Warm Weather and Summer Wines
Summer is coming! High-acid, light-bodied wines for warmer temperatures
After a winter of six-foot-high snowbanks and flurries lasting well into March, it feels impossible to think about the sweltering days of summertime. But with April and May come the warm-weather itch: we start packing away heavy coats, opening windows to freshen the stale winter air, and favoring lighter, brighter wines in lieu of heavy, warming ones. What, then, makes us gravitate towards certain wines in warmer temperatures?
When the sun beats down and warm air starts to feel oven-like, we, naturally, want to cool down. Of course the body craves a beverage that is physically cold, but it also means that we want a refreshing, thirst-quenching drink. That sense of freshness comes from acidity, a key component in warm-weather wines. Acid acts as a palate refresher, invigorating the senses for the next sip and making the wine clean, cool, and crazy refreshing.
The weight, or body, of wine is also an important factor in gravitating towards certain wines. Heat tends to give the sense of being weighed down, so we look to lighter-bodied wines to help us lighten up. Body often correlates with alcohol, and since alcohol has a warming effect on the body, lower-alcohol wines tend to be more physically comfortable to drink in hot temperatures. Find yourself craving hot soup on a hundred-degree day? Neither do we. Speaking of food, summer dishes like seafood, fresh vegetables, citrus, and other fruits also tend to be on the lighter side, so lighter-bodied wines make for natural pairings.
So if warm-weather preferences tend to favor high-acid, light-bodied wines, what wines fall into this category? For whites, both dry and off-dry Rieslings from around the world are natural summer choices, with their piercing, mouth-watering acidity. Northern Spain and Portugal also produce great summer wines such as Vinho Verde (crisp, affordable, and slightly spritzy blends), its across-the-border neighbor Albariño from Rías Baixas (often rounder and more flavorful with significant minerality), and Txakoli in Spain’s Basque Country (fizzy, with a lean, mouth-puckering acidity). France’s Muscadet, Chablis, and Picpoul also get added to the cravings list, though many others qualify.
Rosé, of course, is practically synonymous with summertime, particularly dry rosé. These days pink juice is being produced all over the world, but regardless of the region, it’s important to note that color does not correspond to sweetness! Give the bottle a fair shot: pale rosés can be overwhelmingly sweet, and deeply-colored rosés can be incredibly austere.
Lovers of red wine need not despair; there are plenty of light reds that fall into this category as well, especially with a slight chill. Fall-favorite Gamay, with its bright juiciness, needs a reassignment to the summer months. Look to Italy as well; native northern Italian grape Schiava and Etna Rosso blends of Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio have that light, bright quality with an added touch of earth. Loire reds, Austrian reds, and classic varieties such as Pinot Noir are also very warm-weather friendly.
Below are some of our top warm-weather sippers; we suggest putting them on ice now.
2013 Quinta da Raza Dom Diogo Arinto, Vinho Verde, Portugal ($12.99): It’s easy to stumble across neutral, flavorless Vinho Verde, but this bottle is anything but. Dry but fruity, with red apple and white peach flavors.
2013 Mokoroa Txakoli, Getariako Txakolina, Spain ($17.99): Ever bitten into a lemon? That’s what your face will look like after you take a sip of this wine. Mouth-puckering and minerally it may be, but it’s exactly what days at the beach (and dinners of seafood) require. Plus, spritzy!
2013 Hermann J. Wiemer Semi-Dry Riesling, Finger Lakes, New York ($17.99): Off-dry (read: slightly sweet) Riesling is divisive, but trust us – this juice is pretty freaking great. Peach and pear fruit lead, but minerality and lip-smacking citrus round things out and finish them off. You won’t be able to put the glass down.
2014 Ameztoi ‘Rubentis’ Rosé Txakoli, Getariako Txakolina, Spain ($24.99): Yup, we have two Txakolis on our recommendation list, and we’re not ashamed. Not only do not enough people drink Txakoli, but this bottle is one of the best rosés you’ll ever drink. Dry, lively, citrusy, minerally, spritzy, heavenly! Better than water.
2013 Gothic ‘Telltale’ Rosé of Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon ($19.99): A rounder rosé (still dry, we promise), ripe strawberry fruit dominates but is lifted by watermelon-like freshness and tart acidity. This is a crowd-pleaser for sure.
2013 Landron Chartier ‘Esprit détente,’ Coteaux d’Ancenis, France ($16.99): Gamay from the Loire and we couldn’t be happier! Juicy and rustic at the same time, the wine’s happy cherry fruit and slightly dirty funk are begging for a slight chill.