There are two kinds of wine drinkers. The first are those who stick to the rules, undeterred by their archaic nature or lack of any logical explanation. These people will not drink a wine unless it’s in the right glass and at the right temperature. For them, each accompaniment should be carefully appointed, and even the slightest sensory distraction-from a whiff of some perfume to the color of the walls-can put them off.
Then there is the other kind of wine drinker. These people won’t let anything get in the way of having fun with wine.
I’m painting the former in a bad light, but we definitely need them-wine enjoyment is an art, and some decorum goes a long way. But we also need the latter set, people who acquaint themselves with wine in a format that isn’t restrictive and allows for creativity and imagination to run free.
When enjoying wine in summer, the purists will stick to certain styles that are low in alcohol, medium-bodied at most, and more fruit-driven than oak-centric. This approach helps reduce palate fatigue and makes for a buoyant and enjoyable experience. The other way to enjoy wine in summer is what the purists won’t do-mix wine into other drinks to make a cocktail that lowers the alcoholic intensity of the wine, but enhances the freshness quotient.
The term for this wine and other drink mix is a spritz, and it involves combining wine with fruity extracts and flavors in a highball glass filled with ice, adding some fruits for color, and then topping it all up with soda water to make a fun, aperitif-style drink. Often, if all ingredients are aptly chilled, one may forgo the ice and serve it in flutes or tulip-shaped glasses, but do go easy on the cut fruits, then, for they can be tough to extract later.
But let’s take it from the start. A wine spritz is essentially three parts—fruit, wine, and bubbles. The fruit can be in both extract and fresh-cut format. The wine and fizz can be substituted with sparkling wine, but then the alcohol content doesn’t get dialed down.
What fruits work best? The answer lies in the season: summer fruits. Think melons, pears, guavas, and pineapples. With their firm interiors, these fruits make for a preferable diced garnish, too, but if you wish to infuse plums, peaches, mangos, or lychees, then often it’s better to work with the flavor extracts and skip the fruit in the drink, as it can look messy.
So, start by adding the fruit or fruit extract to the a glass before topping it with ice. Cubes are preferable to crushed ice, as the latter melts too fast. Next, add about 60-75ml of wine. Yes, I know, wine with ice. If you are not entirely turned off, read on. You may stir it in gently to mix the extract with the wine. At this point, doing a sugar check is a good idea; if it isn’t sweet enough, add some. Remember that at this stage, the drink should feel a bit extra sweet, because we have one more thing to add-the soda. Once the soda is added, gently stir it to mix, but beware not to do it too vigorously so you avoid froth over. Check one last time for sweetness and flavor, and you are good to go.
The best wine for a spritz is white or rosé, still or sparkling, but always chilled. Try to use a wine that is easy and light—a style or region known for its freshness and crispness (translate: high acidity) rather than its richness or oak-aged complexities. In fact, avoid oak-aged wines entirely. Popular grapes for such wines can be Aligoté, Pinot Grigio, Trebbiano, Grenache Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, and maybe even Riesling or Gewürztraminer.
In case you wish to use sparkling wine, try to skip the expensive bottles since it’s just wasteful to mix something complex into an easy summer cocktail. That said, buy one from any country-they all have something fizzy and fabulous that will sit nicely in a spritz.
So there you have it: a whole gamut of flavors to experiment with, all while still sticking with wine. As I said in the beginning, we need all types of wine lovers-from the stoically classic to the flexibly liberal-and whichever side of the fence you sit on, it’s always good to cross over now and then for a friendly shared glass or two.