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Berger: When it's hot out, cut the alcohol


On a recent trip to Washington D.C., we found a café table in the shade, a good idea since the temperature and humidity were both in the high 90s.

Perusing the wine list, I could find only one wine that was a candidate to go with lunch, a rosé.

The server said it was dry. I asked for a sip to try it.

It was dry — sort of. But the wine tasted clumsy, so I opted for water. Later I learned that this rosé was actually 14.5% alcohol, which should explain my “sort of” phrase.

Some people may be fine with dry wines with high alcohol, but I always find that the heat from the alcohol detracts from the refreshing nature of such wines.

When the thermometer reaches triple digit territory, something chillable and light is the best solution.

I'll never forget an interview I did with Australian winemaker Mark Swann in 1982. We were to meet at a café in San Diego on a very hot day. Swann chose a table with no shade. And he had with him a chilled bottle of his Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé.

As I sat down, he poured a glass of the wine for me and added two ice cubes! “This is the way to enjoy wine when it's hot,” he said.

His cabernet rosé was only 12.5% alcohol and adding ice brought it down to about 10%. A perfect way to cool down.

As the thermometer rose this week, I began to shop for summer wines.

Here are a few suggestions, in order of my preference:

1. Dry, lower-alcohol rosés.

The best are often from Grenache and Pinot Noir, but you may also find some examples of pink wines from Barbera, Sangiovese, and other grapes. Best bets are those where the alcohol levels are between 12.0% and 13.0%.

I had a superb Austrian Rosé made from Zweigelt recently, and its alcohol was only 11.7%.

Some of the best dry rosé wines are from the south of France, and prices are fair, rarely more than $12 a bottle.

More upscale versions include the following superb offerings from 2013: Inman Family Rosé of Pinot Noir ($25), Robert Sinskey Rosé of Pinot Noir ($25), Bonny Doon's Vin Gris de Cigare ($16), Saintsbury's Vincent Vin Gris ($16), and the delightful Zinfandel Rosé of Pedroncelli ($12).

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