Best Summer Wines Under the Sun
Summer has officially arrived; time to discover the joys of lighter wines
As the warmer months sprawl out ahead, something instinctive inside each of us readjusts our default settings for drinking. We emerge from the heavy embrace of the richer reds that sustain us through the colder winter season and go seeking invigoration, refreshment and a lighter touch. Like everything with wine, you choose your own adventure, but some gentle guidance to follow …
Get sweet with Riesling
Riesling is simply the greatest white variety on earth. No other grape can so precisely transmit the nature of the vineyard from which it comes. Riesling needs no winemaking adornment to elevate its natural beauty, and it’s this purity, clarity and transparency that makes it the ideal wine to consume in quantity once the weather warms up.
While those who adore riesling would drink it in a Siberian plunge pool, there’s no denying the variety—particularly in the taut, citrus-drenched way it manifests itself in Australian regions like the Clare and Eden Valleys, and Western Australia’s Great Southern region—is ideally suited to the lives we lead over summer. The wines born in the precipitous vineyards towering above Germany’s Mosel River offer a distinctly different, but no less delicious expression; the precisely poised tension between natural fruit sweetness and rapier-like acidity creates some of the most thrilling wines you’ll ever encounter.
- 2023 Grosset “Polish Hill” Riesling, Clare Valley; $80
- 2021 Joh Jos Prüm Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett, Mosel; $135
Head for the Coast
It’s not just Sydney real estate agents who are obsessed with proximity to water. Some of the world’s best summer whites are made within sight of the sea. Think fiano from Campania or McLaren Vale, albariño in Galicia, assyrtiko from Santorini or the mouth-watering finos and manzanilla sherries shipped from Jerez on Spain’s Atlantic coast. It’s the natural extension of the old culinary concept, “If it grows together, it goes together.”
- 2021 Feudi di San Gregorio “Fiano di Avellino”, Campania; $40
- 2022 Palacio de Fefiñanes Albariño de Fefiñanes, Galicia; $70
We live in a golden age of pink wines. A rosé revolution has washed the world in dusky goodness, and pale, savoury pink wines are made, sold and consumed in quantities never seen before. In fact, as a nation, France now drinks more rosé than white wine. And if you really want to see how wine and lifestyle entwine, head to the South of France, perch yourself in any of the countless bars and restaurants along the Côte d’Azur and take note of what fills every glass—rosé for days.
The best hail from the Bandol appellation and are made from Mourvedre, while countless others originate from the Côtes de Provence, using varieties like syrah, grenache, carignan and cinsault, and—seemingly as often as not—coming with celebrity attachment from the likes of notable rosé winemakers Brad Pitt, Kylie Minogue and Jon Bon Jovi.
The rosé wave has washed over Australia too, with local producers reimagining what was once considered a bit of winemaking by-product and simply sold off as giggle juice. Identifying the right varieties and having the appropriate vineyard management has resulted in a new breed of fine-framed, savoury and dry pink wines with just the gentlest squeeze of phenolic grip.
It’s one of the great contradictions in the wine world: the drink that has for centuries sold itself as the marker of special occasions is the one that needs only the flimsiest of justifications to pop the cork.
Drinking Champagne is a 365-day-a-year proposition, but you could mount a case for a little extra pressure on the accelerator over the warmer months. Having worked up a Champagne thirst over spring, languid summer days can be swiftly lifted by the introduction of bubbles.
But careful selection can make good moments great. Look for those grand marques and growers who favour the finer, brighter, tighter styles. The richer, robust wines built on pinot noir or pinot meunier will always have their place, but for the way we drink Champagne over summer, the citrus-scented, mineral-edged blanc de blancs styles made entirely from chardonnay work best.
Speaking of chardonnay, it too deserves a spot in your summer rotation, but again, weight, texture and shape should dictate your decision-making.
The fuller, oak-influenced, heftier wines should slumber and re-emerge in autumn, while you go to town on the crunchy, complex and sinewy chardonnays that hail from the chalky vineyards of Chablis.
Chablis presents a very different chardonnay profile to the rest of Burgundy, or sites closer to home like Margaret River and Adelaide Hills. The wines have a taut, crystalline structure (akin to sucking on citrus-soaked quartz), pithy citrus flavours and fine, nervy acidity.
- 2020 Domaine Francois Raveneau Chablis Grand Cru “Les Clos”; $3,500
- 2021 Patrick Piuze Chablis Grand Cru “Les Preuses”; $290
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