By Barbara Hay ~
There’s nothing quite like that first sip of wine after the hot sun gives way to a warm summer night. Best of all: You don’t need to blow your bank account or choke down vinegar to afford it.
A good summer wine has three essential characteristics: it’s light, crisp, chilled, and super refreshing to complement the beautiful weather of the season. It should also be versatile enough to bring with you to the beach or barbecue and be paired with your favorite fish, vegetables, or other grilled delectables. Finally, a good summer wine shouldn’t be too expensive!
Crisp, lower-alcohol white wines are antidotes to sweltering days and sultry nights, and they complement such summer staples as salads, corn on the cob, and grilled fish. Yet summer is also the season when carnivores throw burgers, ribs, and steaks on the grill and serve them with robust red wines. Dry rosés are a happy medium between white and red and pair well with most dishes. What follows are my top picks for a variety of summer wines, but the rule of thumb is that they should always be reasonably priced and easy to find to suit the carefree season.
Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Brut Non vintage, Italy. Prosecco is Italy’s inexpensive yet charming sparkling wine—and a terrific, thirst-quenching aperitif. It’s not Champagne and doesn’t try to be, yet it is admirably complex, with energetic bubbles, a slight mineral tang, and a focused citrus palate. there ar many delicious ones available at $15 and under.
Dry Creek Vineyard Dry Chenin Blanc, California. Sonoma County’s Dry Creek Vineyard’s wine is a juicy mix of pear, apple, and tangy citrus flavors; it’s light-medium in body and has a crisp, satisfying finish.
Guigal Côtes-du-Rhône White. It’s easy to sip, made up of over 50 percent Viognier, a fantastic breaking-into-summer grape with lovely floral aromas that remind you of spring, but luscious flavors of stone fruits we’re starting to see in the supermarkets now. It tastes like: white peaches and apricots!
Schloss Gobelsburg Gobelsburger Rosé Cistercien, Kamptal, Austria. A blend of Zweigelt, St. Laurent and Pinot Noir, this rosé has many Pinot-like qualities with fresh red fruit aromatics and beautiful acidity that makes the mouth water for the hot summer months. The wine shows fresh cherry and strawberry fruit on the palate and is so refreshing for the summer!
La Crema Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, California. Pinot Noir is typically a nuanced, silky-textured wine, from an entirely different planet than Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Zinfandel. La Crema’s Sonoma Coast is round and supple, with delicate hints of truffles and earth that add complexity to the vibrant black cherry and cola flavors.
Pedroncelli Mother Clone Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley, California. Aged in American oak and blended with 12% Petite Sirah this red is concentrated blackberry fruit with a foundation of soft, silky and well-integrated tannins. It has notes of of leather, black pepper, smoke and brick. While full bodied, it manages to drink light on its feet.
Pedroncelli Friends Red is a nice quaff that’s approachable and easy-going. With it’s notes of red plum, blueberry and a kiss of vanilla it’s great to share with friends on a summer’s day. A great find for the budget-minded, this blend is a smart mix of syrah, merlot, zinfandel and petite sirah.
Bouchard Aîné et Fils Beaujolais-Villages. This wine is juicy, full of red-berry fruit flavors and has good acidity to keep it all in check. The smooth tannins make it a terrific summer red, since it can easily be served chilled. This food-friendly wine can be paired with anything eaten for lunch on a deck.
This short list is perfect for rounding out your summer cellar!