Summertime wine is very fine. That sounds great. Doesn’t it? But what does that really mean? When you lookup summertime wine on Google, you get a million listings, including a video for Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood’s song Summer Wine 🙂 One article talks about the six best, a bunch talk about the 10 best, another about the 13 best, another about the 15 best and another about the 25 best. Wow. How do you make sense of all of that?
What to Look for When Choosing Summertime Wine
Liquor.com says it brilliantly: “The simple trifecta to pursue is high minerality, low tannins, and tons of thirst-quenching acid. Sunny summer weather screams for something refreshing, and wines with high alcohol or high levels of tannin will likely come off as tasting too heavy for scorching weather.”
We’ll explore each of these three elements in the sections below.
According to Wine Enthusiast, the term is difficult to explain. “Words that are most associated with minerality are earthy terms like gunflint, wet stone, chalk and asphalt.”
Decanter adds that “The assumption is that mineral wines are superior to ‘mass market’, New World, fruity wines. They have a romantic image, one that implies they are handmade by artisans and express the mystery of the soil, with the viticulturist as the magical mediator.”
Wine Enthusiast goes on to say that “Minerality is often associated with cool climates and stony terroirs. Casassa gives the classic example of Chablis, whose minerality is attributed to Kimmeridgian soils filled with marine sediment… Wines from Spain’s Priorat appellation show minerality associated with the llicorella soils, lid to residual levels of malic acid.”
Decanter tells us to be cautious about minerality: “The International Mineralogical Association defines ‘mineral’ as ‘an element or chemical compound that is normally crystalline and that has been formed as a result of geological processes’. So vines take up elements from the soil and this gives wines their distinct taste? Right? Wrong! The mineral elements in wine are tiny; only potassium and calcium even come close to 1,000 parts per million. There’s no question of tasting them. As a result, science gives the ‘mineral’ tasting note short shrift.”
So this first element of the trifecta I will not pay much attention to. But I think the other two are worthy. The one thing I like from the minerality discussion that the sensation is often associated with cooler climates, and cooler climates produce more acidic wines.
Why are tannins no fun in the summer? LetItWine says that “When tannins come in contact with saliva, the sensation on the palate is one of astringency or dryness and that is not generally how we like our mouths to feel in the summer!”
So that big, bad red that you’re dying to have? Save it for cooler weather.
Remember being a kid and running for the lemonade on a hot, summer day? The acidity in lemonade is so incredibly refreshing. Well, guess what. The acidity in wine is too.
I think of Sauvignon Blanc as adult lemonade. It tastes great, and it’s incredibly refreshing.
Rosé wines are also very acidic, which makes them wonderful for summer.
If you’re looking for reds, your best bets are Pinot Noir and Grenache. They tend to have more acidity than a Cabernet or a Merlot.
A Final Thought on Summertime Wines
In the summer, it’s a good idea to aim for lower-alcohol wines. Why? You tend to drink more when you’re hot. Much better to drink wines that don’t send you over the edge too quickly 🙂
Bottom line: For summertime, look for low-tannin, highly-acidic wines and, perhaps, high-minerality wines because they are from cooler climates, whose wines tend to be more acidic.