It’s warm out there, and likely will get hotter. All the more reason to think light when it comes to enjoying wine outdoors. In the white department, crisp, unwooded but fruity whites work well and deliver excellent value. Chenin Blancs from South Africa are bright, clean, and loaded with peach/apple fruit that will surprise Chardonnay lovers and haters alike; Indaba, Simonsig, Raats Family “Original,” and KWV “Steen” are all about $10. For something fuller, look to Spanish Albariño. This rising-star white is ideal with shrimp and fish of all sorts. Nora, Burgans, and Martin Codax are reliable brands.
At the Grape Exchange (Quaker Ridge Shopping Center, New Rochelle 914-576-3936), proprietor Michael Grossberg loves what he calls French “bistro-style” whites for warm-weather quaffs; they’re light, crisp, and clean—and need not be big names. Among his unsung heroes: Domaine Duffour Côtes de Gascogne (made from the Ugni Blanc variety that typically makes the base wine for Armagnac); the Sauvignon Blanc-driven Entre Deux Mers Château Sainte-Marie; and a little-known Picpoul de Pinet called Hugues Beaulieu. All check in at under $15.
For reds, Zinfandel is often a knee-jerk choice for grilled fare on the spicy side (ribs, peppery steak), but heavy Zins and Cabs tend to fall apart alfresco; the alcohol, oak, and tannin can separate. So try a $10 fruit-driven blend, such as Red Truck from California (now available in a very chic three-liter “cask”), Goats Do Roam from South Africa, or Falesco Vitiano from Italy. French Beaujolais (not the long-gone Nouveau) makes for a smooth summer quaff and tastes even better with a little chill.
For beef, Argentine Malbec has what it takes: vibrant, dark-fruit intensity, good heft and length, but not too much oak or bite. Brands like Elsa, Altos Las Hormigas, Pascual Toso, and Alamos let you save on the vino and splurge on the victuals.