In summer, I lose it. The lonely, forced focus of winter finds its fractured rival now, with competing claims from the habits of work, the temptations of play, the fluctuations of family schedules, the preparations for hosting and visiting. I receive the season’s default greeting, “How’s your summer going?”, as a taunt, a test, an invitation to disappoint and a portal to sorrow.

Pairing wine with food is a petty concern compared to pairing it with emotional condition. What are the wines for a state of fragmentation? What could support me in efforts to connect with other people? What do I want around the house to smooth out the edges exposed by the gamut of situations that summer presents?

Unexpected guests with expected demands, an impromptu picnic on the beach, a kayak trip that ran late, a mini-block-party that arose out of a driveway basketball game, expected guests with unexpected demands. Summer – especially in a place like Maine that is so identified with summer – calls on us to be more watery: fluid, streamy, tidal.

The simplest general principle I use to prepare for uncontrollable circumstances, to take a liquid approach to liquid, seems surprisingly difficult for most people to execute. It’s to have several bottles of wine (let’s say four, at least, each different from the other) in the house at any one time. Some crazy proportion, 97 percent or so, of wine in this country is consumed the same day it is purchased.

I’m not – not now, anyway – proposing you arrange a cellar and begin to age wine. I’m just suggesting you place a small box somewhere in your house with four or six or eight bottles of wine. No temperature control is necessary; just keep the box out of direct sunlight and extreme heat. Most Maine basements are a bit cooler than upstairs. If you have room in your fridge, pop a couple of the non-red bottles there. (Remember that sparkling wine, in its thicker bottles, requires more time to get cold.) Filling your box requires an upfront outlay of $100 or so, but after that there’s no opportunity cost. Just replace the bottles you open.

Call this box your wine quiver, or golf bag, or toolbox. Whatever your chosen metaphor, the idea is to consider what is appropriate. The idea is to free yourself from last-minute mechanical wine buying, to engage in a process of conscious selection as you encounter the situation ahead: how the menu is coming together, who will be joining you, how you’re feeling. Once you have choices to make, you make choices. And once you make choices, your sensitivity and insight are called into action. In all-over-the-place summer, a wine toolbox is especially useful.

Mine has a few non-negotiable criteria. Each wine should be interesting for wine enthusiasts but inviting for people who don’t care; should be a conversation piece if the conversation wants to lean that way but unobtrusive if not. It should offer some, but not too much, cause for notice. Something on the label should be widely recognizable (the name of a grape, or a part of the world), or if not the label itself should be really cool-looking. If the label isn’t cool-looking, the wine itself should be cool-looking (a red that’s kind of pink, a white that’s amber). It should be versatile for all sorts of food, therefore made with a light touch, most specifically little to no oak, none of it unused.

And I know I started this column on a kind of bummer note (who opens a wine article by linking summer with sorrow?), but the wine should offer some sort of expression of joy. It should all but jump out of the glass. Wine provides a buzz so we think it’s inherently joyful, but that’s not so. Too much wine is heavy and depressing. Too many wine writers are as well. Touché, and here’s what’s currently in my toolbox:

 A better-than-average white wine from Vinho Verde. The Maria Papoila 2014 ($14) and Mica 2014 ($17) are my go-tos. Crunchy mouthfeel, acidity like broken glass, lime juice over peaches. What everyone loves Vinho Verde for, amplified and multiplied.

Pietradolce Etna Rosso 2014 ($19). Sicily’s Mount Etna is where some of the world’s most exciting winemaking is taking place right now. Many of the great Etna reds are expensive (deservedly). The Pietradolce isn’t exactly cheap, but it’s a terrific value: so true to form, with the unique character the nerello mascalese grape presents when grown on volcanic soil. The lightness of Burgundy, the intensity of Tuscany, the grip of Beaujolais. It’s all mouthwatering coolness and bittersweet, and sure to impress all your summer pals.

• Speaking of Beaujolais: Beaujolais. Open the Dupeuble Beaujolais 2014 ($18) to dispel any lingering doubts about Beaujolais as a serious wine with more pure pleasure per ounce than any other red wine on Earth. It’s refined, silky, ravishing. It melds seamlessly into anything from grilled steak to fish cakes to picnic sandwiches.

• Bubbles. In a season where celebrations are always impromptu, a chilled bottle of sparkling wine is primary. Prosecco is obvious, but I often turn to Spain’s Cava instead, especially one made in the traditional style perfected in Champagne, where the secondary, effervescence-producing fermentation takes place in the wine bottle itself rather than large tanks. The Mestres 1312 ($17) is exceptional in every way, with everything done by hand (from the harvesting of grapes to the riddling of the bottles as they age in the cellar), and two years of aging on the lees before disgorgement. The wine is supremely fine, lovely and precise, and quite dry (drier than most Prosecco and even than most Cava), with a comparatively softer, less explosive effervescence.

• Sweet bubbles. A sparkling wine with pronounced sweetness serves a different, albeit crucial function. With certain foods – dessert, or spicy – they are extraordinary. But good sweet sparklers, which contain salty, acidic and bitter components along with the sweet, cover all by themselves the full flavor spectrum that a dry wine needs help from food to present. Therefore, like a good cocktail a sweet sparkling wine can stand alone, no menu required.

For these times, the white Moscato d’Asti 2014 ($15) and red Brachetto d’Acqui 2014 ($19) from the all-organic Marenco winery in the Strevi area of Piedmont, Italy, are where I turn. Alcohol below 6 percent, and terrific integration of floral aromas, cherry and dried peach notes with a restrained sweetness. Pure joy, and the ideal common ground for wine geeks and newbies.

• Actual malbec. We swim in malbec. Much of it is, for me, the “heavy and depressing” sort of wine I insulted a few paragraphs back. This typical modern style, most prominent in Argentina, seeks a perfectly plush, innocuous personality, a huge mouthful of strawberry-jam fruit tricked out with the vanillin quality from small new-oak barrels. An increasing number of Argentine wines buck this trend, but it’s easier to find characterful, edgy malbec blends from the Loire and Cahors regions of France.

In Cahors, Fabien Jouves is a mad scientist of naturally produced malbec. He ferments biodynamically farmed grapes in large cement tanks, which then age for six months in a 50/50 mix of used-oak barrels and cement. His à Table Rosé 2015 ($18), a wildly aromatic blend of malbec and merlot, should be thought of more as a chillable summer red than a rosé proper. The fruit aspect is the deep, baked strawberry you’d find in a pie, without a pie’s sweetness, ending with the cocoa bitter finish both these varietals possess. It’s simple in the best possible way, clean and true, with a round, balanced yumminess that you, your friends, your family, your co-workers and all your splintered summer selves can agree on.

Joe Appel is the wine buyer at Rosemont Market. He can be contacted at:

[email protected]

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