Last week we celebrated the official first day of summer, and the veritable heat wave that followed only served to drive the point home. Several days of 90+ degree temps later, we found ourselves forced to confront what surely must be the most pressing question of the season: What sort of wines to drink when you're crazy from the heat?
The obvious approach, of course, is to seek relief from a wine that's best served chilled, which means your focus should narrow to those bottles of the white or pink persuasion. (While there are certainly lots of red wines that taste absolutely fantastic served at about 50 degrees, we'll cover those in another post.) But not every white or rosé wine is equal to the task of soothing over-parched palates; you'll want to seek out varietals that feature higher levels of acidity (say, a sauvignon blanc versus a chardonnay) or have a frizzante (that is to say, lightly sparkling) quality to them. Both of the aforementioned characteristics will deliver the same heat-busting qualities as a chilled, damp cloth pressed against the back of your neck -- a delightful respite from the sky-high temperatures to come. Stock the fridge now with any of the following four hot weather sippers and drink well while you stay cool.
Gazela Vinho Verde 2009 ($10): One of the most porch-poundable wines ever to pass our lips, we've been madly in love with this flirtatious little bottle of summertime quaffability for as long as we can remember. The Gazela passes our hot weather wine-sippin' test with flying colors: Does it have zippy, lip-smacking acidity? Oh, yes. Can it serve up that refreshingly spritzig (read: bubbly) quality we adore? In spades. Can we guzzle glass after glass of it on a Sunday eve without fearing for our ability to report to work sans headache on Monday? Given its shockingly low 9 percent alcohol level, you bet. Bonus: Be sure to check out its fantastic rosé-style sister wine, which is equally revitalizing. Drink with a sauté of French sausage, briny shrimp and tomatoes tossed with lemon zest and basil for a meal that's quintessentially summer.
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Bin 36 Dry Creek Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2010 ($16): This label is the love child of Brian Duncan (wine director of the famed Bin 36 wine bar in Chicago/former business partner of Denver's own David Schneider, co-owner of Row 14 Bistro & Wine Bar) and Hahn Family Wines. The entire portfolio is made up of extraordinarily delicious, exceedingly food-friendly and ridiculously affordable wines that will exceed your expectations at every turn. Their latest sauv blanc offering is no exception, and it won a place in our summertime wine list after we swooned over its gorgeous, flinty aromas and never-ending luscious finish. More old-world in style than new, this wine allows you to take a break from your newfound love, New Zealand sauv blancs and get back to basics. Grilled sea bass with cilantro pesto would be the perfect foil for this lime-infused winner.
Chateau de Monfort Vouvray 2009 ($17): Vouvray is one of those kinda tricky wines. Is it a style? Is it a grape? For the record, Vouvray is a place, specifically a French wine-producing region in the Loire Valley, just west of Paris. The grape used to make Vouvray wines is chenin blanc, and its classic flavor profile of apricots, nectarines and clover honey make it sublime for those days when it's simply too hot to do more than recline on a lounger with an equally scorching novel. If you're typically attracted to wines featuring a bit more residual sugar, the always-stellar Chateau de Monfort's got your name written all over it. Not really a fan of off-dry wines? You still owe it to yourself to try this one: The mineral-driven backbone and hints of citrus might be all you need to taste before you see the error of your ways.
H&B Cotes du Languedoc Rosé 2010 (3L, $26): You didn't actually think you'd get through a column from us on perfect-for-summertime wines without reading about a rosé, did you? Lest we disappoint, we hereby recommend our latest favorite pink lady: a languid, easy-drinking stunner from a place where people know a few things about warm-weather wines, the South of France. Everything about this wine positively oozes summer, from its aroma of just-picked raspberries to its watermelon-juicy finish. As for pairing suggestions, we'd suggest anything with olives, tomatoes or garlic. Or if it's too damn hot to even think of food, skip the meal and enjoy this heavenly wine all by itself.