Summer Wines

"Then followed that beautiful season...summer...Filled was the air with a dreamy and magical light; and the landscape lay as if new created in all the freshness of childhood" - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Memories of my childhood summer include family barbecue, ice cream making, watermelons, family trips, hanging out with friends at the beach. Nowadays, I love to gather with friends by the lake. We might grill up some steaks or burgers, or may just sit and watch the sunset with some cheese and crackers. Either way, wine always finds its' way into the mix. So what makes a good summer wine?

My first thought is that during a warm summer evening, I really don't want anything too heavy, and would prefer to have something that is slightly chilled. But, being a Sommelier, I can't help but figure out the best wine to pair with the food at hand. When it comes to your own choices, reflect back on those childhood memories. Now I'm sure you weren't drinking wine in your childhood, but you might have been drinking a nice cool glass of lemonade, or a soda pop, or maybe even some Kool-Aid. Those beverages can give you clues to the types of wine that might excite you.

If lemonade was your choice, then think acidic wine. High acid wines are just as refreshing as that lemonade. These wines are typically white wines, and are served chilled. One of my favorite white wines is Riesling. I prefer the drier style that is found in Alsace, France, but have found some delicious dry wines in Germany too. Sauvigon Blanc and Chenin Blanc are two other wines that can make your mouth water on a summer evening. The acidity in white wines often taste like green apple or citrus. Acidic reds are a bit more challenging. How about Pinot Noir, Tempranillo, Nebbiolo, or Gamay? The acidity in reds can range from sour cherries to berry flavors. And, while many may disagree...I wouldn't be afraid to chill the reds too.

If soda was your beverage of choice, you may want to think sparkling wine. Not only do sparkling wines offer that refreshing effervescence, they also offer acidity, and a wide range of sweetness and fruitiness. But, you don't always have to go for a fully sparkling wine...try Moscato D'Asti...a frizzante (or semi sparkling) wine that is sweet. Or if you like a drier semi-sparkling wine, check out a Vinho Verde from Portugal. These are light bodied, dry, high acid, and wonderful on a hot evening.

For those Kool-Aid kids, go for those wines that have that strawberry, or berry flavors. This is where I think of some great Roses. I have a new appreciation for rose wine. If you look back a few months to my article on  rose versus white Zinfandel, you'll get some ideas. I have found some very good California roses either made from Syrah, Pinot Noir, Grenache, or Mourvedre. The big advantage that rose has over white and red wines is that it can be served with almost any type of food. It can be dry and acidic, or it can be semi-sweet and fruity. Find some rose, and give it a try.

One last idea...if you are hand cracking that tub of homemade ice cream, think dessert wine topping. I find that PX Sherry and vanilla ice cream are a crowd pleaser, and if chocolate ice cream is your choice, try a little Brachetto D'Aqui with your scoop.

So, enjoy the summer. Pour some great wines. Enjoy the time with your family and friends, as long as you least for those of us living in the mountains...we're only a few months away from our next shovel of snow (my local mountain friends will hate that comment!).

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