From chilled reds to light whites, one oenophile shares some of her warm-weather favorites.

By Emily Goldman
Updated April 28, 2020
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Once summer finally arrives, everyone is eager to trade hearty, comforting meals for something lighter and brighter. The same should be done for the wine you pour alongside dinner; you'll want to pair your meals with a varietal that's light, chilly, and not too serious, all the better to help you cool off after a long day in the sun. While rosé might be synonymous with the summer season, it's certainly not the only option. Here, Meg McNeill, wine expert and owner of Upstream Wine, delves deep into some of her favorites. From the perfect Pinot Gris to an iced Gamay, you'll find there are actually a number of delicious wines to enjoy throughout the summer.

Light and Crisp White Wines

You start your summer meals with light and easy-to-prepare appetizers—salads, grilled vegetables, and seafood—so the wine you choose to serve alongside them should have that same elegant nonchalance. Consider a French Muscadet, like Pepiere's ($21.99, centralwinemerchants.com). It's easy to buy and has a crisp, citrusy, somewhat earthy, austere taste that makes it ideal with many warm-weather dishes. McNeill also recommends a zingy, spritzy Txakoli such as Ameztoi Getariako Txakolin($24.99, wine.com), that is easy to drink. "This is the perfect thing to wash down an eclectic meal of spicy, salty, flavorful small bites," she says.

The perfect accompaniment to seafood like cedar plank salmon, softshell crab, or even a delicious Nicoise Salad? McNeill votes for an Albarino, like Nortico Alvarinho ($15.99, wine.com), from Spain or Portugal. It's a mineral-driven, salty Iberian white that pairs so nicely with fish and shellfish. "You can basically taste the sea breezes in the bottles," says McNeill. Another option is a classic Chardonnay. "To start, it's a pretty neutral grape variety so the magic lies in what the winemaker does with it," she says. "I love a richer Chardonnay like White Rock Vineyard's ($51.99, wine.com) with lobster."

If you're looking for something to simply sip on, or something a bit more fruit-forward, a Pinot Gris is just the option. McNeill recommends one Montinore Estate Biodyanamic Pinot Gris ($16.99, freshdirect.com) for its great flavor profile. The wine is crafted from biodynamic fruit, one of the most sustainable farming techniques with a substantially smaller carbon footprint than most agricultural practices. Another summer favorite is Sauvignon Blanc; McNeill suggests a Mayu Sauvignon Blanc ($15.99, wine.com).

Ripe and Ready Rosés

A warm-weather cocktail hour favorite, rosé has become a go-to wine of the summer. Thirst-quenching and refreshing, there are so many options to choose from when it comes to this pink drink. While some may argue that rosé is not a serious type of wine, McNeill disagrees. "[A] rosé misconception I'd like to clear up is that [some think] it's not a serious wine," she says. Rosés can be a welcome accompaniment to dishes like ramp pasta. Channing Daughter's ($19.99, freshdirect.com) is a budget-friendly bottle that packs a ton of flavor, says McNeill. Even canned rosé is delightful. Choose elevated packaging for an added touch of luxe, like Una Lou Cans ($40 for a pack of four, unalourose.com).

For a gorgeous bottle, try the Pinot Noir rosé from Sonoma's beloved Scribe Winery ($38, scribewinery.com) which is as striking as it is tasty. "I'd love to defend darker colored rosés for a second—a deeper shade of pink does not mean it's sweet, that's absolutely a misconception," says McNeill. "Often the darker colored rosés have a little more structure and a tart, wild berry thing going on that make them well suited for all sorts of food." She recommends them alongside Thai food and curries.

Chilled Out Reds

Contrary to popular belief, certain reds can be served in the summertime, and even chilled. In fact, chilling some types of red wines elevates their flavor profiles, like Lectores Vini 2016 Conca de Barberá Pomagrana Trepat ($17.99, chamberstreetwine.com), a light Spanish red that goes down like gold on after spending some time in the fridge or on ice, according to McNeill. Another option is a Beaujolais Gamay from Jean Loron Chateau de Fleurie ($23.99, wine.com), which is bursting with flavors of sweet cherries, raspberries, and roses. "To me, Gamay is the most versatile grape and super-expressive of terroir," says McNeill. "A Beaujolais Villages will be pure, joyful fruit and very soft, light tannins... I love to drink reds made from this festive grape chilled down in the warmer months." They're at their best when enjoyed with antipasti or a grilled cheese sandwich. Look Stateside for some delightful choices, like a California Carignan ($22, broccellars.com). With notes of cranberry and garden strawberries, it makes for a tasty drink to sip on while snacking on crudités, soaking up the sun on your patio.

Dessert Wines and Bubbly

Whether you're looking for something special to toast with or want a sweet treat to end your meal, there are plenty of options. A glass of rosé champagne is an obvious choice to toast to the summer ahead. If you're looking for a classic, try the Laherte Freres Champagne ($48.99, grammercywine.com). To finish off your summertime meal, opt for a deliciously sweet dessert wine. McNeill recommends a nice light summery dessert one like the Vietti Moscato ($16.99 wine.com).

Comments (4)

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January 6, 2019
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Anonymous
August 17, 2009
Very helpful suggestions!
Anonymous
May 20, 2008
I am so pleased to have discovered this column! Very helpful, and I look forward to having fun with the ideas and suggestions this summer.
Anonymous
December 19, 2007
Thanks for the great advice on wines. I shall refer to it often!