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Summer Wine Guide + Summer Wine Cocktail Recipes

May 22nd, 2020

Warmer temps mean sandals, shorts, bathing suits, and wide-brim hats. Your clothing must-haves help you beat the heat—why should your wine picks be any different? Our clean wine collection is ready to help you make the transition to hotter days, so consider this post your guide to a summer wine wardrobe.

Summer Wine Guide

Rose Wine

Petite Sirah in July? Cabernet Sauvignon in August? Not so fast. We might have a “drink what you love” philosophy around here, but there’s no denying our gravitation toward lighter pours during long summer days. Yes, red wine still makes an appearance in our wine tasting guide, but it’s probably no surprise that chilled white wine and pink Rosé leads the pack. Here are some of the best grapes to be on the lookout for as you fill a summer wine rack.

Rosé

Often hailed as “the wine of summer,” the blush hue of Rosé always makes a statement. This varietal has a long history dating to the sixth century, when Phocaeans brought vines from Greece to modern-day Marseille in Southern France. Although this wine has fallen out of fashion in the past, a comical 2014 shortage in the Hamptons proved America loves Rosé (in case anyone had a doubt). This wine can derive from several grape varieties (like Pinot Noir or Grenache), and its unique color is the result of red grape skins fermenting for only a short time—usually a matter of hours, not weeks.

Viognier

Hailing from France’s northern Rhône region, Viognier is famous for its fruity bouquet—honeysuckle, tangerine, and peach are a few of the aromas you’ll enjoy. This wine makes an ideal chardonnay alternative in the summer as it’s typically less acidic, lighter, and more perfumed. It might be hard to imagine this popular wine going extinct, but it was almost a reality in the 1960s when the Viognier couldn’t stave off phylloxera, an aphid that eats the roots of grapes. Since Viognier is also difficult and costly to cultivate on steep slopes, growers abandoned their vineyards in droves. At one point, only about 30 acres remained. Thankfully, a few producers in the Château Grillet appellation stepped in to help revitalize Viognier, and it now enjoys a wonderful reputation throughout the world.

Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc grapes are native to France’s Loire Valley and known for intense aromatics, often featuring citrus, tropical fruit, or grassy notes. Since these vines have a habit of developing buds late while also ripening early, they thrive in temperate climates such as New Zealand, California, and South Africa. It’s one of the best summer white wines around.

Verdicchio

Verdicchio is (finally) back in style. In the 1960s and ’70s, this wine from Italy’s coastal Le Marche region kept a pretty low-key profile and was served in local pizza shops and fish houses. But as wine drinkers became more sophisticated, Saveur reports Verdicchio “fell out of fashion.” Today it’s enjoying a resurgence in popularity—keep reading for one of our sommelier’s favorite bottles.

Chenin Blanc

High acidity and sharpness are hallmarks of Chenin Blanc, a French varietal from the Loire Valley that’s a smart summer white wine pick. This grape makes everything from dry white wines to sparkling wines, as well as oak-aged styles reminiscent of chardonnay. There’s almost no occasion when Chenin Blanc isn’t appropriate, and it works especially well during warmer months.

Malbec

Thought we were sticking to white wines? Here’s the thing: Malbec is notorious for pairing well with grilled foods. With barbecue season in full swing, it’s worth having a few bottles of go-to reds on hand. Although this grape is native to France, Malbec is grown in seven countries around the world, and flourishes in Argentina.

Sangiovese

As a light-bodied red wine, Sangiovese is an ideal summer option as well. Its history dates to the Etruscian period, when the grape sourced in regions from Tuscany, Umbria, and Romagna spread throughout trade routes. Classic characteristics of Sangiovese include a ripe aroma (especially sour cherry), savory notes (like thyme, rosemary, and fennel), and a distinct clay or mineral flavor.


Best Summer Wines

Each of these unique wines has been hand-selected by master sommelier Josh Nadel.

Tenuta dell’Ugolino Verdicchio Classico Le Piaole 2018

Verdicchio is one of Italy’s best-kept secrets, and tastes a bit like a cross between sauvignon blanc and pinot grigio. This bottle is hand-harvested and crisp, with aromas of citrus, green apple, and melon.

