I tend to eat a lot of corn straight off the cob -- either steamed, boiled or grilled over some charcoal -- and I love serving wine with it.
People always seem to think that corn, like most vegetables, is problematic when it comes to wine. But it's the easiest vegetable in the world to pair with wine because it has such a dominant taste of sweetness and nuttiness. Those two taste elements pair with a wide range of wines.
Corn doesn't cost much; there's no reason to spend a lot of money on wine either. That would be out of character, and out of season too.
With steamed or boiled corn:
When I steam the corn or boil it -- I tend not to use butter, but I'll use a little bit of sea salt just to act as a counterpoint to the sweetness -- I love nutty, rich chardonnays that are New World chardonnays. By that I mean anywhere but France or anywhere in Europe. They are wines that really taste of the sun that usually have a kiss of residual sugar or so much fruit that they suggest sweetness. Australian chardonnays, in particular, are great for this, as are California chardonnays. If I steam corn or boil it, I'll look for a wine that doesn't have a lot of oak because I don't need that toastiness coming into play.
You could get a Kendall-Jackson, which has a little impression of sweetness, for around $10 -- their Vintner's Reserve. That's really, really good with steamed or boiled corn.
With grilled corn:
If I grill corn, which is really the way that I enjoy it most, with a little bit of burnt nuttiness that accompanies that sweetness and richness, I like chardonnays that have a suggestion of oak to them.
Hope Estate Chardonnay ($14) is one of my new favorites from Australia. It's partially barrel-aged and barrel-fermented; it picks up some of that smokiness and nuttiness. It's just one of those where you can't stop. You get messy, and your glass gets messy. You don't care if the glass is all covered with corn bits and pieces and your face is covered with corn because you're just in it. You're in the season, and it tastes so good.
With rich corn dishes like chowder or soup:
When you amp up the richness by adding butter and cream, it's a good idea to find a wine that isn't commensurately rich. It should go in the opposite direction with a lot of fruit, but enough lightness in body, enough acidity, or in some cases actual bubbles to cut through the richness of the butter and cut through the cream.
I love corn chowder and I love corn soups made with cream. I had a fantastic wine from Chandon called Riche. (It's from California.) It's their entry into an extra-dry sparkling wine. It's about $18 a bottle. The scrubbing bubbles just act like this phalanx of little cleaning people brushing away all the richness and scrubbing the cream off the palate so you can have more. Once you start with corn soup, you can't stop. You can't get a ladle big enough -- I use an entrenching tool. But when you have that with a sparkling wine that has a hint of sweetness, my God, you're two steps away from heaven's gate.
With corn relish:
When I make too much corn -- which is rare, but occasionally it happens -- I will strip the corn right off the cob using the end of a knife. I'll make corn relish. I'll put some red peppers in there, and maybe a couple of other things, some sweet onions, and let it sit for a day or two. Then I'll serve it next to grilled fish, grilled pork or any kind of lighter meat. It's fantastic with scallops.
When I have these dishes, whether they're served cold or hot, I look for white wines that have no wood, that have a little bit of sweetness, that have acidity to keep the whole dish from cloying or overwhelming the palate.
One of my favorite matches from a grape perspective is chenin blanc. One of my favorite chenin blancs for summer lurching into fall is from South Africa. It's from Simonsig, and it's made near Stellenbosch. It's $10 a bottle. It's the wine that I bring out to my friend's house in the Hamptons, because at $10 a bottle, I don't care if people drink a case in a weekend. It goes with corn relish sitting next to just about anything that corn relish can sit next to. It's magnificent.