Wines for the Summer
The high heat of July calls for light-bodied, refreshing summer wines.
The month of July brings the summer warmth to most of the country and elevated mercury levels require a more discerning degree of wine selection. Although it stands to reason that when seeking shelter from the heat within your home or air-conditioned restaurants you can select pretty much any wine that suits your taste or pairs with your meal, there are certain styles of wine that will be more refreshing and more appropriate for the summer months.
As a general rule, you should seek out wines that are lower in alcohol and less tannic. Alcohol level corresponds to the impression of viscosity or palate weight and by its nature warms your throat when swallowed. Look for wines that have an ABV of under 13 percent. Tannins in wine will have a drying sensation in your mouth. On the other hand wines that are more acidic and drier (less sweet) will taste more refreshing. Leave your big California Cabernet and Washington State Syrah in your cooler and look for light bodied picnic wines designed to be served chilled. A secondary benefit to wines of this style is that they tend to be quite affordable, usually under $20.00.
Some white wines varieties that fill this bill are Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Albariño, Pinot Gris / Pinot Grigio, Vermentino, and Soave Classico. Dry Rosé wines, especially produced from the Sangiovese, Grenache and Pinot Noir varieties, as well as Rosé from the southern French region of Provence, are great options.
There are a few great red wine possibilities as well. Pinot Noir is a light-bodied red that tends to be high in acid and low in tannin. It is produced in a number of regions and is widely available. I tend to like Willamette Valley OR Pinot Noir, but that is just a stylistic preference. Other good choices are Gamay, Zweigelt from Austria, Frappato & Bardolino from Italy, and Tempranillo from Spain.
I do have a few wines that I do seek out when stocking up for summer. Most of these are broadly available. Kunde Magnolia Lane Sauvignon Blanc is crisp without being too herbaceous. Spier Chenin Blanc is a light-bodied, crisp white that is often priced less than ten dollars. Suavia Soave Classico is a lovely Italian wine, produced from the Garganega grape variety and comes from vineyards around Lake Garda. Charles & Charles Rosé out of Washington state is a wonderful and affordable Rosé. Finally, my hands-down favorite affordable summer red is Cantine Lenotti’s Bardolino Classico. Produced in the Veneto region of Italy; served chilled it is a perfect picnic or patio red. You might have to search for this one; try your local specialty wine store.
One thing to remember about buying wines during the summer months is that exposure to temperatures over 80 degrees for even brief periods of time can actually cause the wine to deteriorate. So don’t leave a case in the trunk while bargain hunting at the mall; just treat it like a gallon of milk and you’ll be fine.
Tom Oetinger holds an advanced certification in wine & spirits from the WSET in London, England. He is available to assist you with your wine events or answer your wine questions at [email protected]