Summer Wine 101

summer wineOh, how we love summer.

The smell of charcoal as we prepare to grill big, beefy steaks for our friends.   Packing up some crusty bread and good cheese for an impromptu dinner in the park. Tossing a salad made from the fresh ingredients found in your own garden.

There is something about summertime food that makes you want to linger in the moment—it practically invites conversation and relaxation especially when you pair your summer food finds with the perfect glass of wine.

Generation W 2015 speaker Laura Landoll, CSW, Advanced Sommelier, CMS, Southern Regional Manager for Grand Cru Wine Company, Adjunct Instructor, Cincinnati State, tackles our 3 biggest summer wine misconceptions and shares tips for finding the right wine to go with our warmer weather bites.


“I’m a red wine drinker; white wines are too light.”

There is often a misconception that all white wines are light. “There are hundreds of varieties of white wine grapes giving us a variety of tastes and intensity,” says Landoll. Some Chardonnays will give you a heavier taste such as those made with more oak or from warmer climates such as Central Coast California or Australia. Other alternate wines for summer that are a bit heavier or richer in texture would be Rhone White Blends such as a Cotes-du-Rhone, Vernaccia di San Gimignano from Tuscany as well as Semillon or Viognier.

Perfect Pairing: You can pair a heavier white wine with some of those foods you reserve for “red wine only” such as pasta with a heavier sauce or salads made with bitter greens (we’re talking to you kale), risotto, grilled steak, braised pork or veal.  These wines also pair well with Asian-inspired dishes such as this delicious chicken satay recipe.


“All Rosés are sweet.”

“Don’t let the color fool you,” suggests Landoll. “Pink doesn’t always mean sweet.” In order to know which Rosé is perfect for you, you need to know a little about geography. “If you know which types of grapes are produced in each area, you can usually find a Rosé that fits your taste.” If you enjoy a good Cabernet, opt for a Rosé made from the same region such as Napa Valley or Chile.  A fan of Pinot Noir? Look for a Rosé of Pinot Noir from Oregon.

Perfect Pairing: The sky is the limit which is why these are such great wines not only for the summer but year round. Lighter Rosé made from mostly Cinsaut or Counoise will pair best with lighter fare such as ceviche, Caprese or Panzanella salad, lighter fish, quiche, sushi and roasted beet salad. Rosé made from heavier, more tannic grapes such as Syrah or Cabernet will pair best with heavier dishes such as flank steak, grilled pork chops, monk fish, Asian cuisine.


“All red wines are too heavy for me.”

There are definitely some lighter reds to be found. Try a Pinot Noir, Beaujolais (Gamay) or even some of the Garnacha, AKA Grenache, wines from Spain. If you are adventurous try a Gaglioppo, Zweigelt, Frappato or Lambrusco this summer. Keep in mind today’s quality Lambruscos are not Reunite from a generation ago. The Lambruscos produced today are beautiful and very food friendly. “The lighter reds take well to chill,” suggests Landoll. “You can put them in the refrigerator about 30 minutes before you serve them.”

Perfect Pairing: Light reds are perfect for heavier dishes such as steak and hamburgers, but also pair nicely with a salad made from the fresh ingredients from your garden or farmers market like this quick cucumber salad recipe. These wines also work with grilled kabobs, pork tenderloin sandwiches, and charcuterie platters.


One of the best drinks for summer? A wine spritzer. “Yes, it sounds old-fashioned, but it really is one of the best—and easiest—drinks to make for summer,” says Landoll. “Simply mix your favorite Rosé or Sauvignon Blanc with club soda and some fruit. “It is not only refreshing, but it keeps you hydrated during this warm summer days.”  Wine spritzers are perfect for just sitting by the pool, out on a boat or after working in the garden all day. “I would stay away from using wines that have any oak treatment for a wine spritzer,” adds Landoll.  “You really want a clean fruit flavor profile from the wine to make this refreshing summer sipper.”


Cheers to a great summer!



image courtesy of flickr CC/Jason Dean