In theory, summer is uncomplicated. Fewer clothes, more outside activity, less work and less cooking. For the first time in my life though, practice is not aligning with theory.

I’m feeling more put-upon, more tired, more burdened and less at ease. For all you Shakespeare fans keeping score at home, the summer of my content is made inglorious (and vainglorious) winter.

To counter this disturbing misalignment, I want to title this week’s column “a couple of wines I’m liking a lot right now.” That’s all. No themes, no overviews, no contemplative shtick. I’ll try to stay sparse, in a T-shirt and shorts, and stick with what’s in front of me.

These two wines are terrific for all sorts of summer occasions, especially when food is around. But their hidden talent could be an ability to export a summery ease to any time in one’s life when – whatever the weather – things start to feel too wintry.

“M” Muscadet Collection Privee des Freres Couillaud 2009, Muscadet Sevre et Maine, France ($20, Devenish). Almost everyone overlooks Muscadet. Produced by the gigaton for the French to guzzle, it’s too often thin and inconsequential. But when made well from the right places in the Eastern Loire, it’s a revelation – and not just for oysters. The “M” is one of these.

In 2012 you usually see 2009 Muscadet in unscrupulous retailers’ discount buckets. But this Muscadet’s Melon de Bourgogne grapes saw 30 months in contact with the lees (dead yeast cells left over from fermentation), in both stainless steel and cement tanks before an unfiltered bottling, which lends levels of intensity and luxuriance nothing short of extraordinary.

I can’t imagine there are 15 people in the world (apart from the Couillard brothers who make the wine) who could sniff the “M” blindfolded and know it’s Muscadet. A glass of it practically hurls the aromas at you – dried apricots and fresh tart mangoes, white flowers and capers. Yeah, there is that briny, Atlantic aspect that lives in any true Muscadet’s bones thanks to the eons-of-seashells-compacted terroir. Then come somersaults.

Initial flavors of more dried apricots and pale honey proceed to a firm, structured acidity (rather than just lemony-ness) before finishing in the realm of the bitter where the texture turns chalky and the flavors are of tahini and grapefruit pith.

By the way, the Couillards make several exceptional Muscadets in the Loire, including the Chateau La Morniere Muscadet Sur Lie Vieilles Vignes 2010 ($13, Devenish), whose sprinting pace and sharp angles stand in thrilling contrast to the Collection Privee’s languid composure.

They also make the terrific value Domaine de Bernier Chardonnay 2011 ($9, Nappi), a pure, refreshing, oak-free Chard with no toasted or singed qualities in sight.

Casa de la Ermita Roble 2008, Jumilla, Spain ($10, Central). Once again, I assert that almost regardless of region, varietal or price point, a wine made in 2008 is likely to be better than a wine of any other recent vintage with better balance, integration, clarity and drive.

This roble (a semi-precise Spanish wine term meaning it has had only moderate oak-aging) is mostly Monastrell, with 20 percent Petit Verdot, from grapes grown organically but not certified as such (my favorite kind).

Jumilla is hot, but those two varietals are born to take the heat. And this wine’s vineyards are at 2,300 feet above sea level, where the sun blazes but the air remains relatively cool.

This lengthens the time the grapes can hang on the vines to reach physiological ripeness. (Physiological ripeness occurs alongside the evolution of flavor complexity and the retention of acidity, whereas heat-induced physical ripeness blasts flavor and leads mostly to the development of sugars, which during vinification can only lead to higher alcohol levels and a jelly-jar blast of fruit.)

Anyway, Monastrell is the same as Mourvedre, the rugged, testy, tannic little bugger responsible for the rusticity and durability of so many great southern Rhone wines (and a smaller number of great California blends).

Next time you want a dry, raspy red wine that kicks dust in your eyes and launches pebbles at your chest and ankles (and who doesn’t want that, from time to time?), this is what you drink. There are flavors of dried roses and dried cherries, aromas of dry cedar and smoldering bark with uncommonly moderate alcohol (13.5 percent), sinuous tannins and – despite its slightly untamed spirit – impeccable balance make this a casual “table red” of the best sort.


Joe Appel works at Rosemont Market. His blog,, continues the conversation, and he can be reached at: [email protected]