Upgrade your Summer Wine Collection with these Favorites
Sunny skies, warm breezes, and afternoon picnics on the grass that turn into evening grill sessions under a rainbow sky — summer is here. When the weather warms up, many people are stuck not knowing what wine to choose. The more voluptuous wines we tend to reach for in the winter are still great, but for warm weather, we want juicy, sunny wines. If you've ever found yourself stuck between the shelves of your local wine shop, unsure of what to pick, this guide is for you. We've done the heavy lifting and picked out our top five summer wines that are sure to excite at any picnic, barbecue, or dinner party.
What makes a great summer wine
When you’re looking for the ideal summer wine, don’t limit yourself to a particular color or style; forget the adages about white wine being for summer and red for winter. Instead, look for wines that can carry you through warm afternoons into light summer dinners, or evenings by the grill. That usually means looking for bottles from higher elevations or cooler climates, which results in more acidity and less alcohol. It also usually points us to wines that can be drunk with a chill, including lighter-bodied reds that pack a punch.
How to pick a great summer wine
As you start your search, don’t let the sheer quantity of bottles on the shelf of your local wine shop overwhelm you. There are a few options for navigating your way to the perfect summer wine. First, knowing that cooler climates result in fresher wines, you can look to wine regions in cooler areas. Any region north of central France will likely have a cooler climate and result in a fresh wine with more acidity.
That said, some of our favorite summer wines are grown south of Central France. The island of Corsica makes savory, herbaceous rosés that harness the freshness of the strong maritime breeze. And many Spanish wines grown near the ocean or at higher elevations also benefit from their unique microclimates.
Geography can be helpful, but you’re likely not going to be cracking out a world wine region map every time you walk into your local wine shop. And you don’t have to, because one of the best ways to identify a great wine for the warmer months is to engage with the people working there. They’ve likely tasted every wine on their shelves and can help you find the perfect bottle for your summer plans. Our team collaborated to come up with this list of wine regions where you’ll find great summer wine to get you started.
The 10 Crus of Beaujolais
This tiny region south of Burgundy is packed with easy-drinking bottles; almost all of them make incredible additions to summer evenings. They’re meant to be drunk with a chill and are usually low alcohol and super fresh and juicy.
While you’ll find great summer options in Beaujolais and Beaujolais Villages, you should be looking at the 10 villages in the northern half of Beaujolais. Called Crus, this is where you’ll find seriously delicious wine worthy of the slightly higher price tag. The label won’t say Beaujolais, instead, look for the names of the 10 crus: Juliénas, Saint-Amour, Chénas, Fleurie, Moulin-a-Vent, Chiroubles, Morgon, Régnié, Brouilly, and Côte-de-Brouilly.
Shop our lineup of cru Beaujolais
The Loire Valley…all of it
It’s impossible to put the wines of the Loire Valley in a box. This wine region starts in central France and extends eastward to the Atlantic. Closer to the ocean you’ll find Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé, some of the most amazing, bone-dry, expressive Sauvignon Blanc in the world. Muscadet made from the Melon de Bourgogne grape variety also makes a light, refreshing white that pairs incredibly well with oysters and chilled seafood. In the central part of the region, you can uncover great wines made from Cabernet Franc and Chenin Blanc. Look for whites from Savennières and Vouvray and reds from Chinon and Bourgueil.
Maritime Rosé from Corsica and Provence
The island of Corsica, while officially a part of France, has a culture and winemaking tradition all its own. Here you’ll find myriad rosés, from architectural masterpieces to ethereal wisps of red fruit and island herb. Many great Corsican wines can be identified by the appellation on the label: look out for names like Patrimonio, Ajaccio, Ile de Beauté, and Vin de Corse. But some of the best winemakers don’t classify their wines and instead label them as Vin de France (VdF.) So it can also help to know the names of some of the most iconic winemakers on the island. Look out for wines from Marquiliani, Abbatucci, Yves Canarelli, and Yves Leccia.
In Provence, on the southern coast of France, you’ll find amazing rosés made by small artisan producers. Most are made with Mourvèdre alone or blended with other stars of southern France like Grenache and Syrah. They can be fresh and focused, with a kind of soft power that makes them a perfect match for summery foods inspired by the Provence coast: think roasted red peppers and eggplants, ratatouille, whole grilled fish, Nicoise salad, and bouillabaisse. Look out for bottles labeled with the appellations Bandol and Cassis, or from the broader Côtes de Provence appellation.
Under-the-Radar Spanish Reds and Whites
Spain is a much warmer climate than the French wines we’ve listed, but that’s no reason to shy away from them when you’re on the hunt for the perfect summer wine. In Galicia, you’ll find great Albariño in appellations like Rias Baixas. Fresh, complex, and perfect for pairing with seafood off the grill or straight out of the tin. Stay on the lookout for bottles labeled “Albariño.” Some will also bear the appellation name.
For reds, look for structured, fruit-driven Tempranillo blends from up-and-coming winemakers in Rioja who focus less on oak and more on maximum freshness. Or turn to high elevation Garnacha wrung from the rocky mountainside of the Sierra de Gredos. These reds pair incredibly well with charred meats fresh off the grill. Look for the names Rioja and Sierra de Gredos on the label.
Indigenous Grapes from Sicily
The island of Sicily is an incredible place to look for a summer wine. You’ll find higher-elevation wines made on the slopes of Mount Etna, but even wines from the coastal regions have summery energy. Many are made from grapes indigenous to the island, well adapted to the sunny, maritime-influenced climate, like Nero D’Avola, Nerello Mascalese, Frappato, Carillo, and Carricante. They’re incredible with the kinds of lighter dishes we’re drawn to during the summer: grilled vegetables for light antipasti, seafood, and mouthwatering, anchovy-flecked pasta dishes.
Look out for bottles labeled Etna Bianco or Etna Rosso, Terre Siciliane, or sometimes with the names of those indigenous grape varieties.
Everything you need to find a great summer wine
This guide should come in handy the next time you pop into your local wine shop. If you’re short on time and still want to enjoy some of our absolute favorite summer wines, shop our handpicked collection of great, artisanally-made wines that can be shipped directly to your doorstep.