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Wine Cellar: Late-August foods require a certain type of wine

Dave DeSimone
| Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

With vacations winding down and the kiddos reluctantly starting back to school, the overnight temperatures have turned a bit nippy to remind us of autumn's looming arrival.

Yet, on fair days, the evening sun still shines brightly enough to parch the palate. The time for enjoying the wines of August is here.

The best sort of late-August wines must deliver intriguing aromas, tantalizing flavors and ample refreshment. They should be easy quaffing wines and not too heavy with tannins and alcohol. Yet, the wines must have enough personality and zest to complement late-summer dishes off the grill and fresh produce.

European winemakers toiling in the blistering heat and dazzling sunshine near the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea have long produced bottles to fill the bill beautifully. Try the following delicious gems:

On Spain's north coast near the Basque city of Bilbao, vineyards planted primarily with the variety of Hondarribi zuri fan out on steep slopes near the Bay of Biscay. Loose, sandy soil over clay and limestone combines with the chilly maritime influences and plenty of sun to shape this distinctive terroir known locally as Bizkaiko Txakolina (pronounced chock-oh-lee-nah). The resulting grapes offer zesty green fruit traits with delicious acidity.

Try the 2012 Doniene Gorrondona Bizkaiko Txakolina, Spain (Luxury 43596; $23.99), an enchanting white made from 100 percent hondarribi zuri grapes. Fermentation with indigenous yeasts in temperature controlled stainless-steel tanks help capture the fruit's distinctly fresh aromas and flavors. Aging for three months on the spent yeast in tank adds creamy notes.

In the glass, apple and pear aromas mingle with white-flower aromas. Crisp apple, ripe peach and lush melon flavors balance with the zesty acidity and creamy nuances through the dry finish. Recommended.

Crisp rosés serve as the wine of choice in the August heat in France's Provence region. The 2013 Château d'Astros Rosé Côtes de Provence, France (Luxury 48863; $15.99) offers a classic example.

Immediately after picking the cabernet sauvignon, cinsault, grenache and syrah grapes, the free-run juices spend only a brief period with skins before gentle pressing. The resulting juice develops a beguiling, light salmon pink color to delight the eye. Fermentation at cool temperatures captures the delicate aromas and flavors.

Strawberry and floral notes greet the nose. Delicious berry and citrus flavors balance with mouthwatering mineral notes and thirst-quenching fresh acidity. The wine finishes dry and refreshing. Highly recommended.

In northern Italy's Piedmont region, winemakers utilize the many dramatic slopes and protective hill-side amphitheaters to ripen grapes in perfect balance. The resulting fruit creates the potential for terrific wines such as the 2012 Cantine Valpane Barbera Del Monferrato “Rosso Pietro,” Italy (Luxury 43498; $12.99).

Fermentation with native yeasts in cement tanks allow the grapes' natural traits to shine without oak-barrel influences. The wine's purple color unfolds smoky, dark berry fruit with distinctive earthy accents. Juicy, dark-berry flavors with bright acidity and intriguing meaty notes frame the dry, yet fruity, finish. Enjoy this terrific wine with all manner of late-August grilled meats. Highly recommended.

Finally, the 2012 La Vieille Ferme Rouge, Ventoux, France (6618; on sale: $7.99) embodies all the best traits of a late-August red at a terrific price. The Perrin family of the famed Château Beaucastel buys fruit from growers for a classic blend of grenache, syrah, carignan and cinsault. In this case, the vines toil on the rocky, sun-splashed slopes and rolling hills near Mont Ventoux's picturesque peak.

The hot days and cool nights allow the fruit to ripen slowly and evenly while retaining fresh acidity. Fermentation and subsequent aging in tanks and large oak barrels known as foudres frames the wine's classic southern blend of power and fresh fruitiness.

The light-purple color offers intensely ripe black-raspberry aromas with pleasant spiciness. Delicious black-fruit flavors with black-pepper and earthy herbal hints roll seamlessly into bright acidity and soft tannins through the warm, fruity finish. The screw cap makes for easy opening, and the wine complements burgers or grilled flank steak perfectly. Highly recommended.

Dave DeSimone writes about wine for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at

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