Crikey it’s been warm the last few weeks, as I sit here writing this its 9.30am in February, and already 38 degrees outside, and I’ve already got that uncomfortable trail of sweat running down my back, the cicadas are chirping away, and the uniform for the day has been singlets and shorts.
As the summer heat hits these highs, I find my tastes change. Not just from avoiding the big hearty stews, roasts and huge thick steaks coming off the BBQ, and leaning more toward fish, prawns and chicken but also in what I like to drink. Those big juicy reds that I love over our mild winters can feel too big and overbearing during the summer heat, even some of my favourite beers becoming a little too big during those real high summer days, and I find myself reaching for the lighter lagers and ales rather than big fuller flavoured styles.
I’ve often remarked that summer might just be the best time to try exploring new and exciting styles of wines and varieties. From fresh zippy aromatic whites, generally with little or no oak, and boasting youth and vibrancy, to lighter reds like gamay and pinot noir. Blends can also play a part with layers of flavour and perfume their coupled with great refreshment.
And it’s that refreshment that I’m looking for when it’s warm, finding a wine that is just as easily enjoyed at a mid-morning brunch as it can be late at night over Canasta, Mah-jong, Scrabble or just telling lies.
Rather than just grabbing your regular go to wine, try branching out, alternative grape varieties are an important part of a curious wine drinker. Never had a fiano or arneis, well now is the time to try them, there’s a reason that the varieties have survived for so long in their hot Mediterranean environment.
When looking for a warm weather wine there are three things I look for: acid, alcohol levels and oak.
The high acid in the wine actually stimulates your mouth to produce saliva, which you pick up on your tongue as brightness and refreshing. The lower alcohol content in the wines make for a lighter less “chewy” wine that work so well with the warm weather, it also has the added benefit of not going straight to your head when its super, super hot outside. Which leads me to the “oak factor”.
Wines aged in oak pick up flavours from the wood that, if handled well, can add wonderful notes and complexity to the wine. When the weather is warmer that oak contact can make the wine seem heavy and less refreshing. Don’t get me wrong, I love great oak notes in my wines, but come summer I tend to steer toward wines that have minimal or no oak contact.
The emphasis is on wines that go with salads and seafood, cold meats, dips and foods that are generally lighter – without rich, heavy sauces you might enjoy in a few months’ time.
Here’s a few of my favourite, easy to find summer wines.
Bubbles – The combination of the carbonation and the acidity make sparkling a wonderful summer drop. My go to drops of late have been Kreglinger Vintage Brut 2006. Complex aromas with powerful flavours, great mineral acidity, its taut and precise in the mouth. RRP is around $50 but it can be regularly found in the bottleshops of the big boys for just under $30.
Sauvignon Blanc – I tend not to drink a lot of savvy at all, and tend to think that most of the stuff bought in Australia is bought on price not reputation or quality. Cloudy Bay Savvy falls firmly into that quality section. Typically its high in acid and hasn’t had oak contact. The wines are meant to be consumed young and aren’t built to age, with best drinking within a few years of the vintage date on the bottle. Their 2017is just a cracker of a wine, possibly their best from the last few years. Intense crisp acid, light flint and dried herb, lime and a gentle spice. It all makes a wine that is just too easy to drink. About $25
Rosé – I’ve banged on a bit of late about how good rosé is at this time of the year. From spicy version to light crisp versions, there is so much there to entice. The range of wines from Mike Press coupled with the price points they have them for, sheer price versus quality, make these hard to go past. While his 2015 Pinot Noir Rose has a bit clumsiness about it, but the fact that it can be found for about $12 (online only) make this a great choice for a crowd. Its dry, almost tart, tangy citrus and pretty good length. Have a look for his savvy while you’re online too.
Beaujolais – the Beaujolais region of France make some great light reds that are great summer options for those that like their reds in summer. They are made from Gamay, a grape that is very similar in tasting style to pinot noir, producing wines that have delicate florals, subtle earth notes, and pair with a lot of food, right through from beef to fish to matching well with a cheese platter and the sun going down. The best part though is that you can get great Gamay at significantly better prices than you can get great Pinot. Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais-Villages is an easy drinking number out of France. It shows cherry and raspberry with touches of spice in there. Soft and silky and goes down a treat my other go to here is the Te Mata Gamay Noir, a fruit-driven wine that is driven by the light aspects of red raspberry fruit, potpourri, cherries and soft spices on the nose. The palate is medium-bodied and fruity, with a whisper of toasty oak in the background, lacy tannins, and a dry, mellow finish.