Giant is chef Jason Vincent's (Nightwood) feverishly anticipated Chicago comeback, one that will be stamped with simple, seasonal plates, complemented by a wine list that highlights unsung worldwide varietals. Beverage director Josh Perlman spent the last year hopping continents to conduct research, in hopes of offerings patrons a taste of something new come June. Below, he considers alternatives to the usual summertime rosé .
Q: What should I drink besides rosé this summer?
Perlman: A number of wines come to mind when I think of summer ... for a lot of people, a rosé might be an obvious choice. For others, sauvignon blanc or riesling may be familiar varietals. Lately, I’ve found myself drinking a good deal of assyrtiko—this Grecian grape tends to produce wines that are dry, lean, and offer racy acidity and good minerality, and one I really enjoy is 2015 Domaine Sigalas Assyrtiko Santorini ($15). These vines are over 50 years old and grow in soils called aspa—they are low in organic matter and consist of black volcanic lava, ash, and pumice stone. The characteristics of this wine pair well with chef Jason and chef Ben’s oil-poached albacore served with fresh and puréed chickpeas, pickled serrano, tonnato and candied lemon zest. Ultimately, this wine is crisp and refreshing, and pairs brilliantly with oily fish from Spanish mackerel to grilled octopus drizzled with olive oil and sea salt.
Lately, I’ve found myself drinking a good deal of assyrtiko—this Grecian grape tends to produce wines that are dry, lean, and offer racy acidity.
Another wine I love to drink during summer months is Txakolina. Txakolina is a region in the Spanish Basque country near San Sebastian. The grapes grown here are mainly hondarribi zuri and hondarribi beltza—not only are they indigenous to the region, but also these red and white varietals are co-fermented, not necessarily a common practice. One of my favorites is 2015 Ameztoi Txakoli de Getaria ($16). The vineyard’s proximity to the Atlantic allows the ocean to impart a salinity, and this nicely complements the wine's high-tone acidity and focused lime citrus and tart green apple notes. Fermented in all stainless steel and bottled with just a small amount of residual carbonic acid, the wine has its own natural spritz. The low alcohol level and high acidity marries well with chef’s crab salad with crispy onion rings and smoked chili spice merken—the sweet vegetal note of the onion and brininess of the crab are particularly highlighted. And because this wine is so drinkable (trust me, a bottle is easy to drink by yourself!), it’s best to drink young.
I know, I know what about reds and rosés? Well, there is a special red grape that few outside of the industry discuss. The movie Sideways made pinot noir uber popular, and I’d like to introduce you to another, pineau—pineau d’aunis. Grown in the Saumur appellation of France’s Loire Valley, this grape is used to make spicy, peppery reds and rosés, and is most known for its distinct characteristic of #2 pencil lead notes. I first fell in love with this grape when I tasted the 2013 Pascal Janvier "Cuvée du Rosier" Coteaux du Loir Rouge ($19). The Cuvée du Rosier is 100 percent pineau d’aunis from 25-year-old vines planted in sandy clay soils that promote richness and depth. A naturally light-bodied, fragrant wine with youthful red berry fruit accented by mineral and herbal notes—I love to pair this with Giant’s house made pasta shells with tomato, rapini, and ground fennel herb sausage. When I first had this pairing in chef Jason’s home during Giant’s menu development, I couldn’t help thinking that the Loire nobles in the 13th and 14th centuries were drinking the exact same thing.
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