Cold-climate wines beat the heat

BUZZ: Hey, Marnie, it's supposed to be in the 90s this weekend. That's ice-cold beer weather for me, but what do wine drinkers like you sip?

Marnie: There are lots of options, and we chill them down, too - typically white wines, like Riesling and vinho verde, pinot grigio and sauvignon blanc. Whether you're a beer or wine drinker, it's natural to reach for the coldest drinks when you're overheated. The wines that taste best coldest are almost always light-bodied whites that come from cold places, but sometimes include sparkling wines and roses.

Buzz: Why not just ice down wines from hot places?

Marnie: It's about more than serving temperature. We chill all whites, but the most refreshing ones come from the coolest climates. It's as if wine delivers a little bit of bottled weather from where the grapes are grown. In the winter, drinking a full-bodied red from a sunny place like California is warming - the beverage equivalent of pulling on a sweater. In summer, lighter wines from colder places, like albarino from Spain's chilly Atlantic coast, feel as brisk as a sea breeze.

Buzz: Wow, does beer do that? Could I taste Milwaukee's winter weather?

Marnie: No, you can't. Wine tastes of its place much more than beer does because wine's flavors are determined by the weather in the vineyard, while brewers control beer's flavors by tweaking their recipes. Wine people have a fancy word for this: "terroir." There are a lot of complicated layers of meaning, but the gist of it is that drinking wine can transport your senses to its region, like vicarious travel.

Buzz: Beer transports my senses to a hangover. Where will you jet off to via wine on this hot weekend?

Marnie: Personally, I seek out the world's coldest fine wine region, Germany's Mosel valley. Riesling is the grape in this frigid landscape, and even this cold-hardy variety has to be planted on south-facing slopes to get enough sun to make good wines. These white wines are made from grapes that are barely ripe, whose green-tasting acidity is so searingly high that winemakers almost always preserve a little sugar to soften its impact. The result is a low-alcohol white that tastes great very cold, and is as close as the wine world gets to sweet-tart lemonade.

Buzz: I love lemonade, but that transports me to Florida. Thanks to you, I'll be trying the Mosel.


Marnie Old is a local sommelier and wine author known for practical advice with real-world relevance.

Check her out at MarnieOld.com or follow her on Twitter @MarnieOld. Buzz's musings are interpreted by Daily News Assistant Managing Editor Gar Joseph.