Josh’s take: “This is a textbook light-bodied white for almost any occasion.”

Pair it with: salads and seafood

Xavier Vignon Rosé 2018

Summer and Rosé are synonymous—let’s embrace it. This organic, Grenache-based wine smells like ripe strawberries and raspberries. The bottle is also extremely versatile, pairing easily with grilled dishes and cheese platters alike.

Josh’s take: “This wine strikes an interesting balance between fruit and finesse, making it an elegant yet approachable choice for any kind of gathering.”

Pair it with: cheese, chicken, pork, salmon, pork, and spicy dishes

Château de la Gravelle Muscadet 2018

Pour this crisp, refreshing white wine when you’re ready to relax on the patio. It’s crafted by a mother-daughter duo in France, where Chateau de la Gravelle remains one of the oldest active properties in the Nantes region. Organically farmed and laced with peach and citrus notes, this one will be a new summer favorite.

Josh’s take: “One of the great values in the world of white wine.”

Pair it with: seafood, shellfish, salads, and cheeses

Erewhon Sauvignon Blanc 2019

Immensely popular, crisp, and aromatic, Erewhon’s New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc begs to keep you company on a Saturday afternoon. This particular bottle is made with organic grapes and smells like kiwi, peach, and passionfruit.

Josh’s take: “Mouth watering and refreshing—just what you’d expect from this astonishingly popular wine!”

Pair it with: white fish, shellfish, asparagus, and roasted potatoes

Tulbagh Mountain Vineyards Chenin Blanc 2019

This South African bottle has it all: mouth-watering acidity and a fruit-forward bouquet featuring prominent white pear. This winery implements holistic practices and grows organic grapes throughout the estate, which are hand-harvested.

Josh’s take: “This is a great ‘New World’ example of one of the world’s most versatile but underappreciated white varietals.”

Pair it with: cheese, vegetables, legumes, pork, and poultry

Terra Domitia Rosé Costières de Nîmes 2018

In the running for best Rosé wine, this French bottle combines two of Provence’s most alluring grapes: grenache and cinsault. This bottle holds up to grilled foods, and pairs beautifully with fruit desserts like pie or cobbler.

Josh’s take: “Its irresistible pink hue and hints of juicy strawberries and tart currants make it a fast favorite.”

Pair it with: grilled meats and vegetables (especially fennel), and fruit desserts

Asado Cruz Malbec 2019

If you’re planning to spend some serious time with your grill this summer, Argentinian Malbec is a must-have. This bottle is rich with dark berry fruits, medium tannins, and was aged for 18-months in stainless steel tanks.

Josh’s take: “An incredibly versatile wine and a great value.”

Pair it with: grilled meat

Tenuta Santa Lucia Toscano Sangiovese 2016

This crowd-pleasing wine goes with almost everything, making it a versatile option to keep on hand. This bottle blends organic Sangiovese and Ciliegiolo grapes for an easy-drinking, fruit-forward sip that won’t weigh down lighter summer fare.

Josh’s take: “I can’t think of a time, place or pairing where this doesn’t work.”

Pair it with: pasta, pizza, vegetables, white and red meats, cheese


Wine Cocktails for Summer

Pink, white, and red wine summer cocktails (plus other adult beverages) are a fun way to mix up your party, even if it’s of the virtual variety.

Frosé Push Pops

Meet your new favorite icy treat. This popsicle base is blended with a bottle of Rosé, fresh fruit, and your favorite sweetener.

Chia Cherry Rosé Sangria

You can call off the search for cocktail recipes with Rosé wine—just make a pitcher of this refreshing sangria to enjoy all afternoon. Mix your favorite pink drink with superfood chia seeds and cherry-beet purée for the ultimate wellness-inspired libation.

Red Wine Hot Cacao

File hot cacao in your red wine cocktails list. While warm summer drinks aren’t as popular as their chilled counterparts, don’t discount their appeal, especially during a cool afternoon thunderstorm. Warm red wine with cacao powder, cinnamon, and cardamom for this relaxing beverage.

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Nicole GulottaNicole Gulotta is a writer, author, and tea enthusiast.

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