There is no doubt we are in the heat of summer.
And hot humid weather calls for refreshing wines.
Gamay, the grape used to make Beaujolais, is a favorite red option for summer temperatures. It’s a light-bodied red that has aromas of summer flowers and fresh-picked berries. Beaujolais wines are ideal for your summer picnic with cured meats, cheeses and dips.
Primitivo is the genetic twin of zinfandel. It is a high-alcohol fuller-bodied wine with high acidity. This grape is an ideal partner for almost every menu item you will throw on the grill during the summer.
Rose wines are always a summer favorite. The zesty fruit forward style gives the red wine drinker a refreshing choice. Rose wines give the subtle structure of a red wine but the refreshing style of a chilled white wine.
Gewurztraminer always offers the complex rosy aromatic style ideal for a summer cool-off. Because wines made from this grape are generally low in alcohol, gewurztraminer is a good choice for summer sipping.
Picpoul is a wine lover’s dream for a summer staple. Its budget-friendly price tag and mouthwatering acidity make this wine a top white wine choice when the temperature soars.
Gruner Veltliner may be unfamiliar to many wine drinkers but it’s a delicious alternative to sauvignon blanc. It is packed with citrus, white pepper and racing acidity.
- 2016 Louis Jadot Beaujolais, France (about $15 retail)
- 2016 Antico Sigillo Primitivo di Manduria, Italy (about $14 retail)
- 2017 Los Vascos Rose, Chile (about $13 retail)
- 2016 Chateau Ste. Michelle Gewurztraminer, Washington (about $13 retail)
- 2016 Picpoul de Pinet, France (about $12 retail)
- 2016 Raptor Ridge Gruner Veltliner, Oregon (about $19 retail)
Gone are the days when the mere mention of having salad for dinner conjures up images of sad assorted greens and a few misplaced carrots and tomatoes. Today’s summer salads are not just for those looking for a healthful option, but those wanting delicious too.
Of course there are numerous options for the salad greens — Boston, bibb, arugula, romaine, spinach, iceberg, kale and that is only a fraction of the list.
As with all wine and food pairings, it’s about the dominant flavors, the add-ins, that determine the best wine match. Diced pears, for example, introduce sweetness and go well with Riesling or chenin blanc. Fresh herbs will match with wines having herbal notes, such as sauvignon blanc. If the salad includes red berries Beaujolais is ideal, while toasted nuts complement a toasty oaked wine.
But some ingredients — tomatoes and vinaigrette — complicate matters. Fresh tomatoes tend to have high amounts of acid, which can clash with many wines. An easy tip to remember is to stay with a high-acid wine like a sauvignon blanc.
Vinegar and wine, though related, are not friends. Whenever possible, use fresh citrus juice such as lemon or lime instead of vinegar.
These are a few tried and true entree and wine pairings.
- Caesar salad (with or without chicken): chenin blanc
- Cobb salad: chardonnay
- Greek salad: dry, white Bordeaux
- Nicoise salad: dry rose
- Taco salad: gewurztraminer
- Caprese salad: sauvignon blanc
- Grilled steak salad: light-bodied pinot noir
- Curried quinoa salad: dry Riesling
- Salad with Asian flavors: pinot grigio
If you’re looking for a pairing that is virtually guaranteed not to disappoint, a dry rose goes well with any salad.
- 2014 Crios Malbec Rose, Argentina (about $8 retail)
- 2014 Montes Cherub Rose, Chile (about $14 retail)
- 2014 Presqu’ile Winery Rose, California (about $23 retail)
- 2014 Hogwash Rose, California (about $17 retail)
I’m asked many times “are you a red or white wine drinker?” My answer is, of course, both, but as the weather warms I admit I veer more to white as an everyday beverage. These are a few of my top picks for refreshing white varietals.
Chardonnay is a love-it-or-leave-it grape variety for most consumers. It’s known as the “King” and also “the Coca-Cola of the wine world.” It didn’t get its reference to “King” in the wine Hall of Fame for nothing. Chardonnay tops the list for the most consumed grape variety, topping even the most popular reds. It comes in all shapes and sizes. In warmer growing conditions it exhibits flavors of ripe, tropical fruits such as pineapple and mango, notes of pear and stone fruit. In cooler climates such as France’s Chablis, the wines are more delicate and citrusy, with a slight honey character.
- 2014 Bogle Chardonnay, California (about $12 retail)
- 2014 Force of Nature Chardonnay, California (about $24 retail)
Viognier is another of the underrated white grapes that is beautifully aromatic and can be an ideal blending partner for chardonnay. On its own, it’s much different from the tropical smells of chardonnay and overflows with intoxicating aromas of apricots, fresh flowers and oranges. On the palate it is fuller-bodied than most whites, but with a well-balanced mouth feel and low acidity. France’s Rhone Valley is known for its viognier, but there are many newcomer wine regions in Chile, Australia and South Africa producing exceptional wines.
- 2014 LaPlaya Estates Viognier/Chardonnay, Chile (about $9 retail)
- 2013 Calera Mount Harlan Viognier, California (about $38 retail)
Chenin blanc has been referred to as “handier than a Swiss Army knife” by many, simply because it adjusts to almost any production method, be it sweet, dry or even fizzy. It shares many similarities to sauvignon blanc, with its refreshing green apple and fresh herbs. It’s at home in France’s Loire Valley, where the style can be racy, dry, luscious, sweet or with a frothy fizz. You can also find chenin blanc in the vineyards of South Africa, where it once accounted for a staggering quarter of all grapes grown and wine produced.
- 2014 Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc, California (about $12 retail)
- 2014 Dry Creek Chenin Blanc, California (about $16 retail)