I know it sounds implausible, but us wine folks could learn a thing or two from our beer-imbibing brothers and sisters, especially during the summer months.
This revelation came to me at a recent show at the Chastain Amphitheater (Boz Scaggs and Michael McDonald, two thumbs way up!). As I scanned the fold-up tables bestrewn with cheeses, salads and various forms of finger foods, I noticed something curious. There were many bottles of wine (mostly red, but quite a number of white) standing proudly on those tables.
Normally, the sight of so many people simply enjoying wine and sharing so freely puts smile on my face (a special shout out to Steve from Tallahassee, Fla., for a generous pour of his 2009 Bordeaux). But here’s the thing: while always appreciated for the gesture, 90-degree red wine is icky…and tepid white or pink wines ain’t much better.
Now, beer folk would never be caught without a trusty ice chest or some kind of hand-held device to keep their sudsy, hopped beverage cool even in the face of a muggy, hot Atlanta night. (Of course, with enough ice, one can swing the thermometer to the other extreme and keep beer and wine too cold for their own good. But you know, when you have rivers of sweat pouring down your back, you generally don’t complain that something is too cold.)
What’s the take-home message here? Whether you bring your own or buy wine at the concert, bring a small cooler to keep your red and white wines closer to 50 than they are to 90 degrees. Do not worry if the reds come out of the ice chest too cold. The thick, ambient temperatures of July and August will fix that in short order. If you’re not actively pouring the wine, put it back in the chest. You can show off your 2000 Domaine de Chevalier Bordeaux Blanc after you finish it.
You might be quietly asking yourself at this point if it is OK to put an ice cube or two in your wine, especially on a hot, muggy night. Well, of course it is! You’re at an outdoor concert, in the summer and you’re likely drinking out of a plastic cup. This is not exactly a coronation dinner, fer cyin’ out loud. Will the melting ice dilute the flavors of the wines? Yeah. So what?
As the designated wine guy, I am always happy to bring a nice selection of usual and unique wines to share at Chastain. I take great pleasure in sharing my wealth of wine with guests and strangers. (Take notice Verison Amphitheatre and Lakewood Amphitheatre, which insist concert goers purchase beer and wine on-site from limited, uninspired menus.) Chastain and the Mable House Barnes Amphitheater in Mableton allow responsible adults to bring their own. Hoo-Rah for them!
Even though Chastain is OK with a guy like me who lugs as many as 10 bottles of wine through the gate, I am impressed by the wine offerings at Atlanta’s oldest outdoor concert venue. Even though Chastain does not have choices as eclectic as mine (for the Scaggs/McDonald concert, I brought an Israeli cabernet sauvignon and a slightly frizzante pink wine from Northern California), I give the wine program two thumbs way up for its selection and price. For the record, I always leave with several bottles. I’m into having a selection, not overindulging.
Chastain has no less than 17 choices, including wines from South Africa, Chile, Australia and California. Most bottles are $23, with the La Capra Cabernet Sauvignon from South Africa coming in on the high side at $33. Selected wines by the glass go for $6 each. Granted these prices are about triple what you’d find at retail, but that is not an insane mark-up. Don’t forget: you are a captive audience. And, if their selections or prices don’t suit you, they let you bring your own.
Another small detail that I find appealing about Chastain’s wine program is that someone took the time to describe—quite accurately I might add—all the wines on the list. Debbie Attaway, who serves the wines at the Gate 4 concession stand, says she takes great pride in serving the wines, including the reds, at the correct temperature and that her customers appreciate that. She reports that the Carmenet Reserve Pinot Grigio ($26) is the most popular choice.
So whether it’s at Chastain or at any number of the outdoor concert events, raise a glass to summer. Just make sure the wine inside your glass is cooler than what Mother Nature wants it to be.
Gil Kulers is a certified wine educator and a wine consultant for Tower Beer, Wine & Spirits. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.