Wine parties seem instinctively to belong to the dark, velvety nights of winter and fall, but we have been thinking about one of the best ones we ever attended, and it was in high summer! The sweet, sparkling wines were chilled and flowing. We made a very retro salmon mousse in tiny cups that perfectly complemented the crisp white wines.
So we have summer wine on the brain, and we turned to Anu Karwa, founder of Swirl Events, a delightful company based in New York City that offers customized wine tastings, pairings, and parties for private and coporate events. Anu is obviously a wine expert and enthusiast, and she always grounds her wine choices in seasonal flavors and food. Here are some tips from Anu on creating your own wine party this summer.
1. What are your favorite late spring and early summer flavors and ingredients?
A walk through my favorite green market in Union Square inspires my favorite seasonal ingredients. In spring and early summer, it's all about leafy greens, fresh herbs, juicy tomatoes and fresh chevre to make salad dishes spiked with citrus dressings that don't ever require a flip of the oven switch. And summer Sundays wouldn't be complete without the tangy and smoked flavors from a BBQ.
2. What are some good summer wines to complement those flavors?
The bright acidity and flavors of lemons, tomatoes and grilled vegetables (not the mention the rising temperature) require a lively, lower alcohol wine. By no means am I suggesting a simple, one-note slurper. Gruner Veltliners from Austria and Spanish Albarinos are white wines full of citrus flavors and sparkling acidity that perfectly complement spring dishes.
Two recent favorites include Grooner's Gruner Veltliner and the Pazo san Mauro Albarino. Summer wouldn't be summer without Rose, the perfect match for grilled meats and vegetables.
I prefer Roses with complexity and some grip to them to match strong BBQ flavors, not the dumbed down versions we find all too often. A recent discovery that's widely available is the Crios Rose of Malbec.
Malbec grapes give depth balanced by the refreshing flavors of strawberry and watermelon. The Casa Castillo Monastrell (aka Mouvedre) from Jumilla, Spain, is a steal for all of its plushness and red berry fruit.
3. Do you have any recommendations for cheese to pair with those wines?
A creamy raw cow's milk cheese with some tanginess like Jasper Hill's Constant Bliss pair well with Gruner Veltliners. A fresh goat cheese like Westfield Capri or a Hudson Valley Camembert well with the grassiness of Albarinos . Try an aged goat cheese like Chevrot or a nutty sheep's milk Manchego with Roses.
4. What is your all-time favorite summer wine?
My perfect summer day includes a hammock and a glass of sparkling rose Prosecco. Ombra makes a splendid one that always makes me smile.
5. Do you have any other general tips for throwing a wine party in the summer?
Ask each of your guests to bring a bottle of wine from their favorite or dream summer vacation destination. When each one is opened throughout the party, the owner of the bottle shares why that spot is his or her favorite. Another tip is to hand guests a glass of sparkling wine (Cava or Prosecco work well) as they walk in the door. Something bubbly always sets the tone for a festive evening.
Thank you Anu!
• Contact Anu for private and corporate events through Swirl Events: Swirl Events: Wine Tastings and More