With all the benefits summer has to offer – cookouts, pool parties, baseball games and much, much more, there remains the fact that the season of sunshine has an unshakeable and insufferable habit of bringing with it temperatures that are tolerable at best, oppressive at worst.
Or, to put it simply: it’s really, really hot outside.
Yes, there are misters and fans. A dip in a pool, lake or river might provide some temporary respite, but you can’t swim and eat a hot dog at the same time. Going indoors to cool down during an outdoor party is simply antisocial. To make this weather enjoyable takes more than just a little water or air conditioning. Fortunately for us the insufferable heat – like many other of life’s little unpleasantries – can be alleviated with a little bit of wine. And while a Bordeaux or a Cabernet Sauvignon may go great with a burger no matter what the season, Jason Charles, the Wine and Beer Manager at Central Market on Lovers and Greenville, has a few ideas about which wines can complement the season with the greatest success.
“When it comes to summer wines, I look for something that’s light, smooth, and easy-drinking, but also something with as much fruit flavor as possible, so that when we get those 115-degree days, you can get it ice-cold and still get those fruit characteristics,” he says. “And wines like that work great with what you would traditionally be eating at barbecues and cookouts and similar outdoor occasions.”
The wines Charles mentions work well with the pocketbook, too; at a price point that comes in a little under what a six-pack of domestic beer may cost, he observes, you can pick up a bottle of Nobilis Vino Verdhe. Made with grapes picked at a young age, this Portuguese white is a crisp, dry wine that can be chilled and consumed with confidence.
“Those wines are a tremendous value. They don’t have as much cost going into them, because they go onto the market relatively early – meaning, there’s not a whole lot of aging in the cellar – and are extremely young wines; they typically hit our shelves at around six or seven dollars. It’s a great wine for a great price point – they’re fresh, they’re clean, and they’re meant to be consumed in that young, fresh style,” Charles observes.
But the fresh, bright flavors that make an ideal summer wine aren’t limited to Portugal; in fact, the Pianello Soave and Pianello Prosecco are two other summer wines that Charles says can be found at a superior value.
“Soave’s a really interesting area in Northern Italy, and they use a grape called Garganega. If you can imagine mixing together a Pinot Grigio and a Sauvignon Blanc, that’s close to the structure you would get with a Garganega. It’s very light, sharp, and crisp, with less acidity than you’d find in Sauvignon Blancs, but more flavor than Pinot Grigios,” he observes. “And then with the Pianello Prosecco, I love it as a summer wine because it’s sparkling, but you don’t have to shell out forty or fifty dollars like you would with a Champagne. And stylistically, they’re much lighter, cleaner and fresher than what a Champagne would be.”
And for those who are searching to expand beyond the borders of Europe to satiate their thirst for the perfect summer wine, the Stoney Range Sauvignon Blanc provides a new perspective from New Zealand. A fresh, lively wine with a long, lingering finish, the Stoney Range Sauvignon Blanc is a perfect example of the progression of New Zealand’s growth as one of the world’s foremost winemaking areas.
“There’s been a big surge in popularity with the New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs, specifically from Marlborough, over the past five to ten years, and the quality is consistently and steadily going up,” Charles says. “In the grand scheme of things, it’s still a very young wine-producing country, so they’re still figuring things out, like what types of clones work on which hillside, what types of root stocks to graft their vines onto, and things of that nature. So they’re still working on perfecting it, but they’ve started with a great quality base and it’s only getting better.”
The summer heat won’t be getting better anytime soon, so the next time it’s a little too overbearing, forget the thermostat and find relief instead in a cold glass of one of these crisp summer whites. Whether it’s Portugal’s Vinho Verde, Italy’s Pianello Soave or Pianello Prosecco or New Zealand’s Stoney Range Sauvignon Blanc, there’s no shortage of great possibilities for satisfying refreshment.