Ray Isle (@islewine on Twitter) is Food & Wine's executive wine editor. We trust his every cork pop and decant – and the man can sniff out a bargain to boot. Take it away, Ray.
Fourth of July is one of the biggest outdoor bashes of the year. (For one thing, shooting off fireworks indoors is always a sketchy idea). And unless you’re a Revolutionary War reenactment actor - in which case, you’ll be eating dried beef and fire cake, a not-so-tasty mix of flour and water scorched over a campfire - then you’re probably heading down the classic hamburger, hot dog and potato salad route.
So what to bring along for the wine drinkers? (The beer drinkers are legion and can fend for themselves.) Look at it this way: It’s hot. So, whether white or red, you want something that will taste good at least moderately chilled down. Also, it’s a picnic. Save your cash for the Roman candles and buy something inexpensive. And finally, it’s July 4. Pour something from the U.S. After all, there are more than 6,500 wineries in America - certainly one of them must be producing something you’d like.
With that in mind, crisp, affordable whites are an ideal choice, as are lighter, chillable reds. Sauvignon Blanc, for instance, is an excellent choice: For right around $10, look for the zesty 2010 Joel Gott Sauvignon Blanc or the citrusy 2011 Pomelo. If you need a non-glass alternative for the beach or elsewhere, the 2010 Target Wine Cube Sauvignon Blanc ($18 for three liters) is an excellent deal. For an alternative to Sauvignon, check out the melony 2011 Dry Creek Vineyard Dry Chenin Blanc, which is about $12.
For reds, skip the big, tannic monsters because chilling the wine will just accentuate the tannins and make them astringent. My first vote would go to Gamay, the grape variety native to Beaujolais, but only a few American producers make any. The spicy 2010 Evening Land Celebration Gamay Noir is a standout. Unfortunately, it’s hard to find and not that cheap ($18), though - to my mind - worth the outlay.
Barring that, head for Pinot Noir, like the cherry-accented 2010 Martin Ray Angeline Pinot Noir ($10) or the surprisingly complex 2011 Pinot Project Pinot Noir ($11). Or, if burgers, sausage and barbecue are on the menu, a rich but low-tannin Merlot like the 2010 Charles Smith Velvet Devil ($12) is a fine wine to sip while you keep your bottle rocket-wielding kids from setting fire to the trees.
More from Food & Wine:
America’s Best Bars
America’s Best BBQ Cities
Best Burgers in the U.S.
Best Summer Wines
Terrific Summer Grilling Recipes
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