zinfandel, a good pairing for hearty roast meats.
Robert Sinskey Pinot Gris, $22. “I think it’s one of the best value wines in the country. Really light, really savory, really juicy.”
MacRostie Chardonnay, $15. “One of the wines you can find relatively easily. Great acidity and good fruit.”
Chateau St. Michelle Eroica Riesling, $22. “A great spring and summer wine, even over ice” (a Kampfe pick, too).
Borsao Tinto, under $10. A Spanish red wine made with the grenache grape. This is “great for grilling and backyard barbecuing and typical summer entertaining.”
Crios de Susana Balbao Torrontes, around $14. Made with Argentina’s signature white grape, “It’s really got these beautiful aromatics, really floral. On the palate, it’s nice and peachy.”
Toad Hollow Mendocino Chardonnay, about $12. An unoaked style of chardonnay, which means the wine has not spent time in oak barrels and, therefore, is a fresher-tasting, fruitier wine. “Most people think of chardonnays with these buttery, oaky overtones and a sort of richness to them, but really that comes from a winemaker’s perspective. Chardonnay if left unoaked is actually a little bit more acidic; it’s got some lemony tones to it and a nice bright crispness.”
Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noirs Sparkling Wine, $15. A crisp, sparkling wine. “Gloria Ferrer is one of the older houses in California making sparkling wines, a nice trustworthy name.”