May 25 2022

A Refreshing Summer Wines Selection by Lisa Denning

NYC favorite's winetrepreneur picks the best Spanish wines to enjoy during the Summer

As if we needed another excuse to enjoy wines from Spain, this month celebrates National Wine Day on May 25th. And what better way to mark the occasion than by chatting to Lisa Denning? She’s NYC’s favorite winetrepreneur, with her gastronomic career spanning Sherry-Lehmann, The Grape Collective and her famed foodie blog, The Wine Chef. Here she gives us the low-down on the best Spanish wines to enjoy over the coming summer months. Take note for the shopping list!

Cheese and wine

What should we look for in Spanish wines during the summer?

So, it turns out that although chilled wine is more synonymous with summer, this shouldn’t necessarily make it all about white wine. “Some of the red wines in Spain are full-bodied but there are plenty of lighter bodied red wines that can be chilled and are also of lower alcohol content. They are a little lower in tannin and can be served slightly chilled.” Take, for example, a Trepat or Garnatxa blend from Catalunya’s Conca de Barberà DO - these are full of red fruit flavor.

As a rule of thumb, it’s useful to note that red wines should be served at a temperature of around 58-64 F (less than room temperature), while white wines through to rosé - from 46-57 F. This depends on the style and grape type of each wine so, if in doubt, always read the label!

Talking temperatures, what advice can you give us for keeping wine cool?

“Aside from using a cooler or refrigerator as standard, my number one piece of advice: never leave your wine in the car! Not even for 20 minutes, because it could get ruined or, as we say, ‘cooked’. Also, you should keep it away from direct sunlight. Sometimes I’ve been to a barbecue where people leave all the wine on the table outside where there’s sun on it, and this will be detrimental to the wine.” A good idea for keeping wine cool in the glass comes from wine bars in Barcelona, Spain, where they serve the wine with a frozen grape or two in the glass. This helps to maintain the temperature without tainting the flavor or structure of the wine. “However, you don’t want to serve your wines ice cold either, because the aromas will not be there.” That’s because we can’t smell the aromas present in wines until they reach around 43 F. Who knew?!

Frozen grapes

Can you give us your four must-try wines from Spain this summer?

“I would definitely start with cava, as the bubbles are so refreshing and it’s a little lower in alcohol. When I have people over, I always start with cava.” Whether it’s a young cava, a cava reserva or a gran reserva, this typically dry, Spanish bubbly from the DO Cava regions - served chilled - makes a fantastic summer tipple.

Next up, Lisa shares with us one of her favorites of the season: “Galicia’s proximity to the sea is what I love about its Albariño white wine. The salinity and the lemony quality adds to the freshness - elevating whatever you’re eating and refreshing your whole body.”

She continues, “another one of my favorite wines that people seem to overlook is sherry. The Fino and the Manzanilla, wines that are not sweet, can be served chilled and are so refreshing in the summer.” Most people tend to imagine sherry as a sweet dessert wine, but in Spain these drier types of sherry are typically consumed cold, in the early evening hours before dinner.

“My fourth choice would be a rosado. Although there are rosé wines across Spain, I recommend a rosé from La Rioja - there’s an historic blend called clarete, which is an unconventional blending of a red grape with a white grape, such as Viura. In the summer, people just waft towards rosé wines, so these are ideal.”

And finally, can you share your best food pairings for these refreshing summer wines?

“Sherry is a great way to start the evening with appetizers - think Spanish jamóncheeseolives, and nuts - where you want to sip on something. It gets the appetite going and it's refreshing too.”

“Cava can go really well with cold seafood dishes like ceviche, or seafood salads. Cava is so versatile that it can pair with barbecued meat also - those bubbles just cut through everything.”

“Hailing from the Galician coast, it’s no wonder that Albariño is great with different seafood preparations, raw or cooked. Grilled seafood goes perfectly with this wine, maybe with a vinaigrette. It’s very common in restaurants to have a crudo dish like sliced fish. In NYC, we’re so close to the ocean - like California - so we can get a lot of fresh fish.”

“Made with red wine, traditional rosado has more structure than white, so it could go with barbecued meats - and the darker colored wines have even more body.” There’s a raspberry-colored Shiraz rosé wine from Pla de Bages DO near Montserrat in Catalunya, Spain, that is perfect with spicy meats and BBQ ribs. On the other hand, “the lighter wines, such as clarete, can be good with a pasta salad and crudo. The reason I have picked these is because they are so versatile.”

Thanks for the tips Lisa! Now, do you really need to wait for National Wine Day to try them all?