For a long time I was one of those pretentious jerks who scoffed at “summer reading.” Just because you’re on a beach or in a hammock, thought I, doesn’t mean you can’t take in “Swann’s Way” or “The Iliad.” I mean, you’ve got all that time, right? And you’re going to waste it on chick lit? Why do pages in August have to turn more rapidly than in January?

My cultural gate-keeping was most likely an existential inkling gone awry: a steady, unacknowledged fear of death, manifest as a rush to jam-pack every waking moment with substance (as if any particular moment has or can be pushed to have more or less than any other), leading to a bruising campaign of literary conquest that would help me armor up for all the dragons of damnation waiting to attack from below.

When I started turning more and more of my reading time to drinking wine (a fair enough trade, I’d say), I imported the undergraduate attitude. I would drink increasingly serious wine, and thereby become an increasingly serious person.

Then, when death came, I’d be ready to impress whomever needed impressing in order to catch a primo seat on the ferry across the Styx.

So much older then, so much younger now. And so relieved to have ever less to prove and ever more courage to prohibit “guilty” and “pleasure” from occupying the same paragraph.

In August, I read whatever and drink whatever. Pleasure is pleasure, and guilt can wait for the next time another subliminal death wish seizes me (scheduled for just after Labor Day, I believe).

My pleasures aren’t stupid; they just don’t aspire to thematic coherence, philosophical rigor or ethical significance.

And they don’t require much explanation. (Or is it that I’m just a bit fried from swinging in this hammock for so long, and don’t have it in me to give you the full geek on each wine’s background, ampelography and raison d’être?)

Here’s what I’ve really loved recently, a little bit of why and an invitation to meet me on the beach.

Ludovicus Blanco 2011, $13. Terra Alta looks down on the Mediterranean Sea from around 1,400 feet up, on vineyards planted in limestone just a few kilometers south of Spain’s Priorat. It’s the best place in the world for Garnacha Blanca, melding rich, sunbaked fervor with a tense, mineral verve.

Fewer than 3,000 cases of this wine, from organically grown grapes, are produced each year, which are then held back in bottle until they’re truly ready to drink (note the vintage). The cherished, much-sought-after structure and harmony (and spicy, high-octane aromatics) of aged dry Riesling here just knocked me out. Its intensity and complexity belie a strangely low price.

We’re lucky to have this zesty, chalk-flecked beauty here in Maine, where it’s ideally suited to every single fish and shellfish preparation you could think of, and it won’t stick around forever.

Domaine Pierre de la Grange Muscadet Sur Lie 2012, $15. Muscadet is for oysters – blah, blah, blah. You’ve heard it before: Grown at the far western edge of France’s Loire Valley on ancient seabeds of crushed shells, Muscadet is the best wine in the world (that’s not Champagne) for oysters. It tastes like Kettle Cove looks, it’s not sweet and it’s got nothing to do with Moscato. All true.

Also true is that, despite the story, Muscadet is often disappointing to drink, because it’s mass-produced, watered down and fruitless.

Welcome to the first day of the rest of your life. This Muscadet from Pierre-Marie Luneau is produced carefully and in very small quantities, from low-yielding vines between 40 and 65 years old. Most of the grapes are certified organic (the rest are on their way) and hand-harvested, two almost unheard-of factors for Muscadet.

It is a totally awesome party of fruit and sea salt and beach plum and plants – a party that has been rocking for a few hours already with no sign of slowing down. Don’t think of the $11 Muscadet next to it on the shelf, which will confirm every “meh” you’ve ever uttered about this sort of wine. Think instead of the $25 Chablis above it, which you’ve been dying to try but don’t want to shell out for. Shell out for this instead, along with a couple of whole fish to grill.

Acorn Heritage Vines Zinfandel 2011, $37. Yes, we just took a huge step up, price-wise. No pleasures are guilty, but some cost a bit more. If you have enough wiggle room in your budget to move a couple of things around and do this, then do it.

Acorn’s “Zinfandel” comes from a mixed-planting vineyard in the Russian River Valley that is 120 years old. It’s just over 75 percent Zinfandel, with the rest a happy jumble of Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Cinsault and Merlot. Oh yeah, and Carignan, Trousseau, Sangiovese, Plavac Mali (an ancient Croatian cousin of Zinfandel), Tannat, Grenache, Peloursin, Beclan and Muscat Noir. And maybe some others.

All grapes are interplanted, co-harvested and co-fermented. No preciousness here, but the wine has none of the rustic crapshoot quality you’d expect from such a wild provenance and indistinct process.

It’s just joyfully complex, veering from spicy one moment to sweet-tobacco succulence the next, from mineral and structured to some sort of grinning, carnivorous, sauce-faced bone-sucking at the end. It’s just this side of human. It doesn’t read much of anything during the summer. And it’s probably a helluva lot happier for that.

Joe Appel works at Rosemont Market. He can be reached at:

[email protected]

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.