Stay cool with a patio pounder

Regardless of where you live, it’s been hot lately. So this is the perfect occasion to make the following declaration, based on years of enjoyable and entirely unscientific research: People who are serious wine drinkers imbibe inexpensive wine more frequently in the summer than any other time of year.

Sure, when it’s hot, people get thirsty, and when people get thirsty, they drink more. And, generally speaking, people tend to vacation in the summer, providing more occasions to bend an elbow. 

Drawing a correlation between the amount of wine being consumed and the amount of money spent on it makes sense and might be true for your average consumer, but not for wine aficionados. For people like me, it’s unnatural bordering on uncomfortable to go down the quality scale. A curious and common exception occurs most often, and perhaps only, in the summer heat.

Lettie Teague, a wine author, wrote in Food & Wine magazine, “My objection is not just that a summer wine is cheap; it’s that it seems limited to one of two types: a light, simple white or a light, simple rosé. I realize why this is the case — they’re both refreshing, ideal for hot weather — and yet, I believe a summer wine can and should be more than that. It should be just as interesting and complex as a wine served at any other time of the year.”

I respectfully disagree. I believe, on occasion, it’s acceptable to embrace and enjoy a basic wine that doesn’t ask much of you. It’s a mental respite, drinking without the burden of analysis. I associate myself with the passionate perspective of my friend Jeff. Jeff is a knowledgeable and dedicated wine hobbyist who appreciates and invests in well-crafted wines. He is also an apostle for what he calls Patio Pounders. In Jeff’s own words:

“For me, Patio Pounders are any relatively inexpensive but tasty wine that complements impromptu backyard gatherings that are the highlight of our short Wisconsin summers. What might start as one or two people reading on the deck can quickly morph into 10-15 folks of all ages enjoying the pool, playing some bocce or sitting around a warm bonfire. A Patio Pounder is a wine that you can grab without hesitation because it tastes good (never something you might need to apologize for) but isn’t so special that it becomes a distraction. I follow what I call the Rule of Twelves: buy it by the case (12) and try to keep the price below $12. Just keep to the idea that your friends and the lovely day/evening outside are the points of focus that a Pounder complements without ever intruding or causing the guilt that might come from a true cellar raid.”

The following wines are going to be my personal pounders this weekend. Each of them is widely available and falls within Jeff’s Rule of Twelves.

Bonny Doon Vin Gris de Cigare Central Coast 2011 ($12). Mouthwatering watermelon, raspberry and sweet and spicy nasturtium notes. Balanced acidity makes it wholly refreshing.

 Joel Gott Sauvignon Blanc California 2011 ($12). Green apple, lemongrass, blood orange and stone fruit flavors follow a bright nose that awakens the senses.

Bliss Family Vineyards Chardonnay California 2010 ($11). With a nose of kiwi, star fruit and ripe pear and a touch of honey, this tangy selection offers a hint of minerality, leading to a creamy mouth-feel and a long, clean finish.

Derek M. LaVallee, partner, Kemp Goldberg Partners, and certified wine buff, can be reached at