15 Fabulous Summer Wines
Travel the world with transportive summer wines in your glass.
Impress your guests by serving these unusual global wine gems. In recent months, I’ve come across some distinctive wines from Chile’s Atacama Desert, Portugal’s Vinho Verde district, and Tuscany’s little known Montecucco region. Many are lower in alcohol (in the 12% range) for refreshing summer drinking.
Luretta “Boccadirosa” Colli Piacentini Malvasia ($23)—Made from the Malvasia di Candia Aromatica, a grape brought from Greece to northern Italy by 15th century Venetian merchants, this medium-bodied, complex white wine has aromas of white flowers and Mediterranean herbs. Instead of making a traditional sparkling version of Malvasia, Luretta winery, located in the hills of Piacenza in the western tip of Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region, decided on a still version to capture the grape’s intensity and unique flavors of elderberry, lemon peel and Marzipan. Pair with appetizers like rich runny cheeses, olives, and charcuterie.
Lalomba Finca “Lalinde” 2021 ($25)—With its grapes grown in a high-altitude vineyard in Rioja’s Yerga Mountains, “Lalinde” is an extremely tasty rosado, made mainly from Garnacha. It’s light bodied and low in alcohol. The harvested grapes are brought down the mountain in refrigerated trucks to Haro, where the three-year-old boutique winery Lalomba is situated. Ramón Bilbao, Lalomba’s parent company, has recently undertaken a project to discover special vineyard sites across the Rioja appellation to craft these small batch wines.
Côté Mas Crémant De Limoux Rosé Brut ($20)—Languedoc winemaker Jean-Claude Mas has been making refined wines since he took over the family estate in 2000. With only 12% alcohol and persistent bubbles, this Crémant de Limoux rosé has become a favorite of mine which I recommend as the best reasonably priced aperitif wine. Composed of 70% Chardonnay, 20% Chenin Blanc and 10% Pinot Noir, it possesses pleasing fresh flavors of honeysuckle, peach, apricot, and grapefruit. The Crémant de Limoux appellation is at the eastern foothills of the Pyrenees in southern France and historians note that the very first sparkling wines were created here in the 1530’s by monks.
Ventisquero “Tara” ($34)—Grapes are grown globally in every conceivable terroir but who would guess they can be cultivated in a desert? In the Atacama Desert in northern coastal Chile, winemaker Felipe Tosso is using grapes from a desert vineyard in the Huasco Valley, which benefits from Pacific Ocean morning that cools the grapes. An unoaked 100% Chardonnay, “Tara” has floral and apricot notes and saline minerality. It’s matured in stainless steel for 15 months and then cellared to age for five years, which brings the wine a silky mouthfeel. Pair it with Chilean sea bass or shellfish. Tosso makes Ventisquero wines from six regions in Chile from Atacama to the southernmost vineyards in Patagonia.
Simon Family Estate Tigress Rosé of Grenache, Napa Valley, 2021 ($35)—With grapes sourced from old vines in the prestigious Rutherford AVA and made from 100% Grenache, this light rosé sports a soft salmon hue and subtle aromas of honeysuckle, lemongrass, grapefruit, and strawberries. Rising star winemaker Maayan Koschitzky crafts the wine in the style of Provence rosés. Named for “Tigress” Nada Simon, co-proprietor of the Simon Family Estate and with an abstract rendering of a tiger etched onto the bottle, this elegant wine possesses only 12% alcohol and pairs well with summer salads.
Chateau Mukhrani Qvevri White 2018 ($14)—From the Republic of Georgia, this spirited white, made from the rare indigenous Goruli Mtsvane grape variety, has aromas of lime, wildflowers, and honey. Refreshing and citrusy with only 12.5% alcohol, it matches well with salads and poultry. In the wine’s bouquet, there’s a unique note of white plum (a Balkan variety that tastes sweet and rich) as well as hints of peach and gooseberry. The wine is infinitely quaffable on a hot summer day.
Castello ColleMassari Montecucco Rosso Riserva DOC 2018 ($23)—The Montecucco DOC is known as “Tuscany’s hidden treasure.” Situated in the southern part of Tuscany in the province of Grosseto between Montalcino and Scansano, the wines are known for their Mediterranean fruitiness, spice, and distinctly savory character. With grapes grown in a certified organic vineyard at 1000+ feet above sea level, this ColleMassari 80% Sangiovese aged 18 months in barrel, has flavors of blackberry and blueberry and toasty oak. Perfect match for barbecue and meats.
