Simple, affordable 'picnic wines'
Sweet, light, effervescent wines for summer, all priced under $12.
Let us now sing the praises of picnic wines. And let us hear no discouraging words. Not everybody drives a Lamborghini. Do you drive a Lamborghini?
In the market now are several simple, inexpensive, lightly sweet sparkling or semi-sparkling wines just right for enjoying al fresco.
These are light-bodied wines, mostly with 7 percent alcohol, little more than half the usual 12 percent of other wines, but well above the 4.5 percent level of the average American beer. So despite the similarities, they ain't Nehi. Don't guzzle.
They're unserious wines, to be drunk extra-cold. You can jam a bottle into your ice chest, maybe even pour it over ice cubes.
First come the Sparkling Moscato and Pink Moscato, imported by the Coleccion Internacional del Vino.
These wines get their bubbles via the Charmat method, by natural fermentation in big vats, instead of individual bottles like other Champagnes and sparkling wines. This is less expensive, and many say it preserves more of the fruity flavor.
The label of the Opera Prima "Sparkling Moscato," by J. Garcia Carrion Winery, La Mancha, Spain, says it "presents an intense aroma of fresh grapes," and it's true. It's also sweet and fizzy.
The Opera Prima "Pink Moscato" Wine, from Vino de la Tierra de Castilla, Spain, is its rosy sister, with red berry flavors from the addition of tempranillo, the red grape famous in Rioja.
Another summer wine, Mionetto's "Il Spritz," is a semi-sparkling white wine from Valdobbiadene, Italy, with citrus flavors and herbs added. It's inspired by the famous "Spritz" aperitif of the bars of Venice, where it was made of white wine, sparkling water and a mixer like Aperol, Campari or Cynar. One blogger called it "the national drink of Venice." Mionetto makes its Spritz of white Prosecco grapes, citrus and a few drops of red wine from tempranillo, the famous grape in Chianti. It's neon orange in color, lightly fizzy and lightly sweet.
What do they go well with? Whatever's in your picnic basket. See editor's note.
-Nonvintage Opera Prima "Sparkling Moscato," by J. Garcia Carrion Winery, La Mancha, Spain (moscato grapes, 7 percent alcohol), $6.99-$10.95 at Sixth Avenue Wine Seller in Seattle and Cost Plus World Market in Bellevue.
-Nonvintage Opera Prima "Pink Moscato," Vino de la Tierra de Castilla," Spain (97 percent moscato, 3 percent tempranillo, 7 percent alcohol), $6.99-$8.99, available at Wine World in Wallingford and QFC in University Village.
-Nonvintage Mionetto's "Il Spritz" Semi-Sparkling White Wine (Prosecco grapes with citrus and herbs), Valdobbiadene, Italy (8 percent alcohol), $10.99-$12.99, available at Cost Plus World Market in Seattle and Tukwila.
Editor's note: The prices and outlets listed here are the ones we discovered in the Seattle area. These wines may be available at other outlets.
Fred Tasker has retired from The Miami Herald but is still writing about wine. He can be reached at email@example.com.