As the summer fades, I feel wistful. I should have spent more quality time at the beaches. I said yes too early and often. I was so drunk by the sun that SPF forgot to apply. I decided to not indulge in my regrets, as we have all winter for that, and instead looked for island wine that would immediately get me back at the peak of the season.
The term island wines is a general term for wines from southern European islands (like Santorini, Sardinia and Sicily). They are fresh and vibrant and perfect for the early autumn when the heat is still high. While each island is unique in its terroir, climate, and native grapes; there are some key characteristics that define this easy-going style of wine.
A brief Geology lesson: Most islands are formed by volcanic activity. The soil that results is porous and has great drainage. This combination allows grapevine roots to reach deeper for nutrients. These conditions result in a more aromatic wine. The vines are able to absorb all the minerals and then let their energy flow into fruit production. The constant ocean breezes keep pests and moisture-loving bacteria at bay. Additionally, the proximity to the ocean promotes the temperature shifts high acid thirst quenchers create. These wines can even be described as having a salty taste, like they are being carried on a sea breeze.
These natural benefits do not reflect the human ingenuity that ancient winemaking has brought to bear. Wind can sometimes be a challenging growing environment that requires creativity. The Canary Islands has vineyards that have craters that resemble the moon’s surface. They protect the young vines against being uprooted by strong storms. Santorini’s vines are as iconic as the whitewashed, blue-domed architecture; For generations, winemakers have raised each of their vines to form a basket-shaped kouloura that protects the precious grapes that grow in it from harsh winds. These elements result in wines that are almost all fascinating. Even though the flavors may be different, aromas from island whites can still be refreshingly refreshing, much like eating a salted lemon at the beach. Reds are more appealingly ethereal, with hints of clove and cardamom wafting through a market.
These wines can be transported as easily as a time machine at best. They are summer in a glass, reminding me that I can still say yes even as the days grow shorter and the world becomes less important.
Native to Sicily, Frappato produces a bright red that is wonderfully chilled. Garnish the dish with the last of your tomatoes.
Domaine Santamaria La Boutanche Rouge
A delicious Corsican mix that plays with both grilled vegetables and hearty pasta.
Garalis Terra Ambera
This wine from the Greek island of Limnos has the acidity and light tannins of a perfect Arnold Palmer.
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