Chill Out Summer Wines...

By Jane Parkinson

When the sun comes out our wine habits change just as much as the temperature. Gone are the winter-warming earthy whites reds and in come the bottles that are vibrant, fruity and refreshing. So what should we be drinking?

Many of the world’s freshest white wines are made near the coast, giving them vibrancy and a salty lick from the nearby sea air. The grape Sauvignon Blanc works brilliantly under these conditions - Bordeaux Blanc is a great example of this just as much as the Sauvignons coming out of the Leyda Valley in Chile – which is fast becoming a Mecca for cool and crisp Sauvignon Blanc. Elsewhere in the southern hemisphere how can we possibly forget about Marlborough, the ultimate in coastal regions making fruity Sauvignon Blanc. This grape is very handy in the summer because it’s seriously versatile with food, especially summer greens that are bang in season, so I nearly always suggest it to people who ask for my advice about a summer wedding white. The fruity satisfaction and its food-friendliness make it the ultimate crowd pleaser.

Sauvignon Blanc isn’t for everyone though, and if that’s the case, then substitute it for a bottle of the Spanish grape Albariño. It’s a little bit more delicate than a full and frank Sauvignon Blanc, but it can be just as delicious and good for summer food pairings and works especially well with seafood.

If ever there was a wine known to be popular in the summertime surely rosé is it? And in fact it’s my ultimate picnic wine because it can match everything from a pork pie to a prawn sandwich and it can even go well with a fresh strawberry tart at the end of a meal. If you’re worried about it being too sweet, go for a Provençal pink as this will nearly always be dry.

Red wine-only drinkers don’t have to out to miss out in the summer though. A lighter style of red that’s chilled down in the fridge for 20 minutes before serving is a fantastic summer drink. Wines that work well this way are often made from grapes like Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc and Frappato. Another, and one that again I would recommend for a summer party or wedding is Gamay, this is the grape that goes into making Beaujolais. Like Sauvignon Blanc is versatile with food, so too is Gamay, it can match anything from cold beef salad to charcuterie to burgers. And speaking of burgers, or bangers, or chops, or any meat destined for the barbecue, a full-on fruity red can work just as well (sometimes even better) than Gamay. A Syrah from Chile, a Cabernet Sauvignon from Australia or a Malbec from Argentina would be great choices. But if you prefer something European, try one of the new wave red wines from the Douro Valley in Portugal, they’re a joy to drink.

Happy summer sipping!