John Steinbeck, riffing from Shakespeare’s Richard III, wrote: “Now is the winter of our discontent, made glorious summer by this sun…”
With respect to both august authors, now is the “summer of our excruciation” when—at least in my Texas—triple-digit, record-high temperatures produced by the “glorious summer by this sun” heat dome are making William Carrier, the inventor of modern air conditioning, a saint to be venerated regardless of your religious inclinations.
Does wine have a place in this? Of course it does.
Think pink. Think light. Think dry. Think chilled. Think ice cubes. Think cans. Think bag-in-a-box. In fact, think out of the box of your usual wine routine.
Rosé has long been a summer cliché. While rosé is wonderful any time of the year, if there ever was a summer to buy into the rosé cliché, this is it. Well chilled—if you are sipping outdoors, even put an ice cube in your glass or plastic cup—rosé is perfect way to beat heat. Rosés typically have lower alcohol—even more so with that ice cube diluting and chilling—so you don’t have the burn of higher alcohol big reds, but you still have some of the character of red wine.
Chilling tip: if you recoil from ice cubes, use frozen grapes.
Go dry rosé. Sweeter rosés—sometimes called “blush”—are too sweet for the heat. Also, when sipping in the sun, make sure some sipping is water. Alcohol dehydrates—a reason to shun high alcohol—so match wine glasses with water glasses.
If you must go red, go with lighter reds. Lambrusco is the lightest red wine commonly available, and has the bonus of being slightly bubbly. Gamay, often better known as gamay beaujolais, works chilled in summer and is even better in summer than it is as a gotta-have-a-gimmick wine at Thanksgiving.
Pinot noir, especially etherial iterations, is lighter alcohol and higher acidity, all nice when chilled for summer elegance. Cinsault—pronounced “san-soh”—typically has aromas some describe as “hotdog” and certainly it has savory elements, so you can see where this is going on your summer outdoor meal deal.
Light, bright, high acidity, lower alcohol white wines are no-brainers. You can easily get them in cans—great for chilling in an ice chest—and cans certainly are safe where broken glass will be a summer bummer.
Finally, a suggestion not often made in serious wine writing—give Gallo’s Barefoot Wine a try. Really.
Last round: This summer has been so hot cows are producing evaporated milk. Another reason to sip chilled wine.