A great many learned individuals spend a significant amount of their time advancing the notion that the enjoyment of wine is an incredibly serious, sophisticated pursuit. And some of these people, having spent countless hours in pursuit of the ever-nebulous nuances of what makes a particular wine great, work hard to keep those highly prized wines veiled in a shroud of mystery.
While there can be no doubt that we adore the finer aspects of wine -- including our thirst for the geekiest of details about some of our favorites -- it's safe to say that we've got more than a healthy appreciation for the kind of juice that simply lingers momentarily upon our tastebuds as it courses straight down our gullet. Wines of this ilk (we call 'em porch-pounders around these parts) are as straightforward, satisfying and infinitely scrumptious as they come. Perfect for these dog days of summer, they act like a blast of air-conditioning for our parched palates and overheated nerves. Finding the most porch-poundable wines of the year is a lot like mining a diamond out of a lump of coal. It's grueling, requires a great deal of discipline, and is fraught with disappointment. It basically involves drinking a shit-ton of cheap, not all that highly rated wine in effort to find the handful of utterly refreshing bottles you'll want to knock back well into the first evenings of fall. It's in the spirit of wines just like this that we give you our top five porch-pounders of 2011.
Valentin Bianchi New Age Vino Bianco NV ($9): You'd be hard-pressed to find a wine more worthy of porch-pounding than this ridiculously bright blend of sauvignon blanc and malvasia (a lush, fruity white varietal commonly planted in Italy and Portugal) that's produced and bottled in Argentina. Furthering its delightful, whiskey-tango-ish appeal as a wine tailor-made for guzzling is the fact that locals typically serve the spritzy wine on the rocks with a few slices of freshly squeezed lemon or lime. Yeah, we know you've been brought up to believe that serving wine with cubes is totally taboo -- but trust us, it's the ice that makes this the perfect hot-weather bevvie. P.S.: The New Age comes in a highly drinkable pink version, as well, that's not to be slept on.
Burgans Albariño 2009 ($11): While we've seen a few more albariños turning up on by-the-glass wine lists around town (it's near-perfection with just about any seafood dish), we're still scratching our heads about why it hasn't yet become omnipresent at any of the poolside gatherings or backyard barbecues we've been to this summer. Two words to describe this typically Spanish-grown varietal? "Mouth" and "watering." Knowing that, and considering how crazy hot it's been lately, what more could you want from a warm-weather wine? Maximize the thirst-quenching benefits of this juicy, grapefruit-y white by transferring it from the fridge to the freezer for just a few minutes before serving it.
Aveleda 'Quinta de Aveleda' Vinho Verde 2010 ($8): Practically every bottle of vinho verde ends up an instant qualifier for porch-pounding because it routinely delivers just about every one of the mandatory criteria to make it into the category: The wines are cheap, crazy refreshing, and always crowd pleasing. Do not be at all surprised if you find yourself with an insatiable craving for the Aveleda, with its fragrant nose of kiwi and lime surpassed only by its flavor profile of ripe mango and sliced pineapple. The wine's slight effervescence and endless guzzle-ability will have you thinking twice before ordering another vodka tonic.
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Dominio de Eguren 'Protocolo' Rosado 2010 ($6): We cannot tell a lie; most of the time, a six-dollar wine is not something we're all that fired up to try, never mind to recommend to people we need to be able to look in the eye at some point in the future. But after having sampled and loved Protocolo's equally wallet-friendly red offering (100 percent tempranillo), we figured their rosado (Spain's term for rosé wines) was at least worth a gander. Can you say "the best six bucks we've ever spent?" A blend of 60 percent bobal (the third-most-planted Spanish varietal) and 40 perent tempranillo, there was all kinds of red-berry fruit goodness that delivered the perfect mix of quaffable acidity and palate-pleasing (but not the least bit sugary) sweetness.
Santa Rita 120 Merlot 2009 ($8): To be honest with you, there's not a whole helluva lot of red wine getting porch-pounded by us at this time of year. It's just too damn hot -- and most red varietal wines are going to be way too high in alcohol and too low in acidity to appeal to us in these kinds of blazing temporal conditions. But there's sure to be a time when you need a patio-worthy red to drink on the rare, blessedly cooler evening when there's a slab of something gamy on the grill and enough previously consumed white and pink wines in your belly to have you craving something a bit more substantial. Enter the Santa Rita merlot, which costs less than $10 but tastes much pricier. And while we wouldn't dream of having you serve this wine over ice, we'll absolutely suggest a brief dip in an ice bucket to make this wine the perfect end to a porch-bound night.