Summertime, and the living is easy, especially if you’re enjoying a beautiful sunset with a glass of wine in your hand. This is not the time to drag out your jammy Zinfandel or your big, juicy Cab. Rather, summertime calls for light, crisp wines that will help you beat the heat, and offer a hint of freshness to your palate. Here are some perfect wines for chillin’ out during Houston’s hot summer months.
This is the quintessential summer wine. Crisp, dry and refreshing, flavors range from zesty lime to flowery peach. The wine pairs well with fish, cheese and salads. For a grassy and citric Sauvignon Blanc, choose one from New Zealand. For a more restrained version, pop open a Sancerre from the Loire Valley.
(aka Pinot Gris)
For many, this is the go-to summer wine. Pino Grigio, always light and fruity, varies in style depending on where it’s grown. According to Wine Spectator, Pinot Grigio from the Alsace region of France is typically rich and often sweet, with rich, spicy tropical fruit aromas. Pinot Grigio in northeastern Italy shows a lighter, crisp, clean and vibrant expression of the grape, with characteristic citrus flavors. In the New World, Oregon is putting Pinot Gris on the map with wines loaded with orchard and tropical fruit, backed with mouth-watering acidity. Pinot Grigio pairs well with seafood, light pasta dishes and assorted cheeses.
Riesling has had a bad rap from those of us who grew up with the cloyingly sweet Blue Nun. In fact, not all Rieslings are created equal, especially today, when dry and deliciously aromatic wines are coming out of Germany, the Alsace region of France, the Clare and Eden Valleys of Australia, Washington State and the Finger Lakes of New York. Riesling offers primary fruit aromas of apple, apricot, peaches and pears, along with floral aromas of honeycomb, jasmine or elderflower, with a hint of petrol. Lively and acidic, Riesling is one of the most food friendly wines to drink during the summer months. It’s perfect for pairing with Thai food or otherwise spicy cuisine.
If you’re feeling adventurous, you might try these white wines to chill out on a hot, summer day: Gruner Veltliner, the famous wine of Austria, crystal clear and mineral-driven; Albariño, a Spanish wine loved for its high acidity, refreshing citrus flavors, dry taste and subtle saltiness; Chablis, a light and crispy alternative to Chardonnay; or, for something a little sweeter, try a well-crafted Moscato d’Asti, a light-bodied wine with tropical fruit flavors and gentle bubbles.
Okay, so it’s pink, or even salmon-colored, but it does start with red wine grapes, and it’s the ultimate summer quaff. Light, refreshing and fruity, Rosé will compliment just about any mood and any food, from ceviche to hot dogs and barbecue. Generally, primary flavors are red fruit, flowers, citrus and melon, but tastes can vary depending on the type of grape used.
The best red wines for summer offer higher acidity, lower tannins and lower alcohol, the perfect descriptors for Barbera. While dark in color, the wine is very light in taste, with flavors of cherries, strawberries and raspberries. Barbera is a perfect accompaniment when dining al fresco with Italian-style stews, pastas and pizza. Its ancestral home is northern Italy, but New World varieties are becoming noteworthy in California, especially in Amador County.
Beaujolais is a light red wine made from the Gamay grape. It’s light and appealing, with aromas and flavors reminiscent of cherries, dried fruit and black peppercorns. Beaujolais wines have refreshing acidity and low tannins, which makes them perfect for pairing with a picnic or a light bistro meal. When selecting a Beaujolais, look for a wine from Beaujolais Villages or one of the 10 Beaujolais Crus.
Pinot Noir is made for summertime grilling. It has the juicy complexity of bigger wines like a Cabernet Sauvignon, but it has a much lighter body. With medium to high acidity and low to medium tannins, the wine is noted for its aromas of strawberries, raspberries and black cherries, plus a long delicate finish. While Pinot Noir established its pedigree in Burgundy, fine examples may be found in cool-climate areas like Oregon and California’s Sonoma Coast and Russian River Valley, plus Monterey and Santa Barbara Counties.
Again, if you’re feeling adventurous, try these outside-the-box red wines for summer chillin’: Frappato, a light-bodied, low-tannin wine from Sicily; Zweigelt, Austria’s most-planted red, with bright fruits and pleasant acidity; or Poulsard, a light-bodied wine with delicate spices from the Jura in France. Whatever you’re drinking, be sure to serve your reds chilled: reds that are lighter and lower in alcohol will benefit most from cool temperatures.
Yep, summertime is here, and that means chillin’ and grillin’ with beat-the-heat cool wines. Summer lasts a long time in Houston, but if you’re a wine lover, it offers an opportunity to uncork some old favorites and break out some new wines and to enjoy a vacation in your own backyard. Just pop a cork, pull up a chair, sit back and chill.