CultureMap Wine Guy Chris Shepherd shares wines he loves for Labor Day

Editor’s note: Long before Chris Shepherd became a James Beard Award-winning chef, he developed enough of a passion for wine to work at Brennan’s of Houston as a sommelier. He maintains that interest to this day. When Chris expressed interest in writing about wine-related topics for CultureMap, we said yes.

In this week’s column, he shares some of his favorite porch pounders. Take it away, Chris.  

All right team, here we go. Let’s talk Houston summer. I know we’re almost to the end of the season, but here in Houston, it’s still f*cking hot.

After my first column, I received a few messages from people excited that it’s almost Cab season. I’ll be excited for that time, too, but hold up. We’re not there yet. It’s porch pounder season, baby!

What is a porch pounder? Wines that will drop your internal temp by 10 to 15 degrees, will put a smile on your face, and pair perfectly with a cheese and charcuterie board or foods just coming off the grill. Quite frankly, these wines are also just damn good on their own.

We’re going to explore through four wines I’m loving right now—from classic to fun and funky. They’re four dramatically different styles, but they’re all porch pounders.

Let’s start with the classic: Chateau Ducasse Bordeaux 2021.

When we talk white Bordeaux, we’re talking about Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and in this case, a small amount of Muscadelle. But what does this mean for you? What does this label say?

Traditionally, these wines are bone dry, no residual sugar, super crisp. Think racy acidity. They can be grassy, lemony, have touches of tropical fruits, but really, really easy to drink. This is what we describe as case wine—you should buy a case.

This wine is chicken wing wine—grilled, fried, smoked, air fried, I don’t care. It’s perfectly paired with a chicken wing—the most perfect food group.  

Next up: Xarmant Txakoli.

The wine is pronounced chak-oh-lee, and it comes from the Basque region of Spain. The main grape in this wine is Hondarrabi Zuri, and you can find this in both white and rosé. The beauty of these wines is that they have a slight effervescence to them, which really helps cleanse the palate. Think not-so-bubbly Champagne.

These wines typically have flavors of grapefruit, apple, and bright acidity. The perfect pairing for this, in my opinion, is ribs. Smoked pork ribs.

Plus, wine nerds love Txokali, so you’ll fit right in with the cool kids.

Our third wine: Beurer Rosé Trocken 2021.

This wine is pretty cool. It’s a German rosé. When searching out wines like this, look for the word Trocken. It means this rosé is going to be a dry-style rosé without a lot of sweetness but has a nice backbone and depth. The main grapes are Zweigelt and Spätburgunder.

The producer describes it as a biodynamic Gatorade that zings. And they’re not wrong. It’s delicious and perfect with a turkey sandwich. Without avocado since avocado is the devil’s fruit. (Editor’s note: Chris Shepherd’s opinions about avocados do not reflect the views of CultureMap.)

Fun and funky: Glou Glou from Las Jaras Wines.

Las Jaras is one of my favorite producers right now. It’s a fantastic wine club to join because they put together a lot of really cool wines.

Their goal is to “make delicious wine that has tons of energy and balance.” This wine exemplifies that goal perfectly. Zinfandel is 50-percent of this wine, and a blend of five other grapes make up the other 50. Traditionally, when 50 percent of a wine is made from Zin grapes, it’s heavy. But they press lightly and don’t extract too much tannin from the skin, which makes this really easy to drink, especially with a slight chill. Put it in your fridge for 45 minutes before you open it up. It has great acidity — you can see this is a trend. because acidity pairs well with food and hot weather.

What do I want to eat with this? Little known fact: the wine label was designed by Joe Beddia of Pizzeria Beddia in Philly. I’ll let you connect the dots.

The big takeaway of today’s column — I’m not telling you where to go buy these wines. I’m not even suggesting you buy these specific producers. Go to your favorite local wine shops and ask for wines that fit these styles. 

Enjoy late summer. Enjoy early fall. Hell, all these wines would even be perfect for Thanksgiving, and they’ll lead you right into Cab season. Cheers! 


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Chris Shepherd won a James Beard Award for Best Chef: Southwest in 2014. He recently parted ways with Underbelly Hospitality, a restaurant group that currently operates four Houston restaurants: Wild Oats, GJ Tavern, Underbelly Burger, and Georgia James. The Southern Smoke Foundation, a non-profit he co-founded with his wife Lindsey Brown, has distributed almost $10 million to hospitality workers in crisis through its Emergency Relief Fund. 

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