We often drink the same way we eat: in winter, we braise hearty chunks of meat and reach for hearty, earthy wines. In the fall, the crisp air has us craving wine with a bit of spice. And now, in these months of fierce heat, we eat cooling cucumbers and tomatoes and (soon) corn, and crave wines that are lighter on their feet.
What are you drinking now that the weather is warm? Are you a rosé person? Do you shun reds? We asked a few experts for their recommendations for the best hot weather wines, the best summer food and wine pairings, and which wines they avoid as the temperature rises.
Cat Silirie, Wine Director at No. 9 Park and B&G Oysters, Boston
Do you stick with a particular region, grape, or style during hot days?
The qualities of freshness via lively acidity and the nourishment from stony minerality are KEY for me in white and rosé wines for summer drinking. These qualities determine my regional choices, yet safe to say that cool climate regions generally produce wines that refresh and enliven in hot weather for their aromatics and acidity: Austria, Germany, Italian Alps...
What wines are in your fridge right now?
Always, always Provençal Rosé, Austrian Grüner Veltliner, and German Riesling. As we speak the following are on stand-by in my fridge:
Starting with the current vintage of the best of the Provençal Rosés:
Domaine du Bagnol Cassis Rosé 2010
2010 Domaine Tempier Rosé
'Everyday' Grüner Veltliners:
2009 Fred Loimer Grüner Veltliner
2009 Nikolaihof Grüner Veltliner "Hefeabzug"
Riesling to Revive:
2009 Leitz Riesling Dragonstone
2009 Leitz Riesling Rüdesheimer Magdalenenkreuz Spätlese
2009 Trimbach Riesling Reserve
Do you have a favorite summer wine and food pairing?
Well, I have a favorite memory of a favorite food and wine experience from a few summers ago: we grilled whole lobsters in their shells over hard-wood charcoal, so that the seawater still in the hard shells of the lobster cooked and absorbed the fragrant woodsmoke and infused the ocean and mineral flavor of the lobsters with that summertime bonfire/woodsmoke smell/feeling. We grilled the lobsters at twilight while we were still in our wet bathing suits from swimming in the ocean all day, and drank Zind Humbrecht Grand Cru Riesling "Clos Saint Urbain au Rangen de Thann" a profound and noble dry Alsatian Riesling that showed its natural majesty superbly in that most casual of settings.
Hey, but if not lobsters over woodsmoke with Grand Cru Riesling, then Wellfleet oysters and Chablis make me very happy as well!
Liz Nicholson, Wine Director at Maialino, NYC
Do you have a favorite summer wine?
My current faves for the summer are Mediterranean Whites—I tend to lean towards the Raix Baixes and Penedes regions in Spain, Italian Vermentinos and Verdicchios, or else I seek out the lesser known Assyrtiko from Greece. I do admit to being more of a Francophile in previous years and drank chalky Chablis and white Burgundies from the Macon (great values to be found there for everyday drinking) almost exclusively through summer.
But my favorite summer wine is actually a light bodied red from Saint-Pourcain. The producer is Famille Laurent, and it's a blend of Gamay and Pinot Noir. It's lean with a beautiful silky palate and the perfect balance of beaujolais-like fruit with the seriousness of a Burgundy. It's also a steal at $14-16 retail, and I've seen it in a few wine shops around the city!
Brian Maloney, Winemaker at DeLoach Vineyards
What wine do you always have in your fridge in the summer? When it's hot out, do you stick with a particular style, grape, or region?
Light, bright, whites: pinot blanc and gris, sauv blanc, some chardonnay, some Italian whites, and also rosé. I prefer mostly "pinot family" wines, softer feel and style with still plenty of flavor and a touch of acid to them, but on the hot days the leaner sauv blancs and Italian whites definitely get sipped on quite a bit.
Are there any wines you avoid in the height of summer?
Anything that's really oaky (red or white), just seems to stand out and feel awkward on a hot day.
Christy Frank, owner of Frankly Wines, NYC
What wines are you drinking now?
I'm a big fan of larger formats for summertime, and pretty much anything goes—as long as it's chillable! Liter bottles of gruner veltliner from Austria, dry or just off-dry German riesling, 3 Liter boxes of picpoul de pinet—these are summer staples. And I don't shy away from reds, I just shift to lighter styles that benefit from some time in the fridge. Loire Valley reds—cot, gamay, cabernet franc in blends or on their own—always seem to work really well. For something a little weightier, I have a bit of a crush on La Clarine Farm's Mourvedre. It's ripe and wild and extremely flavorful without being too dense or heavy for a hot summer's night.
Do you have some favorite summer food and wine pairings?
I use the summer heat as an excuse to drink Chateau Simone rosé (great with spicy grilled sausages), older Muscadets from Luneau-Papin (excellent with grilled fish), and funky, fun petillant natural sparklers (good with pretty much anything.) They're all great chilled and offer a little more complexity than the usual summer sippers.
Jim Clarke, Wine Director at MEGU New York
What wines do you reach for in the summer? What do you avoid?
I tend to avoid reds in the summer unless I've got some serious air-conditioning going; the humidity makes most of them taste alcoholic and overly fruity. Barbera, owing to its acidity, and northern Rhone reds, with their inherently earthy, spicy notes, are useful exceptions.
For whites, it's easier; Albarino's always a good go-to for me, or a dry Riesling, with that laser-acidity that can be so refreshing. The Finger Lakes, Alsace, and Germany are likely to be represented in my fridge in that way. But in the summer I buy Berliner-Weisse by the case for many of the same reasons—freshness that doesn't skimp on character.