Summer Wines

I was asked a great question by a reader several weeks ago – Do you change the wines you drink with the seasons? The answer would be yes wines do have some seasonality. To keep it simple, let’s focus on summer wines.

With the heat kicking in, the lighter, fresher wines that can be served cooler are more appealing. Our food and where we eat shifts as well; we eat more light foods like salads and we dine outdoors more often. Light to medium bodied sparkling, reds, roses and whites are more attractive to drink alone or to pair with dinner while sitting out in the sun.

Light reds like Pinot Noir (the inexpensive ones), lighter bodied Merlots, Gamay, and Beaujolais are particularly attractive since they can be lightly chilled, which means put them in the fridge for about 45 minutes, as well as being amazingly food friendly. Dry Roses can substitute for reds, or whites for that matter, since they are low in tannin and can be served chilled (2 hours in the fridge) with the added benefit of easy to pair with most food. Summer whites tend to wines like Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Soave, and unoaked Chardonnay. Simpler sparkling shows well too. Your favourite Prosecco, sparkling Riesling, or other simpler fizz (skip the complex, more full bodied sparklers like Champagne) served by itself or with lighter foods will go down well in the heat.

All this is not to say you should totally abandon full bodied reds like Shiraz, Zinfandel, and Cabernet Sauvignon, they are still your best pairing when you BBQ red meats. It’s just they are not as enticing to pour for sipping when it’s 30°C.

Now that you’re armed with a few summer wine ideas, get out on a patio and celebrate summer! As usual, my ratings are based on a 5 star system developed by Michael Broadbent: 5 stars: Outstanding; 4 stars: Very good; 3 stars: Good; 2 stars: Moderately good; 1 star: Not very good, but not bad; No stars: Poor.

The Hare Wine Co. Frontier Collection Pinot Grigio 2019 ★★★½ $19.95 (LCBO)
A fine Ontario take on Pinot Grigio that has more body than most of its Italian counterparts. It’s very good, nicely dry, and medium bodied with lemon, pear, nectarine, peach, and minerals. This would be a nice patio sipper for before dinner or pair it with your hoer d’oeuvres, veggie dishes, simple grilled chicken and seafood.

Stratus Wildass Sauvignon Blanc 2019 ★★★½+ $16.95 (Vintages)
This is an enjoyable Sauvignon that will be easy to like in the hot summer weather. It’s fresh, just hitting dry, and beautifully aromatic with lime zest, lemon, cut grass and minerals with a finish that really lingers. An excellent wine for your afternoon on the patio or pairing with grilled white fish.

Santa Carolina Gran Reserva Chardonnay 2018 ★★★★+ $18.95 (Vintages)
A Gran Reserva from an emerging cooler climate wine region in southern Chile, the Itata Valley. The wine is nicely balanced even though it’s rich and full bodied. It’s a big version of Chardonnay with lemon curd, ripe yellow apple, pear, and a creamy nutmeg, vanilla spice from a nuanced amount of new oak barrels. Pair it with aged cheddar cheese, spicy chicken from the grill, or mild curried shrimp with chutney.

Tenuta Fratelli Povero Roero Arneis 2019 ★★★½+ $17.95 (Vintages)
This is a lesser known white from Piedmont in Italy that’s dry and delicious. The vineyard where it is sourced from is being classified as organic and uses no chemical herbicides or fertilizers. The wine is medium bodied and has aromas and flavours of hazelnut, ripe yellow apple, peach, and lemon. If you like mushroom risotto, this wine will make a charming contrasting pairing to its creaminess.

Gran Passione Rosato 2019 ★★★½ $15.95 (Vintages)
This delightfully pale wine, made with Merlot, comes from the Veneto region of Italy, but it will remind you of a stylish Rose from the south of France. The light colour in no way means it lacks fruit; it is dry with evident berry, watermelon, red cherry, orange rind, and wet stones. If you are looking for a wine to match up with your charcuterie and cheese plate, look no further.

Stratus Wildass Merlot 2019 ★★★½ $19.95 (Vintages)
Cool climate Ontario Merlots are usually good medium bodied, dry reds and this is no exception. This one lends itself well to lighter fare from the BBQ like turkey medallions wrapped in bacon with its blue and black fruits, smoky, spicy nature, and smooth tannins. Stocks are getting a little low in Vintages, but it is still available from the winery.

Louis M. Martini Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 ★★★★+ $24.95 (Vintages)
Cabernet Sauvignon is just about the perfect red for BBQ meats. It has enough structure to stand up to food off the grill and still enough refreshing acidity that makes every sip pleasant. This wine is smooth and full bodied delivering an abundance of ripe blackberry, cassis, mint, and black cherry fruit wrapped in tobacco, smoke, spice, caramel, coconut, and vanilla. The added benefit is this Sonoma County red is both excellent quality and good value in the increasingly expensive world of California Cabs.

Alice Vieira de Sousa Reserve Red 2018 ★★★★+ $16.95 (Vintages)
Portugal is full of great values worth discovering. However, the grapes employed are not well known outside Portugal, which may give pause since they are unfamiliar. Take this red made with Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, and Tinta Roriz, which is actually a wonderfully complex, dry, full bodied wine well worth trying. It shows red currant, black cherry, black plum, cedar, spice, vanilla, and tobacco leaf. It is still tannic and can age. However, you can take pleasure in it now by pairing with burgers, steak, or pork  that will moderate the tannins.