Tascante “Buonora” Etna DOC 2020 ($21)—What would a summer wine list be without an entry from the spectacular terroir of Sicily’s Mt. Etna, where the volcanic soils give an irresistible smoky minerality to the wine? Sicily’s esteemed winemaking family, Tasca d’Almerita, has planted vineyards on the slopes of Mt. Etna at 1500 feet about sea level for their Tascante label. Made from 100% Carricante, the indigenous white grape of Sicily, “Buonara” has exciting citrusy notes, refreshing acidity, mineral and herbal hints, and low alcohol at 12.5%. Imported by Dalla Terra Winery Direct–whose portfolio features exceptional Italian wines from family-owned estates at reasonable prices–this Etna gem matches grilled fish and ceviche.
Chateau La Gordonne Vérité Du Terroir Rosé ($18)—Made from Grenache noir, Cinsault and Syrah, this organic certified wine from the Côtes de Provence AOC has pleasing fruity and citrusy notes. The grapes are grown in the micro region of Pierrefeu-du-Var, where Carthusian monks have been cultivating vineyards since 1300. The rosé pairs with bouillabaisse, spicy foods, and soft cheeses.
Castello del Terriccio Con Vento 2021 ($46)—One of Tuscany’s historic and grandest wine estates with some 2300 hilly acres located in Maremma, Castello del Terriccio is known for its Super Tuscan reds—Tassinaiai and Lupicaia. Its solo white, Con Vento, is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier (instead of the Bordeaux’s traditional Sémillon) and has lovely aromatics of stone fruit, grapefruit, and lemon grass. The grapes are grown up to 980 feet above sea level in stony fossil rich soils, which gives the wine a distinct minerality, and the breezes from the nearby Tyrrhenian Sea bring salinity to the wine, which is only 12.5% and a pair for antipasto and seafood salads.
The Paring 2017 Red ($25)—With grapes sourced from the JONATA Estate and other select California vineyards, winemaker Matt Dees works his magic to showcase the terroir. Named for the precision of a paring knife, The Paring is one of the best values in Bordeaux blend from California’s Central Coast. With 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Cabernet Franc, 20% Merlot and 10% Petit Verdot, the wine over-delivers in luscious cassis fruit flavors with notes of chocolate and tobacco. Match with barbecued meats.
Bisol 1542 Jeio Brut ($22)—Bisol is not just another prosecco, it’s made by Italy’s most historic prosecco family, now in its 21st generation. For five centuries they’ve grown grapes in Valdobbiadene and produce the highest level of prosecco, designated as Prosecco Superiore DOCG. Located between Venice in the south and the Dolomite Mountains to the north, the steeply sloping hills of Valdobbiadene have the ideal microclimate to grow the Glera grape, which is the dominant grape of prosecco. With only 11.5% alcohol, “Jeio” is an elegant cuvée with lovely floral, apricot, citrus, and apple aromas and a spicy finish.
Azevedo Loureiro Alvarinho White 2021 ($10)—Vinho Verde is not just a wine but a region in northwest Portugal, one of the country’s oldest regions established in 1908. This Loureiro-Alvarinho blend has a great aromatic profile with citrus aromas—lime and orange blossom—and slightly herbaceous notes, ending with a crisp finish. With only 12% alcohol and a fine minerality, it pairs perfectly with shellfish.
Mathew Bruno Yountville Sauvignon Blanc 2019 ($35)—With a bouquet of apricot, honeydew melon and citrus, this Sauvignon Blanc, made from handpicked grapes from Hoxsey Family’s Block House Vineyard, one of Napa’s oldest in the center of Yountville, has a mouth filling texture and fuller body. It’s more of a food wine rather than a light aperitif quaff and stands up to spicy Asian cuisine and grilled scallop or shrimp dishes.
Pommery Royal Brut Rosé Champagne ($55)—Like fashion shows which culminate in the requisite wedding dress, every inventive wine list should conclude with Champagne. Rosé Royal’s pink and gold label with its royal crests and floral garlands just shouts celebration. Pop the cork and taste a crisp refreshing bubbly bursting with red currant and citrusy flavors with the right measure of chalky minerality. Aged three years on its lees in Pommery’s famous, eleven-mile chalkpit cellars, it’s refined, fresh and exciting.