Chapter 3: Summer Wines
The days are longer, the temperatures are warmer, and you’re gearing up the grill to awaken from its winter dormancy. There’s only one question left — what wines pair best with all the foods and events that make up summer?
From crisp reds to rich rosés to white wines so nuanced and juicy, they taste like fresh-squeezed summer fruit, we’ve got your guide to the best summer wines and wine cocktails. If you’re hungry, we’ve got summer food-wine pairings, too, ensuring your palate never strays far from the ultimate summer wine experience.
Guiding Rules for Drinking Wine in Summer
Good summer wine is subjective. However, there are a few rules for picking and pairing wines during the summer season to maximize its sipping experience.
1. Chill Out
White wines should ideally be served between 49 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit. For red wines, that serving temperature bumps up to 62 to 68 degrees. Chill your red and white wines in the fridge a few hours before decanting, particularly during the summer months when you’re drinking outside.
2. Look for Wines With Moderate Tannins and Moderate Bodies
Tannins are a chemical compound common in many different plants and responsible for the astringent, puckering sensation associated with wine. A wine’s body refers to how it feels on your tongue — not so much the flavors, but the heaviness, strength and spots it hits while you drink.
Specific wine varietals have stronger tannin profiles than others. A higher tannin concentration or lower tannin quality results in bolder, heavier wines, which then tends to produce a stronger body.
While full-bodied wines are certainly not off-limits during the summer, lighter reds and whites will be more refreshing. This makes them a natural pairing across summer’s hotter, humid months.
3. Opt for Oak Sparingly
The heady, vanilla and caramel flavors so typical of oak-aged wines can result in heavier-bodied wines too rich for summer palates. Unless pairing with foods that call explicitly for such wines, look for white and red wines that haven’t been aged in oak barrels.
4. Always Consider What You’re Eating
Summer reintroduces a new palate of fresh and in-season foods. While it’s always important to pair your meal with your wine, make the best of summer produce and seasonal dishes by following these general food-wine matches:
- The lighter the fare, the lighter the wine — and vice-versa. Full-bodied wines hold up to the heft of ribs, steaks and meat kebobs, while lighter wines balance foods like gazpacho, summer charcuterie boards and garden salads.
- White sauces, mustards and vinegar-based barbecues play nice with lighter-bodied, sweet, dry wines with bright acidity.
- Red sauces and tomato-based barbecue works with fuller-bodied, deeper and dryer red wines.
Continue reading for specifics on the best red, white and rosé varietals to drink during summer.
The Best Summer White Wines
From the crisp and aromatic to the fruit-fragrant, lively and tart, white wines have a definitive place at the summer picnic table or backyard barbecue. Opt for these summer white wines at your next seasonal gathering:
Rieslings are a fruity and highly acidic white wine varietal with origins in modern-day Germany.
Unlike other white wines, rieslings are available in both dry and sweet forms, depending on the region of origin. However, all bottles of riesling come harmonized by their high acidity. Rieslings are one of the most acidic white wines on the market, yet maintain a thin, zippy body coaxing forward plenty of nuanced fruit flavors. Together, this makes this varietal a perfect wine choice on a hot summer day.
- Flavor profile: Green grape, lemon, nectarine, Bartlett pear, lavender, honey, lime, pineapple
2. Pinot Grigio
Opening a bottle of pinot grigio is akin to walking through a summer garden. Prepare your nose to greet earthy perfumes of jasmine and honeysuckle flowers, citrus trees, fresh-cut grass and even a woodsy wet mulch.
While one of the least fruit-forward white wines, pinot grigio offers that medium-body, low-tannin yet high-acidity balance for crisp summer sips.
- Flavor profile: Almond, lemon, jicama, white peach, yellow watermelon, ginger, sage, lemongrass
3. Sauvignon Blanc
Sauvignon blanc earns its way on our list of good summer white wines for a distinct reason — its versatility. While other white wines’ full fruit profiles or high acidity levels align them with specific types of summer foods, sauvignon blanc offers a broad pairing template.
In fact, sauvignon blancs work particularly well with foods that are notoriously difficult to match with wine. Think umami-forward produce like artichokes and asparagus, sulfuric cruciferous veggies like charred cauliflower and kale salads or the bright bursts of tomatoes and garlic in bruschetta with a balsamic drizzle — all summer foods, all enhanced by a good bottle of sauvignon blanc.
- Flavor profile: Green apple, green tea, pink guava, bell pepper, celery, lemongrass, basil
Viogniers encompass everything you want in a good summer wine — a medium-light body, bright, fruity flavors and a full yet lively texture rounded out by medium-low acidity.
