Despite its impossible-to-predict arrival and often fleeting departure summer has always had a special meaning for wine drinkers. For a few brief weeks those heavily extracted reds that dominate many wine store offerings, not to mention restaurant lists, take a back seat to a much more sensible selection of wines that offer instant gratification, and that frankly are much more in tune with the warmer weather and the rush to the patio.
The concept of alfresco, or eating and drinking outdoors, is hard to resist in British Columbia where we battle the rain (or snow) almost nine months of the year. Wines that offer instant gratification are always welcomed by wine drinkers and at this time of the year as the weather warms up it's the fresh, aromatic flavours of wine country we reach for. Both red and white fit the bill, even rosé, as long as the structure is a little leaner than all the rich, tannic bottles we drink all winter. In other words fresh is in.
If you were to dissect all these wines, and it is the first thing you should not do in the summer, you would discover that it is the acidity that freshens the palate, lightens the wine and makes the wine so food friendly. If you are ready to make the leap and discover a great list of wines that shout summer read on. All you need do is add sunshine, a patio and some small, light bites of food to complete the picture.
We begin this summer's selections in Portugal with Gazela Vinho Verde ($11) refreshing at nine per cent alcohol and under screwcap with a pinch of CO2 this will liven up any patio with its mix of citrus and green melon, guava and mineral notes. Think summer salads and alfresco dining. Good value, and more important, different.
France is a friendly summer wine nation whether it is red, white or rosé. The La Vieille Ferme Côtes du Luberon Blanc 2011 ($13) is delicious mix of pear and baked green apple with bits of ginger. A versatile oyster or clam wine you can also serve it with chicken curries and sushi.
South Africa is another good spot to look for summer whites especially sauvignon blanc and chenin blanc. Painted Wolf The Den Chenin Blanc 2012 ($15) has a pretty floral, quince nose with juicy, pink grapefruit, apple, honey, pear and nettle flavours. It is a succulent style for immediate drinking would be fun with take-out Thai. Another terrific South African value is Robertson Winery Sauvignon Blanc 2012 ($10) You don't get much wine for ten dollars unless you are sipping this sauvignon. A mix of pineapple and lemon peel with hint of grass in the finish this would be a fine match for grilled chicken skewers, light salads and pasta. Super value.
Last year we couldn't say enough about Italian wine consultant Alberto Antonini's delicious Tuscan white: Poggiotondo Toscana Bianco 2012 ($15). It is two dollars less this year but still packed with fresh, juicy grapefruit, quince and pear, with bits of ginger and lemon oil and a touch of freshening squirt of CO2. A crisp almost austere style with plenty of flavour and length for seafood pasta dishes, grilled calamari or even grilled halibut.
Greece is another great summer bet. The quality of Greek white wine has jumped into the stratosphere. Bright, clean and food-friendly it is an easy go to sushi wine. Our pick this month is the Boutari Moschofilero 2011 ($19). Both elegant and aromatic it is a fun mix of lemon, spice and nectarine flavours. You will be shocked by the quality.
Nothing shouts summer like rosé and a delicious plate of charcuterie or a crab salad all you need is a glass of chilled rosé. One of the most reliable in the market is Chile's Viña Chocalán Selection Rosé 2011 ($15). A mix 80/20 syrah/petit verdot its fruity, plummy flavours are flecked with acidity. The perfect antidote to a warm summer's day.
If you are a diehard red wine drinker and need a barbecue red it is a good time to reach for something just a bit lighter perhaps a little more fruity than your standard, oaked-aged, cabernet sauvignon.