A good summer wine is difficult to choose.
The last thing you want on a sweltering day is a wine that’s heavy, cloyingly sweet, or so tannic that the little moisture on your tongue is sucked dry. Summer wines should quench your thirst and quell the heat. They should be bright, fruity, and light as the linen shirt you’re wearing. You should also be able to sip them solo without food as an accompaniment. From floral, citrusy whites to light red blends to fizzy, fruit-forward rosés, these are the best summer wines to refresh your palate this season.
Produced in Mendocino County, California, this wine is a lighter, fruitier, and more accessible take on the orange style. While 80 percent of the Pinot Gris grapes from each vintage are pressed off the skins and fermented as juice, the remaining 20 percent are naturally fermented on the skins for five days. This method produces a richer color in the glass, more tannins, and an incredible florality on both the nose and palate. With an abundance of stone fruit and bright citrus notes (think tangerine and kumquats), this wine is like liquid sunshine.
This natural-ish red blend is one of the highlights of the blossoming wine scene in Virginia. Made with fruit grown in the majestic Shenandoah Valley by winemaker Ben Jordan and D.C. restaurateur Sebastian Zutant, the Los Idiots blend is an uncommon marriage of Syrah (55 percent) and Riesling (45 percent) grapes. Co-fermented with ambient yeasts, the wine combines the fruitiness of the Syrah grape with the high-acid florality of Riesling to create an extremely drinkable bottling. On the palate, there are notes of fresh plums, sour cherries, Meyer lemon, ruby red grapefruit, jasmine, and elderflowers. Skip the Beaujolais this summer and drink this red instead. With only 50 cases produced, you should seek it out and buy it while it lasts.
This rosé is the perfect summer breakfast wine. It’s tart and refreshingly crisp, and it has intense berry notes with tight, compact bubbles. It hails from the obscure Bugey region in Northern France (located in the mountains between Lyon and Geneva, Switzerland), which specializes in Cerdon Méthode Ancestrale, a semi-dry, sparkling rosé. This Cerdon—produced by eighth-generation winemaker Elie Renardat-Fâche—is made from Gamay and Poulsard grapes that are picked by hand from the family’s vineyards. The wine is only partially fermented and then bottled with active yeast and residual sugar so it finishes fermentation as it rests. With a lower ABV and a fair amount of residual sugar left over, this Cerdon is almost like a raspberry soda pop in wine form. Make sure you buy bottles in pairs because it goes down way too easy.
Cameron 2017 Ramato ($32)
Cameron’s Ramato—a variant on the Italian word for copper, ramate, which is the word used to describe the wine’s unique hue—somehow manages to combine the best elements of orange, red, and rosé wines without being overwhelming or disjointed. Made from 100 percent Pinot Grigio in Dundee, Oregon, winemaker Paul Cameron lets his grapes hang longer on the vine to develop more color, less bitterness in their tannins, and more brix, or inherent sugars. When harvesting, he crushes the fruit and lets it sit on the skins for up to five hours before pressing.
He then ages and ferments the juice in neutral oak barrels for up to eight months. This gives the wine a dense, multifaceted palate that gets better the longer it sits open, so we recommend decanting. In the glass, there are aromas of cedar, almonds, mint, and jasmine. With a refreshing acidity, the wine has flavors of peach, tangerine, white pepper, and honey with a bone-dry, tannic structure. This is the type of bottle you want to share with friends al fresco after a beautiful meal.
We’ll admit that the first time we bought this wine, it was because of its weird label and the shelf talker that had a quote from winemaker Greg Grigoriou, describing the bottle as having “the swagger of Mick Jagger.” Then we bought it solely because of our deep affection for the juice inside. Totally crushable (or, as Grigoriou describes it, “smashable”), this rosé is made from 100 percent Nero d’Avola grapes from the Riverland region in South Australia. Luscious and almost creamy on the palate, it screams strawberry shortcake. Delinquente should package this in Capri Sun-esque pouches for easy travels.
Lucy Margaux 2018 Gris De Florette’ ($27)
Another killer Australian wine, this Pét-Nat from Lucy Margaux Wines is in a class of its own. It can be described as a work of art—both inside and out—with its hand-painted label. Produced by industry iconoclast Anton van Klopper in the Adelaide Hills of South Australia, this wine is both renowned and highly sought after. This vintage in particular is made from 100 percent Pinot Gris grapes that are hand harvested and naturally fermented with wild yeasts. Like all of van Klopper’s wines, Gris de Florette is made in the sans soufre style (without any sulfur additions) and has a semi-cloudy appearance from a lack of filtration. It’s light on the bubbles and has a lower ABV like most other Pét-Nats on the market. There is a vibrant watermelon quality in both color and flavor, with notes of orange rind, wildflowers, sea salt, and a pine nut and almond savoriness (from the contact with the skins). When you spot this wine, it’s wise to buy every bottle in stock.
Pittnauer 2017 Perfect Day ($27)ssavoriness
Made by husband and wife duo Gerhard and Brigitte Pittnauer, this Austrian orange wine is certified biodynamic and made with as little intervention or chemicals as possible. It’s an odd blend of Chardonnay (40 percent), Muscat Ottonel (30 percent), Grüner Veltliner (20 percent), and Traminer (10 percent), which are all fermented and aged separately until ready for bottling. Not only is it crisp and clean, there is a steely, rich minerality that comes through in an earthy, salty way. From its brief contact with the skins during the fermentation process, there are black tea-like qualities and a tannic richness that adds just the right amount of weight. It has a vivacious lemony brightness with notes of green apple, baked pears, orange blossom, and honeysuckle. This wine is what you should be drinking as your daily pre-dinner aperitif this summer, especially if you’re starting the evening with briny bivalves.