So, what are you drinking this summer?
I don’t know about you, but as the weather heats up, I like to migrate toward lighter, crisp whites, light reds and rosé wines. One thing that has always perplexed me are the people who tell me “I only drink red wine.” Well, those folks are really missing out on some great wines that won’t weigh you down when the temperatures soar.
When May rolls around, I like to take a trip to my local wine shop and stock up on “summer” wines. Now since I consume a fair bit of wine, I’m continually adding to my inventory as the summer progresses. And don’t get me wrong, these wines can be consumed at any time during the year; they just go well with summer in my opinion.
Here are a few wine regions that I focus on when shopping for these wines.
In Italy, there are many excellent white wines made that have firm acidity and nice body. You can almost always get these wines for under $20, and I’m rarely disappointed. If you’re middle-aged like me, the name Soave will ring a bell. I particularly remember Soave Bolla, a mass-marketed white from the 70’s and 80’s that wasn’t particularly good. That is not true of many Soave wines being imported into the States these days. Look for Soave Classico on the label to have the best chance of getting a good wine.
From an area of Piedmont come the Gavi wines. These wines are crisp and light and have never failed me. If you want to take a step up in quality (and price) look for the wines from Friuli-Venezia Giulia. The wines from this region will tend to be more flavorful than the previously mentioned regions. My favorite Pinot Grigio from Italy comes from here and is made by Jermann. It is quite a bit more expensive than the mass market PG’s on the market, but if you want to treat yourself, it’s worth it.
Spain is a country that makes terrific “summer” white wines in the Rias Baixas region. The majority of these whites are made with the Albariño grape. When I open a bottle of Albariño, I’m instantly transported to a deck overlooking the town of Grenada in Spain. The bottle of Albariño that day was tart like grapefruit with light peach notes and racy acidity. These wines can almost always be purchased for under $20. Ask your local wine monger to recommend a bottle or two and enjoy them with seafood or alone with good conversation.
Other whites that are very enjoyable in summer are German Rieslings from the Mosel; they are low in alcohol and extremely food friendly. And no, they are not all sweet! Look for Kabinett style Rieslings if you are anti-sugar, if you don’t mind a touch of sweetness, Spätlese style is a step up in flavor (and usually price).
Sauvignon Blanc from Sancerre, California or New Zealand offer very food friendly
options for the summer and are usually budget friendly. I do find that I have a love/hate relationship with Sauvignon Blanc. The style made in France (Sancerre and Bordeaux) is the style that I like. It usually has some Semillon in it which tames the aggressive citrus, grassy characteristics that sometimes come out in the grape. Give a few different SB’s a try and figure out what style you like.
Rosé has seen a massive surge in popularity in recent years. I can remember growing up and seeing the unique Lancers and Mateus bottles that my parents would purchase for parties. The wines weren’t particularly good by today’s standards but sold like hotcakes back in the 60’s and 70’s. Today’s Rosé’s are mostly dry, crisp wines with pleasant notes of strawberry looming under the surface. I tend to gravitate toward the wines of Provence when shopping for rosé. I find them to be consistently good with food or as an aperitif. If you want a little bolder rosé from Provence, give the Bandol region’s wines a try. I almost never pay more than $15 for a very good rosé and many times get good ones for $10. They are some of the best “bang for the buck” wines out there.
For red wines in summer, I gravitate toward Pinot Noir. Pinot Noir is one of the lighter-bodied red wines out there, so goes well with food on hot summer days. I mostly drink them from California or Oregon. Pinot Noir is a very versatile grape; it pairs well with flavorful fish dishes as well as many different types of meat. As far as bargains go, I do struggle to find good PN’s under $20. The Wine Spectator Magazine has a free App that lists their value wines in all categories. This is an excellent place to go when looking to buy well made, inexpensive wines. The App is called Wine Spectator X Values.
If you truly must have a big, bold red wine in the summer be sure to put a slight chill on it. It’s amazing how 5-10 degrees can make a California Cabernet Sauvignon taste more refreshing. As it warms, you’ll get to experience the change in flavors that wines go through at different temperatures.
So, head out to your local wine shop and stock up on some Summer Wines!
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— He and She on Wine