Altano 2007 ($10): Portugal

July around here is known for two things — the Fourth of July, of course, and heat. The average high temperature in Dallas in July is 95, and the record high for every day is 105 or more for 30 of the month’s 31 days.

So why do so many wine drinkers insist on drinking big, heavy red wines for holiday picnics and backyard barbecues during July? Your guess is as good as mine. Those wines, with their high alcohols and rough tannins, sound about as pleasant as sitting on the roof during a July afternoon.

The explanation that I usually get from red wine drinkers who insist on red wine even though it makes the sweat bead on their foreheads is that they don’t like white wine. You can’t argue with that, and I know because I have tried and failed. Instead, I have learned to recommend red wines that offer the red wine qualities they like, such as dark fruit without a trace of sweetness, without the qualities that make big red wines so unpleasant in hot weather.

Generally, these wines aren’t always from the best-known parts of California (or California at all). Best yet, because they aren’t always from the best-known parts of California, they are often inexpensive and almost always offer good value. These three are just a start and are all available at Central Market:

• Côté Jardin 2008 ($10). This red blend from the Rhone region of France, mostly grenache, is juicy and well-balanced (think red fruits) with some black pepper. Given how cute the name and label are (a garden fence, while jardin means garden in French), it’s surprisingly good. Put this in the refrigerator for 20 or 30 minutes to cool it down, and drink it with any kind of grilled beef.

Falesco Sangiovese 2007 ($12). Riccardo Cotarella, who oversees this line of Italian wines, is a genius. The Falescos are always cheap, always well-made, and always deliver value. The sangiovese has cherry fruit, acid and even some minerality, and it’s head and shoulders above similarly priced Chianti. Drink this with smoked chicken or most roasted vegetables.

• Altano 2007 ($10). This red blend from Portugal is one of the great secrets of the cheap wine business. It has lots of raisiny fruit — think of it as much lighter version of an Australian shiraz. It’s suitable for porch sipping and hamburgers.

With Your Wine

Chicken breast in lemon juice and olive oil

What better to grill than chicken breasts marinated in the ingredients in which chicken breasts were made to be marinated? Plus, it involves pounding the breasts (use a rolling pin), and that is always therapeutic. The Côté Jardin, despite being red, would pair nicely with this.


Serves four, takes about 20 minutes (Courtesy of Barb Freda)

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Olive oil

Juice from one lemon

2 cloves crushed garlic

A couple of stems of fresh rosemary

Salt and pepper to taste

1. Pound the breasts until very thin. Place in a Zip-loc bag.

2. Add olive oil, lemon juice, the crushed garlic, fresh rosemary, salt and pepper. Marinate in the refrigerator until dinnertime. Remove and grill until the chicken is done.

Ask The Wine Guy?

Why do we call the wine sangiovese, and the Italians call it Chianti?

In Europe, wine is labeled by the region it’s from, so sangiovese made in Chianti (which is in Tuscany) is called Chianti, just as red wine made in Burgundy is called red Burgundy. In the United States we label wines by grape, so it’s sangiovese and pinot noir.