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.
Yes: The Summer of Riesling has officially started. So what does that mean for you?
In case you missed the first six iterations of this restaurant-centric love-fest for all things Riesling, what happens is that, beginning June 21, a plethora of restaurants around the country agree to feature several Rieslings by the glass throughout the entire summer. There are also tastings, dinners, hootenannies (well, one hopes) and so on. The list of participants can be found at summerofriesling.com.
The purpose, of course, is to build awareness for Riesling, a great white grape that suffers from several misconceptions: First, that all of it is sweet (it isn’t), second, that it all comes from Germany (it doesn’t, though Germany is undoubtedly Riesling’s homeland), and third, that it’s weird and you’d be better off buying Chardonnay (definitely not).
An appealingly cynical English friend in the wine business once told me, “You see, what you do is that when your child is born, you purchase a case of vintage port from that year. Then, when the child finally graduates from college, you send them on their way, and you drink it.”
Exactly. All this business about putting wine away until your kid is able to appreciate it is just bunk; the person who really deserves a good bottle post-graduation is the parent. After all, it costs somewhere on the order of $241,000 to raise a kid, and that isn’t even counting college—don’t you think you deserve a bottle of something nice after all that?
Here are some splurge-worthy suggestions from some of the world’s great wine regions. They’re a little pricey, but on the bright side, you could buy more than 5,000 bottles of any one of them for what you just paid to raise your newly minted graduate.
We Americans, we do like our beef. The average citizen of the US of A eats somewhere around 70 pounds of beef per year. And we eat more of it on Memorial Day than any other day of the year—not all 70 pounds in one go, necessarily, but still. Evidently we, as a people, cannot resist the urge to slap round patties of ground cow flesh onto hot metal and then devour the results.
There are, however, some suspicious characters floating around—veggie refuseniks, fifth-column lamb lovers, turkey-burger saboteurs, whatnot—who reject the classic burger in all its beefy, juicy wonder. Well, it’s a democracy, at least last I heard, and everyone’s entitled to their own viewpoint. (And, you know, a good lamb burger is mighty hard to resist, I do have to admit.)
So, in the spirit of diversity, brotherhood and universal burger tolerance, here are some wine recommendations for a whole variety of grilled-things-between-buns.
Why wait for Memorial Day? Grilling season is effectively here—the weather’s warm, the charcoal is available, and with any luck you’ve delegated some nearby child to scrub off all of last year’s grilled-on gunk with a handy wire brush. One hitch: according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, prices for beef and pork are up a good notch over last year.
Faced with this, I have the following advice: Buy affordable wine. More specifically, buy good affordable wine. And buy it in bulk, or at least by the case (most wine stores give a discount on case purchases, usually 10 to 15 percent). You won’t have to worry about running out the next time you have a picnic, and the extra dollars you save can be rerouted toward an additional sparerib or two.
Here, in a bargain-hunting spirit, are five great bottles, all well-suited for big, charred chunks of meat:
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