Summer Wines

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A lighter touch in warmer months enhances flavors

It is time to bring out the wines of summer. Just as your cuisine and dress change with the season, so does the wine. It becomes lighter, crispier and more refreshing. As the easy, breezy weather starts to sizzle, you can feel renewed and rejuvenated with a sip of wine. Light white or red wines mesh well with the casual environment of grilling out and can be enhanced by a little chilling, especially the red wines, which provide an excellent contrast to the sometimes spicy foods that may be served. Sometimes seasonings or the flavor of charcoal can be overwhelming for light white wines and can be so empowering that you cannot taste the wine at all.

Put away the chardonnay until it is time to watch our New Orleans Saints play football once again. You may want to put the heavy reds aside as well and exchange them for something lighter, cooler and more refreshing that you can pair with salad, seafood or grilled chicken platters. Lighter reds like cru Beaujolais and pinot noir are perfect for providing relief from the summer heat. Whether you are sitting by the pool or lounging in the shade, find a wine that fits your mood – and even complements the foods with flare this summer.

To pair with grilled chicken or beef dishes, you may lean toward a light to medium bodied pinot noir. Basically, for lighter foods, such as chicken breasts, vegetables and white-fleshed fish, you should use lighter wines. Merlot is often the perfect complement for a vegetable medley. For heavier meals, such as burgers or steaks, the wine should be more robust. Champagne and French chardonnay, both of which have slightly lower than average levels of alcohol and slightly higher than average acidity levels, are also popular in the summer. A lighter summertime wine should not exceed 12 percent alcohol.

In the heat of summer, crisp white wines like sauvignon blanc, rose and pinot grigio deliver a refreshing fruit flavor. Sparkling white wines are also fit for any occasion. Light, fresh, aromatic white wines like Moscato d’Asti, Alsatian whites and even German Rieslings have less sugar content and pair wonderfully with fresh fruit and lighter desserts. You can never go wrong with the familiar chilled-sangria with chips or salsa. If you’re ordering in a restaurant, the key is not being afraid to try something new. Just make sure that if you choose a red wine it is served at a cool temperature. If served too warm, red wine will accentuate the alcohol and the wine will appear hot and unbalanced.

California zinfandels tend to have lower alcohol content and are the perfect fit for a picnic or backyard barbecue. Another winning choice for an afternoon of feasting outdoors is rose. You can cleanse your palate with summer favorites that have a blend of fruit and acidity.  The bright flavor of a sauvignon blanc may be the first to come to mind. A fie gris from France is a similar choice that is sure to go over well at any party. The fizz of sparkling pinot grigio brut makes for another terrific party favorite. The aroma of fresh fruit from the orchard promises to get you craving this fine wine.

Summer is a time to experiment with wines you may not have tried before. Some of the most amazing wines are made with blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, apples and bananas. Some even consist of a combination of those fruity elements. Serving these delightful or exotic wines chilled can be a fabulous treat for an afternoon relaxing at the lake or pool or a great accessory for a little picnic. If you are entertaining at home, put out one wine at a time. Guests may surprise themselves and venture outside of their comfort zone to find that you really can have wine with anything.

-Jamie Lober