Whatever the warm-weather occasion -- be it burger night or a dinner party -- there's a great affordable wine to make it memorable.
For a Saturday Grillathon
When you're looking for something besides beer to drink with steaks, try the Antinori Peppoli Chianti Classico DOCG (2008, $27). With medium acidity and soft tannins, this red wine is just the thing to sip during a long afternoon with tongs in your hand.
For an Outdoor Concert
Leave the corkscrew at home and bring the screw-top Big House White (2009, $10), a blend of Rhone varietals grown in California. With lychee, pear, and lime notes, it goes as well with vegetables as it does with cheese and charcuterie.
For a Tropical Party
Get out the tiki torches, cook some jerk chicken, and open a bottle of the Chilean Chono Reserva Sauvignon Blanc (2009, $11). The kiwi and grapefruit flavors typical of many Sauvignon Blancs from the southern hemisphere make this a great food wine.
For a Dinner Soiree
The crispness that's a hallmark of Albarinos from Galicia, Spain, is balanced by tropical fruit flavors in Terras Gauda O Rosal (2009, $24), a blend of Albarino and regional grapes. It's rich but finishes lightly, perfect for a meal like Chicken and Chorizo Paella and Corn and Cotija Cheese Skewers.
For Burger Night
A soft red with medium plum fruit, Chateau La Rame Bordeaux Rouge (2009, $15) is reminiscent of a much fancier Bordeaux. Pair this wine with one of our favorite alternative burgers, smoked eggplant, or any other summer food that calls for a red.
For a Picnic
There's a delicacy (think fragrant jasmine and green apples) to the dry St. Urbans-hof Ockfener Bockstein Riesling Kabinett (2010, $18) that calls to mind wicker baskets full of sandwiches. Plus, with a low alcohol content, it's a good choice for lightweights.
For a Clambake
The sparkling Argyle Brut (2007, $25), from Oregon's Willamette Valley, has Champagne-like flavors on the first impression (it's made from the same Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes as most Champagnes). Dry with an almost salty finish, it's excellent for clambakes, shrimp boils, and other shellfish-y summer happenings.