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waters on wine

For most of us, choosing a wine for dinner is usually a matter of preference. When guests are over, however, you’ll want to please their palates as well as your own.

Sparkling wines are always a safe bet. They work with a wide array of flavours and are often less divisive than a white wine. No doubt you have friends and colleagues who don’t favour chardonnay or sauvignon blanc or riesling. Of course, not all chardonnays (or other any other varietally labelled wines) are built the same. There are a tremendous range of styles and personalities to discover. Nevertheless, I’d steer clear of selecting something that might alienate someone at your table.

During summer, lighter styles of wine are typically more enjoyable than a rich and robust red wine, especially if you’re dining outside. Many wine lovers consider July and August to be peak rosé season and it’s a solid choice for entertaining. I’ve identified three current releases that are dry, balanced and tasty, three attributes that make them ideal dinner party selections in my books.

For any heavier dishes such as grilled steak or ribs, select a white and red that are richer or riper. Balance is key to their success. This week’s recommendations are structured, with good intensity of flavour, which makes them suitable dining companions.

For the suggested reds and whites, some – namely the chardonnay, Côtes du Rhône and Crianza – would please those with traditional tastes while others are more esoteric. South African chenin blanc offers rich and fruity flavours with a creamy texture, which is an unexpected sensation for the uninitiated. Likewise, a ripe and bright Australian grenache blend is sure to surprise anyone who hasn’t bought a wine from Down Under without a cartoon critter on its label.

Choose your own adventure, select accordingly and remember to buy more bottles than you think you need to ensure you won’t run out.

Angels & Cowboys Rosé 2021 (USA), $24.95

Rating:88 /100

A blend of grenache with syrah and carignan, this Sonoma County rosé is made in a dry and inviting style. It has that fashionable pale onion skin colour, with a refreshing character marked by berry and cherry notes with zesty citrus and some herbal accents. There’s some weight to balance out the palate-cleansing nature to make for an appealing aperitif or rosé to bring to the dinner table. Drink now. Available in Ontario at the above price, various prices in Alberta, $23.55 in Quebec.

Cloudsley Twenty Mile Bench Chardonnay 2018 (Canada), $34.95

Rating:91 /100

Cloudsley is a boutique winery based in Vineland, Ont., that specializes in pinot noir and chardonnay. This barrel fermented chardonnay from 2018 is produced with chardonnay grapes grown in various vineyards, including Cuesta and neighbouring properties, Wismer Wingfield and Wismer Foxcroft. The style is rich and rewarding, with a creamy texture that carries to a refreshing finish. Drink now to 2026. Available in Ontario.

Delas Saint-Esprit Côtes du Rhône 2020 (France), $18.95

Rating:90 /100

Saint-Esprit is a rare red Côtes du Rhône that uses more syrah than grenache in its blend. The result is a wine that offers more depth and complexity than the sweet and charming fruit character found in most Côtes du Rhônes. The bright core of fruit gains interest from floral and savoury notes, making for an enjoyable red for all seasons. Drink now to 2025. Available in Ontario at the above price, $23.99 in British Columbia, $21.99 in Manitoba.

Donnafugata Dolce & Gabbana Rosa Sicilia 2021 (Italy), $47.95

Rating:88 /100

A collaboration between Sicilian winery Donnafugata and fashion brand Dolce & Gabbana has yielded this fragrant and refreshing dry rosé. Made from a blend of nerello mascalese and nocera grape varieties, this offers bold blossom and floral aromas and a ripe medley of citrus, peach and red berry flavours. It’s an expensive bottle of rosé, with an attention-getting label and personality. Drink now. Available at the above price in Ontario online at lcbo.com, $48 in Quebec, various prices in B.C. and Alberta.

Mullineux Kloof Street Old Vine Chenin Blanc 2021 (South Africa), $19.95

Rating:91 /100

Winemakers Andrea and Chris Mullineux are responsible for a growing portfolio of wines made in South Africa, including the consistently reliable value priced label Kloof Street. The 2021 edition is made with chenin blanc coming from a variety of vineyards located in Swartland. The blend is a mix of tank and barrel fermented lots to produce a rich and refreshing white wine that’s a great introduction to one of South Africa’s best wineries. Drink now to 2025. Available in Ontario at the above price, various prices in Alberta and Manitoba, $22.30 in Quebec.

Ruffino Aqua di Venus Rosé 2021 (Italy), $25.95

Rating:91 /100

This stylish and savoury dry rosé features an innovative blend of syrah, sangiovese and pinot grigio grown in Maremma along the coast in Tuscany. It is a serious and enjoyable rosé that makes the most of its fruity charm and refreshing character. A terrific style to enjoy with a meal. Drink now to 2024. Available at the above price in Ontario, $29.99 in Nova Scotia.

Tantalus Rosé 2021 (Canada), $23.48

Rating:91 /100

Tantalus sticks to its traditional blend of estate grown pinot noir and pinot meunier to produce the latest release of its popular salmon-hued rosé. The pressed juice was fermented in older oak barrels to build the wine’s weight and texture without adding any cedar, vanilla or smoky notes. On the palate, this shows richer rhubarb and berry flavours that are rounded out by savoury notes and a clean, refreshing finish. Drink now to 2024. Available direct, tantalus.ca, various prices in B.C. and Alberta.

Torbreck Old Vines Grenache/Shiraz/Mourvèdre 2018 (Australia), $24.95

Rating:91 /100

Torbreck helped to establish the powerful style of Barossa red wines made from old vines, but it is wonderful to see the evolution under winemaker Ian Hongell and the team to wines with more structure and elegance. This flavourful and complex red wine shows the personality of each variety featured in the blend. There’s nice structure and harmony here, with ripe and vibrant fruit flavours that gain complexity from spicy and savoury notes. Drink now to 2026. Available in Ontario at the above price, $28.99 in B.C., various prices in Alberta, $29.99 in New Brunswick.

Vina Real Crianza 2018 (Spain), $16.95

Rating:90 /100

A solid value red from Rioja, this tempranillo-based blend shows nice balance and concentration in a wine with a focused core of juicy cherry and plum fruit flavours. Judicious aging in oak barrels contributes some cedar and spicy notes to an approachable and easy-to-appreciate red wine. Drink now to 2027. Available in Ontario at the above price, $22.99 in B.C. ($20.99 until July 30), various prices in Alberta, $16.45 in Quebec.

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