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Wine: Simple, affordable ‘picnic wines’

McClatchy Newspapers
Modified: June 28, 2012 at 4:29 pm •  Published: June 28, 2012

Let us now sing the praises of picnic wines. And let us hear no discouraging words. Not everybody drives a Lamborghini. Do you drive a Lamborghini?

In the market now, just as summer’s heating up, are several simple, inexpensive, lightly sweet sparkling or semi-sparkling wines tasting of peaches, oranges and even (gasp!) grapes.

I gasp because did you ever notice that wine writers, for all their verbal gymnastics in finding everything from pomegranates to cat pee flavors in wines, never say one tastes like grapes? I guess if all wines tasted like grapes, you wouldn’t need wine writers. Give us a break.

These are light-bodied wines, mostly with 7 percent alcohol, little more than half the usual 12 percent of other wines but well above the 4.5 percent level of the average American beer. So despite the similarities, they ain’t Nehi. Don’t guzzle.

They’re unserious wines, to be drunk extra-cold. You can jam a bottle into your ice chest, maybe even pour it over ice cubes.

First come four wines imported by the Coleccion Internacional del Vino -- wines called Bellini, Mimosa, Sparkling Moscato and Pink Moscato.

The “Bellini,” of course, is inspired by the sparkling-wine-and-peach-nectar drink invented in 1948 by Giuseppi Cipriani, the bartender at Harry’s Bar, the haunt of Ernest Hemingway and Orson Wells. The drink was named for the 15th-century Venetian painter Giovanni Bellini.

The “Mimosa,” historians speculate, was invented at the Ritz Hotel in Paris in 1925 (another Hemingway haunt; is there a pattern here?), or maybe a French bartender stole the recipe from a London tavern that called it a “Buck’s Fizz.”

CIV’s “Mimosa” and “Bellini” wines are made of natural sparkling grape wines with orange concentrate or peach aromas added. They’re made of Airen, a workhorse grape often used to lighten too-heavy red wines and said by some to be the most prolific grape on the planet.

They get their bubbles via the Charmat method, by natural fermentation in big vats, instead in individual bottles like other champagnes and sparkling wines. This is less expensive, and many say it preserves more of the fruity flavor. Especially, I guess, when you actually add fruit juices.

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