As Americans' perceptions of and relationship with fine wine continue to evolve, wine lovers in this country continue to expand the realm of fine wine and how they "apply" the increasing number of great labels that make it to their markets.
Poolside, where "white Zin" and wine coolers once dominated the vinous selection, we're seeing more and more adventurous choices and preferences. After all, just because we're dipping our toes into water and hanging with our half-naked peeps as we bake like fools in the Texas sun, there's no reason why we have to dumb-down our wine.
My number-one criterion for poolside wine is low alcohol content. The difference between a super-charged 14.5 percent alcohol "California" Chardonnay and a 10 percent Moschofilero (a wonderful fresh summertime wine from Greece) may seem insignificant. But it makes the world of difference in the effect the alcohol will have on you -- especially as we lie in the sun. When I lay out, I'm always going to reach for the lightest alcohol wine in my bag.
This year, my go-to is the under-$20 semi-sweet Riesling from Germany, the Dönnhoff Riesling Kabinett Kreuznacher Krötenpfuhl (from the village of) Nahe.
I loved the way the minerality in this wine -- from a classic German producer -- balanced its subtle sweetness and I was thrilled by how its zinging acidity tamed a spicy spaghetti al pomodoro that we had for dinner last night.
While I generally prefer dry Riesling from Germany and Austria, I find that Kabinett Riesling (semi-sweet) is ideal with the spicier foods we tend to eat during the summertime.
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And with such low alcohol, I'm not concerned about a third glass to wash down the salty dishes we eat poolside (Riesling Kabinett and Frito Pie, anyone?)
But when served poolside, this wine's secret weapon is the fact that its gentle sweetness will make it appeal even to folks who aren't accustomed to drinking fine wine.
Whether Aunt White Zin, who might put an ice cube in it, or Uncle Knows-Everything-About-Wine, you can't go wrong with this elegant, focused wine from this wonderful and highly respected, classic winemaker.
On deck: A crunch, chewy red from the Rhône to go with your poolside burger.