Back to School time can either drive you to drink from the stress of trying to get kids up and out early, dealing with massive amounts of homework, frenemy drama, and constantly rushing kids to multiple sports and activities. Or it can be a cause to raise your glass in celebration for getting back on a schedule, not having to pay for summer camp anymore, not having to find ways to keep the kids busy/entertained, and getting some breathing room.
No matter your situation, here are a few wine recommendations to celebrate or cope with Back to School, expertly paired with your child’s grade.
No first day of school is harder than when your little one goes off to school for the very first time. For many moms, this is the first time their child has been away from them for any length of time, and certainly the first time their child is being left in the care of “strangers” for the day. Tears are very likely to be shed. For those moms crying into their wine on the first day, I am recommending a wine with some salinity (a salty character).
Albariño is a white wine from the Galicia and Rias Baixas regions of Spain, located on the Atlantic coast. This is a light-bodied wine that is both fruity and floral. It has lemon, lime, peach, and nectarine characteristics with a slightly bitter finish reminiscent of grapefruit. Due to its proximity to the ocean, the sea air imparts a slightly briney character on the wine. This wine is fresh and zippy and should be drunk young. It is excellent paired with seafood.
Recommended: La Cana Albariño, Rias Baixas, Spain, $17
The elementary school years are the easiest and most fun. Kids at this age love to learn and relish every lesson, while homework is still generally light and they are not yet overwhelmed by workload and exams. The kids grow attached to their teachers and make lots of new friends. Elementary schools still have classroom parties and field days. These fun years deserve an equally fun and easy-drinking wine. Nothing is more cheery than a glass of pretty pink rosé.
Rosé can made from several different grape varieties in a number of different styles, from light to full-bodied, and dry to sweet. The most popular style of rosé is from Provence, France, which is typically light, crisp and dry with aromas of strawberry, watermelon and roses. For a slightly fuller-bodied style, try a rosé from Spain or California.
Recommendation: Bodegas Muga Rosé Rioja, Spain, $15
Middle School is an awkward time for many children with lots of changes. School is getting more difficult and friendships are beginning to develop lots of drama. However, these are also the years where we hold on to our childrens’ sweet innocence even harder before they truly grow up. Middle school requires a wine that is getting more serious, but is still approachable and enjoyable.
Pinot Noir is a finicky grape that can be difficult to grow due to its delicate, thin skin and need for a moderate climate. However, when done right, it produces a lighter-bodied, easy drinking wine with juicy red fruit characters of cherry and raspberry, and notes of flowers, vanilla and mushroom. It is one of the most popular wines in the world, with the very best coming from Burgundy, France (along with very high prices). Other regions that produce excellent Pinot Noir at more moderate prices are Oregon and New Zealand.
Recommendation: A to Z Wineworks Pinot Noir, Oregon, $17
High school – the dark years. You now have cranky and rebellious teenagers who think all adult are idiots, grunt rather than speak, and hide in their rooms for hours on end huddled with their smart phones. Schoolwork is so difficult that many parents (me included) cannot offer any help, exams are an everyday occurrence, preparing for college is a full-time job, and sports and other activities are all-consuming. The dark years require an equally deep, dark wine.
Cabernet Sauvignon is the world’s most popular wine, and for good reason. It is full-bodied and concentrated with black fruit characteristics (blackberry, black cherry, black currant) and toasty flavors from oak aging. It’s a big wine that can easily handle big moments in life. Cabernet Sauvignon from Bordeaux, France is renowned the world over. Napa Valley is equally well regarded (and my personal favorite). Yet both regions have prices that match the high demand. Excellent Cabernet can still be had at more moderate prices in regions such as Chile, Argentina and Australia.
Recommendation: Concha y Toro Marques de Casa Concha Cabernet Sauvignon, Chile, $20
You made it this far, now it’s time to celebrate! Although there is still plenty of parenting ahead of you, you have gotten your children though to independence and adulthood. There’s no time like the present to pat yourself on the back and raise a glass to a job well done.
Sparkling wine (simply known as “bubbles”) is the perfect companion for celebrations. There are several different ways of producing sparkling wine, which I promise to cover in a future blog post. However, only sparkling wines produced in the Champagne region of France can be labelled as Champagne, and these also command some of the highest prices. Not to worry, though. There are plenty of delicious bubbles out there at very reasonable prices, including Cava from Spain, Prosecco from Italy and Sparkling Wine from California.
Recommendation: Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Brut, $19