This set of traits makes viogniers a distinctly “drinkable” white wine and a favorite for outdoor picnics or barbecues. Stick with the unoaked varieties though, avoiding the tongue-coating richness that strikes with oak-aged viogniers.
- Flavor profile: Peach, apricot, dandelion, rose, mango, ripe melon, gingerbread
Champagne is a tongue-tingling, crisp and often celebratory beverage made from half a dozen grape varietals grown in the aptly named region of Champagne, France. The area’s distinctly chalk-rich soil is the secret to the grapes’ bubbly pop, which producers concentrate via a unique blending process with roots tracing back to brew-mastering French monks.
You can choose from a range of flavors among Champagnes and other sparkling wines. Yet nearly all sparkling wines make an effervescent and refreshing drink best suited for the summer months, where their distinct texture and bright, vivid notes elevate any gathering.
The Best Summer Red Wines
Never fear, red wine lovers — summer provides plenty of opportunities to enjoy those lush, rich red-wine flavors without succumbing to a too-bold or too-heavy beverage. We suggest any of the following to make up your selection of the best summer red wines.
There are three general commercial categories of the French regional red, the Beaujolais — the Beaujolais Nouveau, Beaujolais Villages and — most notable — the Beaujolais Crus.
While many wine connoisseurs have traditionally snubbed the Nouveaus in favor of the more expensive and complex Villages and Crus, all three make excellent choices for summer wine drinking due to their fundamentally juicy flavors, bouquets and tamed acidity. Beaujolais are also one of the only red wine types meant to be chilled, enhancing its lighter body and pushing those juicy fruit notes to their most refreshing mouthfeel.
- Flavor profile: Raspberry, cranberry, black cherry, hibiscus, black currant, plum, baking spices
You can’t go wrong with a glass of gamay in the summer. This red wine varietal isn’t often the star of the table, yet gamays strike a perfect balance between light, berry notes and tart, tangy aromatics, fading softly on the palate rather than lingering like other red wines. Gamays are also famous for their distinct banana scent, which is most poignant right after opening and decanting. Gamays are a medium-high acidity, low-tannin red wine that both red and white drinkers will approve.
- Flavor profile: Strawberry, lingonberry, clementine, fig, red licorice, almond, baker’s yeast
Chianti is an Italian red wine classic celebrated for its easy food pairings and accessible nature. Because they’re a blended red wine on the earthier yet acidic side, a glass of Chianti works wonders with sweet and savory summer dishes, including grilled red meats like burgers and steaks.
Like others on this summer red wine list, Chiantis can also be served chilled without muddling its flavors. While it courts a higher tannin count, Chianti’s bright acidity and balance of fruity and herbaceous notes energize rather than overpower the palate.
- Flavor profile: Strawberry, sour cherries, oregano, clove, violet, aged balsamic vinegar
Dolcetto wine seems to contain some of the most prized features from other red wines all in one — it has the silkiness of Merlot with the sweet effervescence of Beaujolais, blended with the earthier pops of reds like Chianti and cabernet sauvignon. Dolcettos are also dry yet medium-bodied and medium-tannin. Altogether, you end up with a lush, nuanced and delightful red wine with Goldilocks tasting properties — not too sweet, not too sour; not too heavy, not too light.
- Flavor profile: Prunes, figs, tart cherries, blackberries, red and black licorice, ground black peppercorn
Don’t let looks deceive! While full-bodied and dark, Barbera wine contains a distinctly sweet taste to anyone enjoying a glass. This is thanks to its low tannin count yet high acidity, which leaves a pleasant pucker alongside tangs of ripe summer fruits. Barberas are also one of the most economically priced summer red wines, due in part to their low aging range — one to four years, on average.
- Flavor profile: Blackberry, strawberry, sour cherry, tobacco, clove, leather
6. Pinot Noir
No list of the best red wines for summer would be complete without the perennial favorite, pinot noir.
Lush, juicy and silky, pinot noirs are characteristically drinkable on their own or alongside an array of meat and veggies. Cold-climate pinot noirs like those from Oregon, New Zealand and France will have just a touch more acidity, while warm climates such as Argentina and Sonoma ripen the varietal faster and bring out the tannins’ supple sweetness.
- Flavor profile: Blueberry, black raspberry, fig, cocoa, rhubarb, black olives
The Best Summer Rosés
Rosés are a blend of multiple grape varietals and can taste dry, off-dry or sweet, depending on the base combination. Yet there are few drinks that so strongly encompass summer as a chilled glass of rosé, a wine type balancing the tart crispness of most white wines with the fruit and herb nuances associated with reds.
