The tastes of summer are sublime: sweet, ripe tomatoes, freshly caught pan-fried trout, sizzling grilled sirloin, corn on the cob glistening with melted butter, juicy, fragrant slices of melon. Perfect, right? Not quite. Not until you find a mouthwatering wine to go with each one. Join me for a stroll down the summer wine aisle and discover just what you should be drinking right now.
Summer Wines to Try
Explore the best food and wine pairings of the season through these 10 bottles and read on to understand the qualities that guide those pairings.
2006 Rocca Delle Macìe Chianti Classico Riserva, Tuscany, Italy ($25) This is a lovely Chianti, with dark berry and smoke flavors, mouthwatering acidity, and full-bodied weight
2008 Elk Cove Vineyards Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon ($18) Ripe cherry and berry notes pair with excellent acidity in this silky smooth, medium-bodied red.
Fish and Shellfish:
2009 Kim Crawford Pinot Grigio, Marlborough, New Zealand ($18) This is a subtle, mild white with clean, crisp aromas of melon and grapefruit.
Fish and Shellfish:
2010 Carmen Chardonnay Reserva, Chile ($11) The caramel and toffee depths of this wine are the perfect backdrop for a seafood feast, while green apple and citrus notes give it vibrancy.
2008 Ravenswood Zinfandel, California ($18) This classically made Zinfandel boasts juicy black cherry notes and a decadent, full-bodied richness.
2010 Alamos Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina ($13) Rich and full-bodied with aromas of blackberries and pepper, this red pairs perfectly with anything from the grill.
2010 Errazuriz Chardonnay, Casablanca Valley, Chile ($11) This pleasant Chardonnay offers melon and pear notes with nicely balanced oak that gives it a richness without being heavy.
2008 Sterling Vineyards Chardonnay, Napa Valley, California ($15) A long-time favorite of Chardonnay lovers, this wine has deep, generous aromas of green apple, toffee, vanilla, and smoke.
2010 Bava Moscato d’Asti Bass Tuba, Piedmont, Italy ($14) Zesty flavors, a soft sweetness, and low alcohol content make this wine a great, easy-drinking apéritif or dessert wine.
2008 De Bortoli Noble One Botrytis Semillon, Australia ($25) This is a luscious, layered dessert wine with rich aromas and the flavors of honeyed apricot and peach preserves.
Tuscan Chianti for ripe tomatoes
The old saying that “what grows together, goes together” is especially true when it comes to tomatoes and Italian red wines. In particular, Chianti, the Tuscan red made from Sangiovese grapes, is one of the best possible matches for tomato-based dishes because it has terrific acidity to match the acidity in the tomatoes, as well as earthy, sun-dried tomato aromas. Ripe, raw summer tomatoes need Chianti’s strong seam of acidity, or the wine will taste flabby and dull by comparison.
Other Italian reds to try with tomatoes include Barbera, Primitivo, and Dolcetto, as well as acidic reds from cool-climate regions, like Pinot Noir from Oregon or New Zealand. These varietals have enough tartness and ripe, red fruit aromas to stand up to tomatoes, whereas wines from warmer climates, such as California and Australia, are often too soft to hold their own.