Here's a job title we wouldn't mind trying on for size: Chief Wine Ambassador. That's the position Wes Narron holds at City Wine Tours, which makes him a connoisseur of all things vino. Today, he helps us find the best bottles that don't break the bank, sharing his top choices for summer wines under $15 that pair well with BBQ and other warm weather fun. Get a taste, below.
This a sparkling wine from Spain is ridiculously affordable and incredibly delicious. It’s a great alternative to Prosecco or Champagne. Look for the “Extra Dry” designation. It’s confusing, because “Extra Dry” doesn’t mean “extra dry.” It actually means “less dry” or “slightly sweet.” This an under-appreciated style of sparkling wine, mostly because people don’t know how to interpret it! “Extra Dry” means you’re getting a sparkling wine that's softer and easier to drink with a hint of sweetness. Fresh pear and apple aromas combine with rich citrus, peach and green apple flavors, plus a subtle yeasty tone and a refreshing, elegant finish.
Avelada Vinho Verde, Portugal ($8.99)
Vinho Verde translates as “green wine.” It’s a light-bodied white wine from Portugal, called "green" because it’s distributed very quickly after harvest, and because it does have a slight green tinge. This perfect summer wine has fresh, tart fruit flavors with a crisp, slight effervescence in the finish.
France's Loire Valley is the spiritual heartland of Sauvignon Blanc. The secret of the Loire Valley that can't be replicated anywhere else in the world? Kimmeridgian limestone: a soft soil made from fossilized seashells, which makes this wine the perfect accompaniment to, uh, shellfish. And Henri Bourgeois? This family has been making wine here for the past ten generations! Grapefruit, lemongrass and chalky minerality combine for a transcendent wine.
Rosé from the south of France is always a great choice to serve during hot weather, because it pairs so well with lots of foods and just tastes darn yummy. The problem is that the best Provence rosé gets made in small batches, pre-ordered by savvy wine shops to arrive in March, and sold out by the time BBQ season arrives. But you can still find the Domaine Houchart, because the Quiot family makes a lot of it. Hey, they’ve been making wine in the south of France for over 260 years. This wine has a lovely salmon color, juicy cherry and strawberry flavors, and a long, lingering finish.
Lan Crianza, Rioja, Spain ($12.99)
When the temperature escalates into the 90’s, you want a red wine big enough to pair with grilled food, but not so heavy and chewy that it leaves you gasping for water. Red wines from Rioja, Spain all feature the Tempranillo grape, native to the country. They're lighter bodied with a flavor of red cherry and a touch of fennel, plus a palate that's soft with sweet tannins. Tempranillo has a remarkable similarity to the Chianti wines from Tuscany, without the barnyard character of some variations. The trick with the Rioja reds is to understand the aging designations and to appreciate how they affect the prices: Tinto and Rioja are aged six months to one year with low or no oak aging ($9-$12); Crianza is aged one year in oak and one year in the bottle ($12-$19); Reserva is aged two years in oak and one year in the bottle ($20-30); and Gran Reserva is aged for two years in oak and three years in the bottle ($30+).
p.s. Pair your wine of choice with these raw rainbow rolls for the perfect summer cocktail party.