At long last, the season of outdoor dinner parties has arrived. It’s time to zhuzh up that patio decor, break out that new set of plates and glassware you haven’t used yet, and start putting some of those viral recipes to the test. There’s one more thing to consider if you want to take your hosting skills to the next level: Summer wine pairings.
Don’t worry, you don’t have to be a sommelier to master the art of perfect pairing this season — but it sure does help if you know one. Thankfully Maria Rivero González, CEO of RGNY, not only holds that title (having studied at NYC’s International Wine Center), but she happened to have specialized in wine pairing at the French Culinary Institute.
What’s more, winemaking is in Rivero González’s blood. The Monterrey, Mexico native grew up around the process. What started as a personal family practice became a business in 2007, when Rivero González the brand launched in Parras, Coahuila. Twelve years later, the wine expert and entrepreneur expanded in the US with RGNY, now located on North Fork of Long Island. The label has established a reputation for its mixing of new and Old World winemaking, as well as its sustainable practices.
With all that said, who better to ask when it comes to helping you decide which wine to serve with which dish when you’re drinking at pool parties or simply just enjoying a solo meal al fresco? While Rivero González can certainly suggest a few unique options to pair this season, she’s also quick to explain that you shouldn’t feel beholden to rules. “Wines bring back memories and everyone relates to them differently,” she tells TZR. “If only we were more open to experimenting, more memories and feelings would be triggered, making wine a more powerful resource.”
So if you’re hoping to shake up the combos you usually go for in summer, look no further. Ahead you’ll find wine and food pairings to excite your palate and impress your guests. Read on for all the inspiration you need to plan a seasonal yet unexpected menu — plus shop some incredible bottles (including a few by women winemakers like Rivero González!).
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Sauvignon Blanc & Oysters
Pairing white wine with a seafood dish isn’t revolutionary — but it’s classic for good reason. And according to Rivero González, if you have yet to try enjoying a light, crisp glass of Sauvignon Blanc with freshly shucked oysters, you might be missing out. “This classic summer duo is perfect for a refreshing meal after a hot summer day,” she says. As for why this combo works so well, the acidity and minerality of the wine is a good match for the briny flavor of the oyster.
Pét-Nat & Ceviche
Another no-cook summer favorite is ceviche. To complement this dish’s bright, citrus-y flavors, Rivero González likes a little effervescence by way of pét-nat, a sparkling wine made using a natural fermentation process that actually dates back centuries. This low intervention method lends itself to some exciting results (especially if you’re a fellow wine enthusiast), which is part of the reason the winemaker loves cracking open a bottle during dinner parties. “I love the unpredictability that goes along with a pét-nat, perfect to enjoy alongside friends in the summertime.”
Cabernet Franc & Duck
Yes, you can — and should — enjoy red wines in summer, too, according to Rivero González. An ideal time to break out a bottle is when you’re serving a more fatty dish, like grilled duck breast or duck confit. “The complex aromas of a Cabernet Franc — with dark cherry and chocolate notes — play well off the flavors of the duck,” shares Rivero González. And to make this pairing even more spot-on, opt for a wine and poultry from Long Island, an area well-known in the culinary world for its Peking duck as well as where RGNY makes its own Cab Franc. “Medium-bodied with soft, elegant tannins, [this] is an easy-to-drink wine that helps to balance out the fattiness of the duck.”
Viognier & Curry
Love a little spice to match the heat outside? Go for an Indian-inspired menu and grab a bottle of Viognier, which Rivero González says can mirror the exotic flavors in dishes like summer vegetable curry. “Viognier has a low acidity and pairs nicely with the spices of Indian food, as it is silky and full of character,” the winemaker explains.
Orange Wine & Tacos
Skip the margarita for once and try serving orange, or skin contact, wine instead next time you host taco night. “Skin contact wine offers a great depth of flavor like a red wine, with the refreshing qualities of a white,” the winemaker says. “That extra bit of flavor from a skin contact white is also an advantage with spicy dishes, which is one of the reasons I love to enjoy it with my tacos.”