Summer is the time to enjoy light, refreshing and crisp wines while soaking in the sunshine and enjoying barbecues and light dinners out on the deck. Summer wines are usually those that work well chilled and can be mixed into fruit juices or with other ingredients without losing their original flavor and character.
White wines are a summer classic. Choose white wines that are a medium-bodied and clean, so that it doesn’t overwhelm the light summer dinners you will have.
Old-world whites especially from Germany or France will always work well, grape varietals for summer include pinot gris, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and Riesling. Bubblies like prosecco and champagne also fall into this category.
Pinot grigio (or pinot gris) is a light Italian wine that has citrus and floral notes. Oregon pinot gris works well when chilled and has a wonderful pear and melon notes and tastes a little like honey. Italian pinot grigios are crisp and when chilled, helps to cut down the heat of summer. Add lemon and lime slices, and three parts wine to one part sparkling water to make a wine spritzer that compliments seafood and salad dishes well. You can get expensive pinot gris like a 2007 Ermacorra Venezia ($15) or a cheaper alternative, Barefoot Pinot Grigio ($6).
Chardonnays are a classic and would work well with chicken and fish dishes while sauvignon blancs work particularly well with spicy dishes. French chardonnays are lighter than their American counterpart: a good inexpensive pick is the 2007 Domaine Olivier Bourgogne Chardonnay ($20). German Rieslings from the Alsace regions are well known for their sweetness and is delightful paired with desserts or spicy Thai inspired dishes like grilled prawns or curried chicken salad. Prosecco and champagne work well when mixed with fruit juices like orange, apple or pineapple. Add strawberries and mint and two parts orange juice to two parts Prosecco for a refreshing summer aperitif. Bubblies go well with soft cheese appetizers – Brie and crackers with Champagne are a match made in heaven.
Rose wines are a perennial European summer favorite, particularly in France and Italy where it is a lunch time staple. New roses from California are less expensive than the European ones but are delightful when paired with cheese, salmon and appetizers. A good choice is the 2007 Bonterra Rose from Mendocino County, California ($14). Get a few bottles of this and serve with canapes and herbed goat cheese on crackers for your summer party. Roses also work well during brunch, particularly with a main course like frittata or gratin.
During the summer, steak will most likely be on the menu during barbecues and grilling sessions. You don’t have to settle for a light white or rose just because it’s summer. There are plenty of light and medium bodied red wines that compliment steak very well. Bordeaux wines from France, Chiantis from Italy, Californian Merlots and Oregon Pinot Noirs are all good picks for a side of steak and any other meat inspired dishes. If you’re making a paella for your summer lunch, pair it with a light Spanish Rioja. Riojas are also good when turned into sangria. Add peach and orange slices, a few lemon wedges, 1/3 cup sugar to a bottle of red wine and let sit overnight. Just before serving, stir and add in 4 cups of ginger ale.
The choices for summer wines are endless and your wine store associate should be more than pleased to help you pick up some good refreshing wines that reflect the beauty of the season.