The Wines Of Summer

...................Think Light Not Heavy,
                  Crisp Not Syrupy



        By Thomas M. Ciesla
        June, 2005


Mid-June in Texas and the thermometer is already registering 100 degrees in the shade. Few of us think of a cool glass of wine by the pool or with an alfresco lunch, but the truth is, wine makes a great drink to combat summer heat. The trick is not to bring out those big, syrupy monsters from your cellar. Instead, look to light wines, possessing enough acidity to refresh the palate, much the same as lemonade does on a hot day. So, what to drink?

There are several types of wine that work great with summer temperatures and food styles. White wines and sparkling wines are especially refreshing, though all too often these are served too cold. Rose' has been given a bad rap recently, but can be a perfect match for certain summer meals. And while reds are often forgotten in summer, lighter reds properly chilled can be very refreshing.

Besides shifting our preferences towards cool drinks, the summer heat also alters our entertaining and dining activities. We tend to spend more time entertaining outdoors, cooking outdoors to keep the house cooler, and even when cooking outside, we tend to focus on lighter meals. With this in mind, let's look at selecting some tasty summer wines based on how you entertain/dine in the sweltering temperatures.


By The Pool
Sitting poolside in the hot sun, most of us want the wine glass to contain something cool, tasty, and light to quench our thirst. , You're not worried about varietal, vineyard or vintage; you just want a refreshing, cold quaff. Save the swirl and sip routine for a less hostile environment. Sauvignon Blanc is the epitome of a summer wine with its crisp and herbal flavors with hints of citrus and lemongrass. Dry Rieslings also show good acidity with just a hint of sweetness that can be refreshing in the heat. If you really want to be wild and crazy, try a Chardonnay and Viognier blend. Most Chardonnays (thought not all these days), are too rich and oaky for the summer heat, but when blended with Viognier the resulting wine is refreshing and intriguing.

With Light Appetizers
A covered patio, gazebo or shaded table are all great places for a summer snack or lunch alfresco style. Fruit and cheese plates or sandwiches served with grilled vegetables beg for Pinot Gris (Pinot Grigio), or one of my favorites – a cool sparkling wine. While Pinot Gris has sometimes been given a bad rap as an often flaccid, whimpy wine, recent vintages show wines possessing a lot of character, with floral and tropical fruit aromas. Today, this light crisp wine seems to have “Summer” written all over it. Sparkling wines, for many experienced wine drinkers are good any time, but are especially refreshing in the summer heat. They also go perfectly with grilled shrimp or light chicken (olive oil - yes, lemon or vinegar – no). In Mediterranean climates such as Italy, when evenings turn sultry and air conditioning is hard to find, many Italians move outdoors and start with a glass of sparkling wine to cool off.
With Grilled Dishes
Is there room for reds this time of year? Of course, you just have to change your focus and keep in mind that whether you prefer the slow cooking of BBQ or the quick cooking of the grill, each technique usually incorporates a host of rubs and sauces, all of which will affect the flavor of the wine. Shift from tannic wines such as Cabernet's to lighter reds that take kindly to being chilled such as: Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc and Zinfandel. A tannic wine will only become more bitter when cooled.

Quick Tips


  • Keep both your food and beverages out of the direct sunlight.

  • Keep wines iced down at all times. An outdoor sink filled with ice makes a nice chiller for wine bottles. Or squeeze a few wine bottles into that galvanized washtub filled with ice, sodas and beer.

    Careful though, be sure those corks and pushed in snug. As liquid volume decreases, the wine bottle could tip on its side; you don't want any of that tub water sneaking into the wine.

  • To help the ice last longer in a cooler or tub, drop in a chunk of dry ice.

  • To ward off dehydration, have a good supply of cold bottled water handy.

Burgers & Steaks
A variety of herbs and spices can be used to prepare these meats for grilling, but in general, a Zinfandel or Merlot does the trick. You could even experiment with a fruity Cabernet Franc.

In addition to the Sparkling wine mentioned for lightly seasoned chicken, a crisp white llike Sauvignon Blanc would work or maybe a dry Riesling. As the seasoning becomes heartier, however, move towards Zinfandel or Cabernet Franc.

For grilled Salmon, Pinot Noir is a match made in heaven. With other fish you might try a Rose` as these wines have unique characteristics that do well chilled. The crispness and pleasant fragrances make Rose's a great match with fish and shrimp.

Outdoor Oddities
Enjoying wine outside in the summertime allows us to take some artistic license when interpreting the usual traditions. Just hope that your fellow wine drinkers are as open-minded as you are when you:
  • Plop a few ice cubes (GASP!) into your wine glass. In 90+ degree weather, the chill only lasts so long.
  • Add a splash of Sprite to liven up your wine.
  • Create a 'Dry Comal Creek Magarita' by pouring a French Colombard (from Dry Comal Creek Vineyards), into a frozen glass and topping it off with a slice of lime. Tasty!
  • If you like jalapenos with your BBQ, why not try some Jalapeno Wine from Circle S Vineyards?



    If your like Sangria, try this recipe:

  • 1 bottle of white wine
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 cup of lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup white grape juice
  • 1/2 cup of vodka
  • 1 cup halved grapes
  • 1 lemon, sliced
  • 1 orange, sliced Mix items together in a pitcher and chill before serving.


Indulge yourself with the fruits of summer – peaches, strawberries, raspberries, cherries and blackberries. Freshly picked these exude the essence of summer – juice dripping, pit spitting, finger staining fun. Remember wine and food are a gift to us and an experience to be enjoyed together.