What Wines to Drink in the Summer...

Although keen not to jinx the positively thawing weather, as summer looms we wanted to address the seasonal changing of the guard in terms of wine and grape varietals supped during these very welcome warmer months.

While many wine drinkers are set in their ways and steadfastly stick to their guns, attention inevitably turns to lighter meals and a hankering for even lighter wines; full-bodied reds are replaced by lighter and fruitier counterparts, and whites and rosés are prepped for their time in the sun.

In terms of reds, hearty Cabernet Sauvignon and the punchier Shiraz wines tend to be replaced by lighter alternatives like Pinot Noir, chilled Beaujolais, where Gamay is king, or suitably fruity reds that pair brilliantly with the obligatory barbequed meats; think Loire Valley Cabernet Francs, Nero D’Avola from Sicily or a juicy Rioja.

Light-bodied, high-acidity and with few tannins, Beaujolais isn't for everyone but to some it is the archetypal picnic wine. With very few exceptions, they are meant for early consumption and taste best when lightly chilled, so don’t be afraid to put them on ice. Likewise a chilled, ethereal, cool-climate Pinot Noir from the New World is just the ticket on a sun-kissed day and is equally compatible with food. Chilling reds remains divisive but doing so can give you a broader spectrum in regards to your wine selection, so if you are feeling particularly adventurous pop a bottle in the fridge half an hour before serving.

Whilst it should not be reserved solely for this time of year the summer provides us with a delightful opportunity to crack open a refreshing bottle of rosé. There has been a real shift towards the increased production of stellar rosés and there is subsequently a plethora of quality offerings available for this previously frivolous style of wine. It is no longer viewed as merely a thirst quencher, so whether it is a rosé with bags of fruit and a nice medium finish from California, or an iconic dry, pale and subtle rosé from Provence there are a number of great accompaniments to your summer from both the Old and New Worlds.

Refreshing white wines are obviously all the rage during the summer and grape varietals such as an icy-cool and restrained Riesling, with its bountiful flavours of lime zest and nectarine are very in vogue. Despite being the marmite of grape varietals and often considered hopelessly unfashionable, this is simply no longer the case. Modern Riesling is far more palate friendly and incredibly versatile with food. While the archetypal bone dry Alsace or slightly sweet German versions regularly hit the spot, look further afield to Australia for some of the best dry Riesling in the world. Although Australia is perennially, and often tenuously, associated with expressive Shiraz blends or creamy Chardonnay, Riesling is one of their principal grape varieties and a wine that has the capacity to show the maverick winemaking talents now commonplace Down Under.

Like Riesling, Gewüztraminer tends to lend itself to summery al fresco dining and the very best from Alsace, Chile or New Zealand’s East Coast, blend this grape’s uniquely distinctive Turkish Delight and lychee characteristic with a vibrant freshness.

If you are looking for something slightly more fragrant, floral whites like a vibrant Viognier is a delicious summer wine, while Sicily’s indigenous white grapes of Grillo and Catarratto are effortlessly effervescent and excellent food wines.

A sprightly white Sancerre, particularly those from revered winemaker Joseph Mellot will often have lively, floral, gooseberry and grapefruit aromas that lend themselves to a lazy summer’s afternoon in the garden. Equally, an elegant Chablis that marries the typically luscious orchard fruit flavours with the region’s iconic lip-smacking acidity is a great summer wine that is a lovely match with chicken, salads and other warm weather fare.

The better Australian Chardonnays from the cooler climate of the Yarra Valley will have an opulent palate of green apples and a long, citrusy acidity, or a Chardonnay from South Africa’s Western Cape, which can be similar in style to their more revered Burgundian cousins, are worthy wine selections over the coming months. There are some exceptional Californian Chardonnays on the market that have excellent synergy with barbequed chicken. Those grown close to the Pacific's breeze will develop plenty of fleshy pineapple flavours or more intriguing stone fruit notes that are lifted by a vibrant acidity. Sicilian Chardonnay might not be the first thing you think of but there are slightly lighter styles being made that are deliciously refreshing and perfect when the temperature rises.

Whilst not forgetting your bouncy Sauvignon Blancs, particularly from New Zealand, or the delightfully floral Albariño from Spain, why not try a tropical-fruit flavoured Chenin Blanc from Stellenbosch in South Africa. Indigenous to the Loire Valley in France, the aforementioned grape varietal is also thriving in South Africa. The very best combine a delicate fruit aroma with a wonderful minerality.

If you are really looking to push the boat out, Champagne or sparkling wines like a Prosecco are more than a match for a sunny day, but the simple truth is there really are wide array of options available, so throw caution to the depleting winter winds and experiment with your wine selections this summer.

Article first appeared in Under the Skin Magazine, Summer Edition 2014. CellarVie Wines' quarterly print publication accompanies all orders on www.cellarviewines.com 


Written by: Ben Moss

Ben Moss 


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