When the summer Olympics are kicked off in Rio on August 5, the whole world will inevitably be spending way more time in front of the TV than usual on some of the nicest days of the year. So you might as well have an excellent summery wine in your hand while you watch.
While winemaking is not nearly as international as the Olympics—more than 200 countries will compete in the games this year—a good number of the countries do, in fact, produce wine, which means you can sync your drinking with the team you’re rooting for. Better yet, you can get a bunch of bottles from different places, have some friends over and see which wines take gold, silver and bronze.
Check out these 13 wines from 13 countries, from Argentina to the U.S., all from champion producers that will set you on a good path.
Obviously, malbec steals the show when it comes to red wines from Argentina, but if you’re looking for something a little lighter and brighter, bonarda’s the grape to seek out. The bonarda grape was classically grown to be blended with with malbec, but for the past dozen or so years, Altos las Hormigas has been using it on its own, with great results. This unoaked dark-cherry-scented wine ($10) is best served with a little chill on it, making it a superb summer red.
Winemaker Gary Mills has been crucial to the movement of winemakers who are turning the conventional concept of Australian shiraz (syrah) on its head. Mills produces most of his wines from the Yarra Valley, in the very southeastern corner of the country. This southern position has a relatively cool climate, which helps keeps the grapes from becoming overly ripe. His wines are nuanced, savory and thrillingly fruity, without being sweet or galumphing. This one ($25) has a mossy, herbal edge that channels a woodsy cabin.
Unbelievably, there’s a bit more pinot blanc grown in Austria than there is riesling, and this is one of the best versions. Georg Prieler is the third generation to make wine on his family’s property in Burgenland, a wine-growing region just south of Vienna. His version of pinot blanc ($22) is ripe and full but incredibly fresh, with orange blossom aromas and Asian pear character.
Everyone expects Chilean wines to be in-your-face powerful reds, but it’s slowly becoming a great country for pinot noir lovers, as growers in cooler areas, like the Casablanca Valley, are having real success with the grape. This bottling ($12) is easygoing, with great red fruit, like cherries and cranberries, with a bit of spice and offers nice value.
Do as the French and drink Champagne on the regular. Or just have a bottle to celebrate the opening ceremony. This wine is a relative bargain at $45 (a great price for well-made Champagne), and its fruit is sourced from exclusively grand cru vineyards, primarily in Aÿ and Avize. It’s 65 percent pinot noir (with the balance made up of chardonnay), giving the wine some real structure and substance, matched by toasted nut and honeyed ripe apple flavors. Although this bottling is nonvintage (a blend of multiple year’s wines), the majority of the wine is from the 2012 vintage, as noted in its name.
Eight generations of the Kerpen family have made riesling in the same place on the slate soils of the Mosel Valley for more than 250 years. While some wine drinkers turn away rieslings with any amount of discernible sugar, that would be a huge mistake when it comes to this wine. Although this kabinett-level bottling ($21) from a fantastic vineyard is off-dry, it has exactly the right amount of sweetness that’s evened out by a brilliant zip of acidity, making the wine downright gulpable. You will have a sip and not want to stop. And lucky for all of us, it’s only 7 percent alcohol.
We have Greece to thank for the Olympics, and we have Greece to thank for moscofilero. This indigenous white grape from the Peloponnese peninsula in the south of Greece has often had a bad rap for tasting like perfume or pine sap, but this bottling ($16) from respected winemaker George Skouras isn’t that way at all. Salto is a medium-bodied and juicy single-vineyard wine, with all of these pretty aromas of green tea and honeysuckle that make it stand out in the best way possible.
At just 36 years old, fifth-generation winemaker Luca Roagna has become a true star in barbaresco and Barolo. He pretty much makes his wines entirely by hand on his own, from working in the vineyards to getting the wine in the bottle. And while his top single-cru bottlings get tons of attention, his beautiful little Dolcetto d’Alba ($18) is often overshadowed. This wine is consistently a sleeper hit, made with just as much care as his best barbarescos, and is light-bodied and dark-berried, with some elegant licorice notes.
Simon Waghorn’s been making wine in New Zealand’s Marlborough region for nearly 35 years, so when he decided to start his own winery, he knew precisely which areas he wanted to work in. Many believe that all sauvignon blancs taste the same, like grass with grapefruit and green bell peppers, but this one ($22), from the Awatere Valley, is loaded up with fresh herbs, like thyme and rosemary, and nice juicy lemon flavors.
Somehow it became an expectation that Vinho Verde was the silly, fizzy, cheap soda pop of wine. This isn’t that. In fact, this wine ($14) is not sparkling at all; it’s just crisp, lemon-limey and fantastically refreshing. A multitude of grapes are grown in Portugal’s Vinho Verde region—this one’s made specifically with the arinto grape, which means not only do you get to drink a well-made Vinho Verde but you can try a new grape, too.
This blend of chenin blanc, chardonnay and viognier is the product of a partnership between importer Bartholomew Broadbent and Adi Badenhorst, who has become renowned for the superb wines he’s making in South Africa’s Swartland region. This full-bodied and incredibly fruit-forward white ($10) will go with just about any food you put on the table.
This floral, young, vervy red wine ($16) comes from the very steep, rocky and dangerous vineyards of Spain’s northwestern Ribeira Sacra area. Winemaker Pedro Rodríguez, one of the most exciting producers in the region, blends a native variety called mencía with other indigenous grapes from the area and ages the wine in cement tanks to preserve its incredible liveliness. It’s ridiculous that a wine that requires so much effort in the vineyards to make is a steal on the shelf.
Jim Clendenen is essentially the spirit animal of Santa Barbara winemaking. His affinity for the wines of Burgundy inspired him to work with pinot noir and chardonnay, which put him on the map about 35 years ago. While the rest of California has long gone crazy with using new oak in chardonnay, Clendenen’s use of oak is much more judicious, resulting in this wine ($22), full of pear and yellow apple fruit, without going too far in the vanilla and butter direction.
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