THE DOG DAYS of August--oppressive heat and tropical humidity. From Rock Creek Park to Wolf Trap, what this town needs is a wine for these times. No one should know an antidote for summer better than the folks in Barbados. Now that's heat and humidity.
If the most easterly of the Caribbean islands seems an unlikely viticultural paradise, it is not without reason. Temperatures are seldom below 70 degrees--in the shade. And coping with humidity has been raised to a national art form.
Yet there flourishes in this insular outpost of the West Indies a staggering production of nearly 200,000 barrels a year of the perfect potable--most former motherland, Great Britain.
Nevertheless, copious quantities remain for the natives and the hordes ofropean tourists. Countless bottles are sold at numerous tourist spots, such as the Bagatelle Great House and tn near Bridgetown. It is even served on Pan Am--but less of it in first class, where inexpensive French wine is if it were Chateau Petrus.
The unique Barbados product--more suited for a warm tropical climate than the red wines of Bordeaux or the fat, rich chardonnays from California--should be seriously pondered by any summer-enslaved Washingtonian. Its lightness is refreshing. The bouquet is understated, almost indiscernable. Yet on the palate it is remarkably smooth and just slightly sweet.
While even Bajans disagree, 12 years is considered by many to be the optimum aging period. In the northern plateau area of Barbados, where the soil is rich and the steady trade winds soothe the undulating hillsides, one producer thinks five years in oak barrels is preferable. In any event, no one in Barbados really pays much attention to vintages anymore.
It is even claimed, by demonstrably thin natives, that the local potable is low in calories--fewer than even the washed out "light wines" heavily marketed in the U.S. Moreover, it travels well. Seldom are there reports of bottle sickness.
In addition, one is unlikely to encounter a bottle that has become corked. Its lasting power exceeds that of even the heartiest Italian barolo. And it goes swimmingly with both fish and meats--as well as Barbados lamb. Above all, it is great at the beach, especially when the temperatures top 90 degrees.
So, this summer, bag the beaujolais. Can the generic jugs. Chuck the cheap Italian whites. Sack the flinty French sancerre. Try a bit of variety in your chablis-worn summer.
Buy a bottle of rum--the "wine" of Barbados.
Unless noted, each recipe makes one drink. FISH HOUSE PUNCH (Makes about 1 1/2 gallons) 1 1/2 cups sugar 1 to 2 quarts water 1 quart lemon juice 2 quarts rum Fifth of cognac 4 ounces peach liqueur
Pour water into punch bowl and dissolve sugar in it. When entirely dissolved, add lemon juice, then all the other ingredients. Put a large piece of solid ice in the punch bowl and allow the mixture to steep for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally. In winter, when ice melts slowly, more water may be used; in summer, less. The melting ice dilutes the mixture sufficiently. ZOMBIE 3/4 ounce lime juice 3/4 ounce pineapple juice 1 teaspoon superfine sugar 1 ounce light rum 2 ounces medium rum 1 ounce dark rum 1/2 ounce apricot liqueur Orange slice and sprigs of mint for garnish
Combine ingredients and shake well. Pour into 14-ounce glass filled with cracked ice. Garnish with slice of orange and several sprigs of mint. Serve with a straw. PINA COLADA 2 ounces cream of coconut 3 ounces pineapple juice 3 ounces light rum
Process ingredients in blender half filled with cracked ice and strain into collins glass. Serve with a straw. DAIQUIRI Juice of 1/2 lime, freshly squeezed Juice of 1/2 lemon, freshly squeezed 1 teaspoon sugar 1 1/2 ounces light rum
Shake the lime juice and lemon juice and sugar with cracked ice until it gets cold. Add rum and shake until the shaker frosts. Strain into cocktail glass. A daiquiri should be drunk immediately because the rum, lime, lemon and sugar separate if the drink is allowed to stand.
Note: To make a frozen daiquiri, combine the above ingredients in a blender, substituting 2 cups shaved ice for cracked ice. Add 1/3 cup sliced fruit of your choice to the blender and process. PLANTER'S PUNCH 1 teaspoon sugar 2 ounces rum 1 ounce lime juice 2 ounces orange juice Dash grenadine Fresh pineapple or orange slice and mint sprigs for garnish
Put the sugar in a bar glass, add the rum, lime juice, orange juice and cracked ice and shake well. Add dash of grenadine. Strain into a tall glass that is filled with finely cracked ice. Decorate with sliver of fresh pineapple or half a slice of orange and sprig of mint. Serve with a straw. MAI TAI 1/2 ounce lime juice 1 ounce light rum 1 ounce dark rum 1/2 ounce curacao 1/2 ounce Orgeat (almond liqueur) 1/2 ounce grenadine Fresh pineapple for garnish
Combine all ingredients and shake well with cracked ice. Strain into cocktail glass or serve over ice cubes in old-fashioned glass. Decorate with fresh pineapple. Recipes adapted from "Grossman's Guide to Wines, Beers, and Spirits," Seventh Edition