The arrival of each season means different things to different people. Autumn brings football and leaf peeping. Winter means skiing and nights by the fire. Spring promises blooming flowers and baseball, and Summer is all about the beach and vacations.
For we food lovers, the local farmers markets’ bounty serves as our barometer. “Eating seasonally” is a way of life, and for each season, we have our favorite food associations. I believe that the intrinsic connection between food and wine demands that we “drink seasonally” as well.
Now that it’s summer and we’re all enjoying the season’s delicacies, let’s look at some wines that are sure to complement any summer menu, and enhance your culinary experience. The whites are fragrant and crisp, and the reds are fruity, low in tannin, and chillable. They are all inexpensive, light-bodied, and of course, refreshing in the heat of summer.
Have these three on hand and you can get by in almost any summer dining situation.
Always crisp, fragrant and bold, Sauvignon Blanc ranges stylistically from grassy and citric (Loire-style), to earthy and sometimes oaky (Graves-style). For summer food pairings, I prefer the herbal, unoaked, slightly tropical style associated with New Zealand, especially from Marlborough. Sauvignon Blanc is ideal for the fresh herbs, salad greens, and vegetables associated with summer, yet also works perfectly with most seafood and poultry dishes, especially grilled fare.
No other wine says “summer” like rosÃ©. Fruity yet dry and crisp is the standard here, with abundant berry and floral characteristics. Neither red nor white, this wine can be served with practically anything. Pair it with light salads, flaky fish, shellfish, burgers & grilled sausages. I also serve it mixed with fresh berries, a little simple syrup, and a splash of crÃ¨me de cassis as a refreshing alternative to Sangria.
Of course, summer is not all about salads. For summer favorites like steaks, burgers and ribs, look for a fruit-forward, easy-drinking example, and save those big, robust Zins for cooler months. Zinfandel is a grill master’s best friend, and is an ideal pairing for barbecue. Zin loves full-flavored foods, and pairs well with the aromatic and spice-rich flavors of many Asian, Latin-American, and North-African dishes. Try serving it slightly chilled.
The Next Step
Here are five of my personal favorite summer wines:
Made entirely from Chenin Blanc grapes, this bubbly and crisp wine from France’s Loire Valley is quite versatile and food-friendly. It is wonderful as an aperitif, yet is ideal with summery dishes including fresh fruit, salads, seafood, and vegetables. Slightly off-dry, this is another can’t‑miss pairing with spicy or fried foods. It is also my favorite wine with sushi!
This refreshing white wine from Portugal is super crisp, low in alcohol, and slightly fizzy. I love it served with cold salads, crab cakes, grilled fish, and chilled shrimp. This wine is best drunk young, and highly chilled. Perfect for pool-side!
Flying under the radar, TorrontÃ©s is a very exciting white wine varietal from Argentina. Crisp, with loads of lemon zest, lychee, pineapple, and honeysuckle, TorrontÃ©s is a very distinctive wine. Pair it with Mexican food, especially guacamole, fish tacos, and many foods made with lime or lemon juice. Best of all, most of these wines come in at under $10.
The obvious choice for red wine in summer, and for good reason. Beaujolais boasts light tannins, good acidity and ample fruit. Made from gamay grapes, the wine is simple enough to pair with sandwiches and salads; light enough for fish and shellfish; yet complex and earthy enough to handle mushrooms, sausage, and grilled chops. Look for a nice Beaujolaise Villages.
A light-bodied, cherry-flavored red wine from the Piedmont region of Italy. With light tannins, a mild tartness, and plenty of soft fruit, serve this wine lightly chilled. Grilled chicken, cold-cuts, pasta salad, even grilled tuna are excellent choices for this quaffable red wine.
Other summer wines of note: Txakoli, Riesling, Arneis, Pinot Noir, Volpolicella, Malbec
SERIOUS FUN FOOD (and wine!)