It’s Summer! According to Americana, it’s the season of beach days and bronzed skin, kids playing in the sprinklers, iced tea on the porch. In my world, it’s the season of staying inside until after dark, constant mosquito bites, and high AC bills. (I couldn’t believe it when, as a kid, I learned that houses in some regions don’t have central AC. In Florida you’d die). A couple summers ago, I failed to go to the beach entirely–which is really sad, because I have hundreds of miles of beautiful coast in within two hours’ drive in both directions. We’ve managed to squash a few planned days in, though, and I am very much looking forward to rebuilding my tan.
That said, I have to be honest with you about something, something actually blog-related. You see the “Food and wine” in my tagline? That’s the kind of blog I’d love to have. I’d love to be that friend who invites you over for a casual-but-nice dinner and feeds you pretty but non-pretentious food that’s complimented by a great drink menu. I’d wear a pretty dress and makeup that looks totally natural but also really great.
There are some obstacles to that. Like the fact that I’ve never had anyone over for dinner and not had flour or grease spattered over my front. And I haven’t worn makeup to anything not a wedding in, um, a while. And also I don’t know anything about wine.
So my goal is to learn so that I can share with you. To read books, fall into the black hole of the internet, taste stuff. And I’ll share my learnings with you.
Off the top of your head, what do you want in a summer wine? I’m picturing a sunset on the deck, grill on, chill music playing. To go with that, and to not weigh you down, you probably want a wine that doesn’t feel heavy, something that can be chilled.
So the question is: What makes a wine “light?”
A wine that seems “heavy,” or “full-bodied,” tends to have a lower amount of acid, but higher amounts of alcohol, sugar, and tannins. (Tannins are naturally found in certain ingredients like grape skins and seeds, and in oak. If you’ve ever taken a sip of wine and felt like your mouth instantly dried out, it was probably high in tannins.) Red wines are higher in tannins, which is one reason they are usually thought of as heavier or fuller-bodied than whites. But the biggest factor is the alcohol. More alcohol = more “weight.”
A good comparison is skim milk as opposed to whole milk or cream. Skim milk is a little less intense, more watery in your mouth–lighter-bodied. Cream is physically heavier, thicker, and lingers on your tongue. That’s fuller-bodied. And while it’s great, it’s not what most people want to sip outside in the summer.
As we’ve said before, the best wine for you is the one YOU like. If you like drinking the heaviest, most alcoholic, tannin-y reds you can find regardless of the weather, have at it. But if you are on the prowl for something lighter, look for something that has 10% or less ABV (alcohol by volume).
Bubbles: I love all bubbly drinks, and on a hot day they are perfectly light and refreshing. I like a cava (like champagne but from Spain) called Anna De Codorníu Dulce. It’s sweet and fruity but not cloying. It’s delicious chilled, and also makes a great cocktail mixer.
Whites: Unoaked Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc are natural choices. Oaked Chardonnays (made in oak barrels) have a sort of soft buttery texture and often taste of vanilla; more recently, unoaked Chardonnays are starting to become popular. They swap out the buttery vanilla for crisp fruitiness. Some taste more of citrus and green apples, others of tropical fruits like pineapple. We’ve previously recommended Anakena, which is more on the tropical side.
Sauvignon Blancs are another summer-friendly choice. They often have a light grapefruit-y flavor and it’s easy to find good, inexpensive ones at any grocery store (Robby recommends ones from the Marlborough region of New Zealand). Some are fruity, some more herbal. They’re fresh and zesty, great with pasta salads, pesto, and salsa verde.
Rosé all day: Rosés are a nice compromise. The pink colors are from the skins, which are left in with the crushed grapes for a little bit and then taken out when the color is right. They tend to be floral, sometimes with flavors of melon and citrus. They are best chilled, and they’re great with seafood, salads, and spicy things, as well as for sipping. Anna De Codorníu also does a couple of rosés.
Reds: If you always ask for red, pinot noirs are a good choice for you. They’re the lightest of the reds, but often have some of the classic red berry (like cherry, blackberry, etc.) and earthy flavors. They’re also versatile, pairing with almost everything. Robby really likes pinots from Oregon.