Look for summer rosés made from red or white varietals that are good summer wine selections on their own, including many on this list. Rosés blended from an already summer-friendly type of grape sets you up for easy drinkability and pairing. We recommend the following summer rosés.
1. Chardonnay-Chenin Blanc-Pinot Noir Rosés
Blended chardonnay, Chenin blanc and pinot noir grapes create a sublime rosé that’s one of the lightest and fruitiest on the list. Chenin blanc and pinot noir grapes lend their signature red and citrus fruit pops, while the chardonnay tones down the juicy tangs into a mellow, freshly baked bread finish. New and seasoned rosé drinkers will be equally impressed.
- Flavor profile: Strawberry jam, grapefruit, blood orange, cranberry, cream, toasted bread
2. Cava Blend Rosés
Cava is a type of Spanish sparkling wine similar to champagne but made using white or rosé grape blends. The latter category is particularly dynamic since rosés so often incorporate both red and white grape varietals on its own.
Once married with cava, these rosés develop light, sharp yet more herbaceous flavors than many other rosés and make for an excellent pre- or post-dinner summer aperitif.
- Flavor profile: Red and black currant, soursop, blackberry, dark cocoa, white peppercorn, roasted bell pepper, nectarine, jasmine
3. Cinsaut-Grenache-Syrah Rosés
Light, fragrant and refreshing, this trio of grapes produces a rosé encompassing summer in taste and bouquet. While the heartier Cinsaut grapes lend depth to extend the drink’s lush mouthfeel, it’s the Grenache-Syrah’s bright punch that genuinely makes this rosé summer-ready. Cinsaut-Grenache-Syrah blends work particularly well with smoky and salty foods, their citrus-sweet nose and aftertaste of Provencal herbs cutting through dense umami flavors.
- Flavor profile: White peach, peony, grapefruit, clementines, lemons, cotton candy
4. Pinot Noir Rosés
Pinot noir is one of the most popular grape varietals made into rosé — and for good reasons! In rosés, the sweet, silky grapes create a lean and delicate profile with soft, fruity aromas and an airy finish. Pick a pinot noir rosé for late afternoon and evening summer events, where the wine’s dry zip pairs perfectly with many foods, from appetizers down to fruit-infused dessert pies.
- Flavor profile: Pomegranate, lemon zest, orange zest, rose petal, hibiscus, watermelon, thyme
The Ultimate Summer Wine and Food Pairings
Looking for the best wines to pair with your summer foods? Whether dining on the patio or plating on the picnic blanket, these food-wine pairings capture the best of what summer flavors offer.
1. Barbecue Pork Ribs and Pinot Noir
Pinot noirs are the textbook complement to pork. Its robust body is balanced by a silky-smooth mouthfeel that mellows meat dishes without stealing their Maillard-reaction show. With its simultaneously smoky, tangy and caramelized flavors, slow-cooked barbecue pork ribs find no better companion than the rich yet smooth pinot noir.
2. Coleslaw, Potato Salad and Sweet, Late-Harvest Rieslings
Creamy meets tangy when summer-staples like potato salad and coleslaw are lightened by the lively zip of a fresh, crisp riesling. Opt for sweet, late-harvest varietals for the best balance of flavors. You get a more sophisticated dance of the riesling’s sour-sweet notes since the grapes benefited from extra time to ripen on the vine.
3. Veggie Kebobs and Unoaked Sauvignon Blanc
Veggie-based dishes like grilled or roasted kebobs can be notoriously tricky to pair. Unoaked sauvignon blancs provide a mild yet earthy backdrop that’ll harmonize each of the kebob’s individual veggie flavors, plus celebrate their seasonings. Always bear in mind, though, the produce-wine pairing golden rule — the lighter-colored your kebob’s fruits and veggies, the lighter you’ll want your wine, and vice versa.
4. Grilled Shrimp and Red Zinfandel
Marinated shrimp skewers offer a lighter summer fare that works as both a side and a main. Amplify the shrimp’s grilled char with the zesty, burst-in-your-mouth juiciness of chilled red zinfandel. The two flavors are complemented rather than overpowered by the other.
5. Corn on the Cob and Oaked Chardonnay
Remember when we said to be careful with summer wines and oak? Well, rules are made to be broken. Especially when it comes to grill-kissed corn on the cob, served hot and fresh with a chilled glass of oak-aged chardonnay. In this case, the chardonnay’s toasty vanilla-cream notes are a match made in heaven for corn’s natural, sweet crunch. You might even skip that extra smear of butter!
