July 4th signifies the start of summer’s high season; from here on out it’s lazy days, BBQs, and beach vacations. Just as we crave juicy strawberries, butter-laced lobster rolls, and charcoal-kissed burgers, our palates seek out wines that complement the warm-weather bites and out-of-office mentality. Here are some favorite summer wines from around the world for an evening of fireworks and beyond.
Bubbles are often saved for celebratory occasions, but a good brut is incredibly food friendly, especially with fried or salty dishes — perfect for fried chicken picnics or beach shack fare.
From Limoux, an area that is considered the birthplace of sparkling wine, a Crémant de Limoux offers many of the same luscious qualities as Champagne, but at a budget-friendly price point.
If it’s true Champagne you desire, a blanc de blancs, which is made with 100% chardonnay, offers beautiful fresh fruit notes along with brioche tones and that indescribable mousse-y texture.
Whites already have cache when considering summer wines, but go beyond some of the classic fruit-forward options for something, zippy, acidic, and dare we say, salty. The refreshing jolt will surprise your palate.
Known for its lean minerality and notes of saline, muscadet is every oyster’s dream pairing. Many producers age the wines sur lie — on the lees — to give the wine a bit of roundness and body.
The very light effervesce of txakoli from the Basque region in Spain makes for a texturally intriguing wine. It’s often poured from a great height from a porron, which looks like a long-necked decanter, to aerate and release the aromas. While you could pour it into a glass, many patrons in the pinxtos bars pour from the porron directly into their friends’ mouths.
Although this young wine is often mistakenly thought to be called “verde” because of its pale green tinge, Vinho Verde actually refers to the region in Portugal where it’s produced. Like a txakoli, it can showcase the lightest of spritz on the tongue, lemon, lime and slate.
Consider riesling from the Mosel in Germany the wine equivalent of session beers. Usually low in alcohol — they hover at around 8% or 9% ABV — they’re the perfect daytime quaffer. The beauty of riesling is that it runs the gamut in terms of style, from bone-dry to lusciously sweet, so there’s something to suit pretty much every palate.
Santorini is home to volcanic soils, which gives assyrtiko, one of the region’s key varieties, a unique layer of savoriness underneath the citrus and peach notes. It’s fresh yet complex and sings of the Mediterranean climate from which it hails.
One of Italy’s unheralded white wines, vermentino is like the easy-going friend you want to lounge on the beach with all day. Golden Delicious apple meets apricot and honeysuckle, but the bright acid and streak of minerality keep it from being dull.
Most closely associated with Provence, rosé is now produced all over the world. More than just a wine, it’s become a lifestyle, but don’t pigeonhole the pink stuff as just as poolside sipper; there are some serious, food-worthy rosés out there.
Case in point: Sanford, Rosé of Pinot Noir, Sta Rita Hills, CA. Slightly coppery in color, the wild strawberry and cherry notes are more savory than sweet and the medium body means it will stand up to your July 4th spread.
For a rosé that take you from lunchtime to aperitif hour, Bonterra, Rosé, Mendocino County, CA is a light yet delicious choice. Ripe strawberries, pomegranate, watermelon, and some light floral notes are deceivingly complex.
Give big bold reds a break for the season and explore lighter styles that showcase nuanced fruit and spice.
The red blends of the southern Rhône are true crowd-pleasers; somewhat juicy, somewhat spicy, they have structure and body without becoming overwhelming. Grenache thrives in the region and brings fruit to the blend of pepper and baking spices which complements grilled meats.
Syrah’s finicky nature has made it the underdog of red wines for a while, but don’t overlook this peppery sipper. Red berries, plum tones, and a whole slew of spices match the velvety tannins that make this an ideal pairing for steak. Although the varietal is most closely associated with the Northern Rhone, Washington State winemakers consider it one of their superstar grapes.
A quality revolution in the famed region has refocused many of the offerings from this historic DOCG. Sangiovese, in all its cherry-rose-black pepper glory, is a lovely aromatic wine that matches the heady summer scents that waft from gardens.
Originally used as a blending grape, several winemakers, particularly those in South Africa, are now giving this grape a starring role in single-varietal bottlings. It’s light-bodied, juicy and fresh with bright berry fruit and a bit of a brambly character.