Summer Wines

It's been a great Spring, but Summer and hot weather are as inevitable as August. As the weather gets hotter, we like our food lighter and our wine colder. That means its Summer wine season again. Even if you are a red wine drinker, it’s hard to pass up a well chilled, crisp glass of a Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, white Bordeaux, Pinot Grigio, Muscat, Chenin Blanc, Torrontes, Riesling, Gewurztraminer or Viognier. It’s also permissible to drink some red wines colder than you normally might. Lighter red wines like Beaujolais (Gamay) and some lighter Pinot Noir’s will stand up to the cold, as well as very fruity or very sweet red wines like an Italian Lambrusco or Brachetto d'acqui. The cold will suppress the sweetness and accentuate the fruitiness of these wines.

Summer also means grilling; fish, chicken and pork prepared simply, without those savory, but heavy sauces we like during the colder months. Whether you're planning a cookout, a picnic or a light dinner on the patio, these Summer wines pair very nicely with simple, un-sauced, grilled and roasted meats of almost any variety; especially milder flavored meats like chicken, turkey, ham and veal. Sauvignon Blanc pairs particularly well with citrusy salad dressings.

Why do we drink wine chilled in the first place? Most of us would agree we drink to be refreshed. And, most would also agree that cold drinks refresh more than hot. So we drink wines as cold as we can. That is, we drink them at the lowest temperature at which the characteristics of the wine are not compromised by the temperature. White wine tolerated cold better than heavy red wines, so we drink white wines colder than red.

Cold tends to suppress the production of aromas, but white wines depend less on aromas for flavor that reds. We drink white wines in smaller glasses because we don’t need the big glass to concentrate the aromas and the smaller surface-area preserves the cooler temperature. White wines are typically more acidic than red wines, and acidity is complemented by cooler temperatures. We call it crispness. Cold also accentuates the unpleasant nature of tannins; plentiful in red wines, but not in white.

If you’re drinking on the patio, remember your wine is going to warm quickly. So, chill you glass, over-chill the wine, and keep the bottle in a wine-bucket filled with a 50/50 slurry of water and ice. If you don’t have a wine-bucket, I suggest a really good quality insulated bucket that won’t sweat on your table and holds temperature for a long time. Otherwise, just get a really cheap one made out of plastic. A $5.00 plastic bucket is perfect for the patio or a picnic and you can find them at many liquor and party stores.

Speaking of cheap (or inexpensive if you prefer), there’s no point in spending a lot for wine you’re going drink cold enough to counter outdoor summer temperatures. You just won’t be able to taste all the goodness you’re paying for. Reserve the good stuff for those indoor parties.

Cellar Notes

Here are examples of four of the Summer wine varieties mentioned above. A couple of them are a bit more pricey than I might normally drink for summer, but the sweet white Muscat and the sweet red Brachetto are surprisingly refreshing when consumed very cold. You can find examples of the other Summer wines mentioned on my website. Just steer your browser to and click “Find a Wine”. You will also find more information on the wines below, as well as food pairing suggesting.

Murphy-Goode Sauvignon Blanc
Murphy-Goode Chardonnay
J Vidal Fleury Muscat
Brachetto dacqui Pineto Marenco

A note about vintage – If you are unable to locate a vintage shown in Cellar Notes, with some significant exceptions, you may find the next vintage year very similar. Modern viticulture and production methods have reduced, although not eliminated, dramatic year-to-year variation.