Although exercise and wine have their proven health benefits, especially for the heart, they don’t necessarily make for a perfect pairing.
Except when they do.
Research by the University of Houston’s Dr. J. Leigh Leasure found that wine (and other alcoholic beverages) and exercise “activate reward circuitry, so engaging in one could in fact trigger a desire for the other.”
So, just as there are some swell “lawn-mower beers” (as Michael Agnew wrote about last week in Taste), certain low-alcohol wines and simple wine cocktails are just what a body might crave after a long, brisk walk, whether it unfolded behind a grass-cutting apparatus or not.
Some, including moscato and sweetish, fizzy blends such as New Age (red, white or pink) throw sugar into the mix, which somewhat defeats the purpose for those on a fitness kick. That makes dry wines a better choice in general, and the less alcohol the better. Which generally means Europe, and if we’re going there, why not explore some of these semi-obscure grapes and regions?
Arneis: This white grape was rescued from oblivion by Vietti’s Alfredo Currado a few decades ago, and its many admirers (present company included) are eternally grateful. For those wondering what we mean by “minerality,” one sip of this cool, clean wine from Italy’s Piedmont region provides a stark answer. I love Ceretto, Malvira, Paitin, Pertinace, Serra Lupini and, of course, Vietti iterations.
Assyrtiko: Grown only on the stupendously beautiful Greek isle of Santorini, these wines can easily transport you to their homeland, thanks to super-crisp, sunny, saline-tinged aromas and flavors. Look for Gai’a, Domaine Sigalas, Domaine Skouras and D. Kourtakis Greek Wine Cellars, but any Santorini assyrtiko that reaches these shores is bound to be stellar.
Picpoul de pinet: Until fairly recently, the white picpoul grape was used primarily to make vermouth in France’s Languedoc regions. In this century it has emerged as one of the most refreshing, lively wines around, almost always selling for $12 or less. The grape ripens late and thus retains sprightly acidity but is no slouch in delivering tasty fruit. Standout brands include Felines Jourdan, Petit Roubie, La Dent, Font Mars and Montmassot.
Txakolina: Brace yourself before quaffing this Basque beauty from Spain. Pronounced chock-oh-LEE-nah, it’s packed with vim, verve, vigor and vivacity. And usually a bit of fizz. It should be in the patio rotation for sedentary sorts, too, especially fans of New Zealand sauv blancs. Among the gems available locally are Ameztoi, Gorrondona, Camino Roca Altxerri and Etxaniz.
Vinho Verde: The name is deceiving: “Verde” in this case means young, not green. Also, Vinho Verde is actually a region of Portugal, not a grape. It’s that country’s largest wine region. Pronounced “veen-yo vaird,” these vibrant wines are exhilarating and revitalizing blends that might include alvarinho, avesso, azal, arinto, loureiro and trajadura. Check out Broadbent, Gazela, Pavao, Gateway, Miranda, Hera Branco, Vera and Adega Mãe.
All that said, the optimum approach toward post-exercise wines probably is to soften the alcohol intake even more with other beverages. And as with wine itself, options abound more than ever.
For starters, consider a spritzer; they’re better than before because one of the ingredients (the wine) is almost certainly better than in spritzers’ heyday a few decades back. These should be basically half white wine (usually a lighter bodied one such as those listed above or maybe a pinot grigio) and half fizzy water, with some citrus garnish or even zest added. A “darker” alternative: spritzers combining lighter bodied red wines (barbera, Beaujolais), club soda and berries.
Other flavorful, fulfilling choices include Champagne lemonade (half sparkling wine, half lemonade), the Italian favorite called tiziano (1 bottle Prosecco, 1 ½ cups grape juice, sliced lemon and chopped mint leaves), frosé (slushies made with rosé, plain or with equal parts strawberry syrup and fresh lemon juice added before freezing) and my favorite, schorle (3 parts riesling, 3 to 5 parts sparking water, perhaps lime-flavored).
These are great ways to take it easy after exerting yourself. Just be sure to also take it easy on how much you consume.
Bill Ward writes at decant-this.com. Follow him on Twitter: @billward4.