Most people don’t associate wine with hot weather, but most people are wrong. Not just white wines, but reds and rosés, are ideal for hot weather. Rosés and Moscatos have labored under bad reputations for too long.
“White wines on the more aromatic end of the spectrum have seen a serious rise in popularity in recent years.”
In the height of later summer, who can stomach anything but ice-cold beer and chilled white wine? Who could possibly imbibe a room-temperature red when the mercury is straining to reach the top of the thermometer?
But to limit yourself to whites this time of year is to miss out on some of the greatest hot-weather treats around. The key to branching out is to focus on reds, rosés, sparkling wines, and sweet wines that have enough acid to keep your mouth watering, a lithe enough body to pair with lighter summertime foods and the ability to be chilled down a bit — even if they’re red.
Here are five wines that will not only work in the hot weather but that may actually make you look forward to the heat.
Tastes Like: Bright, juicy fruit, with occasional spice notes
Good rosé has had its reputation sullied by too many bad bottles of saccharine-sweet white zinfandel. The real deal, however, is unexpectedly complex, and some of the food-friendliest wine around. From the dense, deep-pink rosé of cabernet sauvignon from South Africa’s Mulderbosch to the lighter, spicier bottling from France’s Mas de Gourgonnier, these wines are versatile and custom-made for this time of year.
Expert Advice: If you see multiple vintages of the same bottle on the shelf, go for the youngest one there: It’ll be fruitier and fresher.
Torrontes from Argentina
Tastes Like: Melon, peaches, flowers
White wines on the more aromatic end of the spectrum have seen a serious rise in popularity in recent years: Albariño from Spain’s excellent Rias Baixas, Viognier from France’s Rhone Valley and Torrontes from Argentina, which is the newest crush for many American white-wine lovers. This grape variety has everything going for it and is nicely embodied in the sustainably farmed Santa Julia 2010 bottling I recently tasted. It leads off with the evocative perfume of orange blossom and orchard fruit, and tastes of green papaya and ginger, all of it carried on a minerally linear backbone that screams out for soft-shell crabs.
Expert Advice: There’s some great Torrontes from Argentina’s most well-known region of Mendoza, but also check out the wonderful bottlings from further north in Salta and Cafayate.
Gamay from France’s Beaujolais Region
Tastes Like: Cherries, spice, and sometimes, as in the case of Beaujolais Nouveau, even bananas
Beaujolais is one of the great warm-weather wines of France. Its typically lighter body and fruit-driven character make it perfect for chilling down in the fridge for 15 minutes or so and drinking either alone or with the kind of foods we all eat this time of year. I recently tasted two Beaujolais from Joseph Drouhin that amply demonstrated why the 2009s are such gems. The Beaujolais-Villages was a charming mouthful of cherries and spice, while the more layered Brouilly embodied all that’s so great about both this vintage and this producer: It absolutely sings with brambly fruit, smoky cherries, tobacco and spice, and has the structure to either age for 5+ years or pair perfectly right now with barbecue. Bring on those ribs!
Expert Advice: Stock up on the 2009s. It was a remarkable year for Beaujolais, and many bottlings will reward a few years of evolution in the cellar.
Tastes Like: Nectarines, roses, spices
Moscato, like rosé, has had some tough breaks over the years, mainly because there’s a glut of bad “moscato” out there that tastes, well, nothing like the real deal. But the good stuff, like the excellent Cantine Maschio Moscato “Cadoro” I recently enjoyed, will change your mind after the first sip. This particular bottling is vivacious and scented with flowers and melon, and tastes like a cross between rose water and peach nectar. Try it with brunch — Moscato pairs spectacularly well with bacon — as a mid-afternoon sipper.
Expert Advice: Impress dinner guests with this simple, on-point summer dessert: Pour Moscato over the best cut-up seasonal fruit you can find.
Tastes Like: Peaches, honey, flowers
One of my favorite producers of Icewine is the very highly regarded Inniskillin, of Canada’s Niagara Peninsula. Their new release, the 2007 Vidal Icewine, is a stunner. It tastes of everything from white peaches and orange-blossom honey to preserved lemon and apricot. This is exactly the kind of wine that the word “ambrosial” is meant to describe. With cheese (I loved it with a Spanish Valdeon from Murray’s Cheese Shop in New York), it’s nothing short of stunning.
Expert Advice: The Inniskillin Vidal Icewine also shows beautifully with a range of other cheeses. Try it with nutty, tangy goat cheese and buttery-soft cow’s milk cheese as well.