Outstanding Wines for Summertime
Add weather-appropriate vino to your menu to pair with lighter fare and even barbecue.
Come summer, diners want to eat lighter fare and grilled meats that reflect the season. And just with the change in seasons, it’s time to also change up your wine list.
Big reds like cabernet sauvignon and merlot and heavier whites like Chardonnay are great throughout colder months and, truth be told, appeal to some people yearround. But when the weather warms up, many others like to eat outside, and that usually calls for more refreshing wines.
“I look for wines that display a sense of freshness when summer rolls in,” says Joe Briand, wine director at New Orleans’ Bacchanal Wine. “Lighter, more translucent reds that are higher in acid and lower in tannin. With whites, I lean toward more delicate, low alcohol [wines] or whites with a touch of spritz.”
You can delve deeply into a variety of lighter wines. For whites, some to look for include albariño, vinho verde, txakolina, gruner veltliner, Grenache blanc, white Burgundy, Riesling, Muscadet and verdejo. In the red category, definitely add Beaujolais (gamay), lighter-style garnacha from Spain’s Priorat region, barbera, French pinot noir, negroamaro and even Lambrusco, a lovely, effervescent Italian red that’s great with a little chill on it.
Don’t forget about your bubbles. Celebrations tend to increase in the summer months and that means more sparkling wines like cava, prosecco, cremant and, of course, Champagne.
“Summer is a social time to enjoy wine and that’s where the fun comes in,” says Dan Callaway, director of product development, visitor experience and bourbon education and a sommelier for Bardstown Bourbon Co. and Bond Kitchen and Bar in Bardstown, Ky. “Sparklings are always going to be a big hit.”
And then there’s rosé, sometimes jokingly referred to as summer water. There’s no denying the boom these often-lighter, fruity, crisp, dry wines—from southern France, Oregon, northern Spain, Germany and elsewhere—have had in the last few years. People can’t get enough of rosé, whether sitting out on a patio with a bottle or sharing a variety of food.
Summer also means more grilled fresh vegetables, seafood and, of course, barbecued meats—and these lighter-style wines play a big role in enhancing the food.
“My thing with barbecue is that I don’t want to do anything overly complex,” says Shanning Newell, sommelier at Bourbon Steak in Nashville. “Barbecue is so flavorful, and I try to stay with wine that complements it, but isn’t the star of the show. Wine with barbecue is the supporting actor.”