6. Watermelon Feta Salad and Dry Rosé
Few dishes scream summer as much as a fresh watermelon salad adorned with sharp, briny feta. Add arugula, basil or mint to the party, then serve with a glass of chilled rosé. Go for a dry rosé to let the sweetness of the watermelon sing, while the wine’s tang will bridge the feta, fruit and greens.
7. Summer Sausage and Lambrusco
Another pair sent by the food gods, summer sausage brings the perfect savory spice to a summer charcuterie board. For sausage seasoned with common Italian herbs like garlic, oregano, mustard seed and even coriander, pair it with an equally revered Italian treasure, Lambrusco. The high-acidity, highly fruity Italian red wine cuts through just enough of the summer sausage’s fat to cleanse your palate — before you reach for another slice.
8. Crab Cakes, Lobster Rolls and White Burgundy
Feeling fancy? Smother your lobster rolls and crab cakes in beurre blanc, a white-wine reduction made from melted butter, shallots, fresh chives, rosemary and tarragon. Match the wine-soaked seafood with an equally nutty but lightly blended White Burgundy — the cousin of chardonnay. You can’t go wrong here with a chilled Chablis.
9. Smoked Beef Brisket and Beaujolais
Smoked beef brisket’s heavy, savory succulence is instantly brightened by the lush berry notes of a good bottle of Beaujolais. The red wine’s soft tannins and delightfully sweet tang round out the full spectrum of flavors to this quintessential summer dish.
10. S’mores and Sweet Madeira
Is it even summer without s’mores around a campfire? The ooey-gooey sandwiched goodness is amplified when washed down with a glass of sweet Madeira. The fortified wine carries notes of toffee, cinnamon, berry compote and coconut all in a single sip, adding depth and complexity to the campfire classic.
Easy Summer Wine Cocktails
Why pick just one? Get the best of both worlds with wine-based cocktails featuring some of summer’s signature flavors and ingredients.
1. Red or White Sangria
Sangria is the ultimate summer drink — mixing fresh seasonal fruits with refreshing wine and liquor of your preference, usually brandy, you can prep sangria in a few minutes and proudly bring it to any summer get-together.
- White sangria directions: In a pitcher, combine 1/3 cup sugar with 1/3 cup brandy. Stir until sugar dissolves. Add one 750-ml bottle of dry, fruity white wine such as Viognier, Muscadet or Spanish Albarino, plus one cup of chopped strawberries, one cup of chopped peaches, one sliced lemon and one sliced lime. Finish with a can of lemon-lime soda or lemon-lime sparkling water. Stir and serve over ice.
- Red sangria directions: In a pitcher, combine 1/3 cup sugar with 1/3 cup brandy. Stir until sugar dissolves. Add one 750-ml bottle of sweet, fruity red wine like pinot noir or Syrah, plus one cup chopped strawberries, one cup chopped peaches, one chopped green apple, one sliced orange and one sliced lemon. Finish with 1/2 cup orange juice or unflavored sparkling water. Stir and serve over ice.
2. Classic Wine Spritzer
Don’t snub the spritzer just yet! Versions of this classic cocktail exist for both red and white wine lovers, offering a fresh and invigorating beverage for hot summer afternoons or to pair during an outdoor cocktail hour.
- White wine spritzer directions: Combine 3 oz. off-dry white wine, such as sauvignon blanc, Chenin blanc or riesling, with 1 oz. club soda. Add a dash of bitters, then stir with ice. Garnish with an orange slice.
- Red wine spritzer directions: Combine 3 oz. off-dry red wine, such as Sangiovese or Burgundy, with 1 oz. club soda. Add a dash of bitters, then stir with ice. Garnish with an orange slice.
Love rosé? Love slushies? Love impressing family and friends with festive summer cocktails? Meet frosé, your new best friend.
- Directions: Open one 750-ml. bottle of dry or sweet rosé — your preference. Pour 2/3 cup into a glass and set aside for serving. In a blender, blend remaining rosé with 1 tablespoon of honey and 10 strawberries, tops removed. Pour into a pitcher and freeze overnight. Scoop and serve when ready, adding a splash of the saved rosé to taste to individual servings.
Pick the Right Summer Wines for Every Occasion at Marketview
Good summer wines shouldn’t take a good portion of summer to find.
Stop by Marketview Liquor to remove the hassle from hunting down the perfect bottles of wine and wine cocktails for your summer gatherings. You can also browse one of New York’s largest online wine catalogs stocked in our warehouse — many of which are available for quick and convenient home delivery!
Summer Wines to Add to Your List
Your summer wine list has arrived. Consider the wine types below as a starting point:
Still have questions? We’re here to help!