30 Best Wines for Summer
Updated: May 24, 2020
Check out the 30 best warm-weather wines to enjoy this summer with commentary on the grapes, the regions to look for and what to expect in your glass.
It's the first day of summer, and you are already getting invites for pool parties and barbecues. The obvious next question is what wine you should bring. Wait, is wine even an option in the heat of summer? Fear not! Here are 30 wines perfect for warm weather, including red (yes, red), white and rosé. Now you can be prepared for any occasion and you won't have to panic when your friend asks you to bring over a bottle of wine and says, "Oh, anything is fine".
Ah, summertime wines. I’ll get into each individually, but in general, they have lower alcohol, lower tannin, good acidity and can be enjoyed chilled. The list below is organized in the following order: by grape, alphabetically and then by region to look for on the label. Additionally, each wine category has common denominator tasting notes, so while individual producers and bottles will vary, you will have an idea of what to expect.
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Need a pairing recommendation? Fire away in the comments below!
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W H I T E
1. Albariño – Rías Baixas, Spain
Known as an aromatic white varietal. I often find Albariños to be one of those wines where you think it might be sweet from the smell with ripe fruit, bordering on tropical, and then upon taking a sip are surprised to find it’s bright, refreshing and finishes dry. Albariño grapes have thicker skin which gives them higher acidity, good body and more concentrated flavor.
~ Tangerine, peaches, melons, yellow flowers ~
2. Altesse – Savoie, France
You’re going to be looking for “Roussette de Savoie” on the label as these are made from the Altesse grape. Light, good acidity and also pretty exotic fragrance. It makes you feel like you’re floating on a cloud, I mean, these vines grow up next to the breathtaking French Alps. Think perfumed alpine. These wines can age and can really develop interesting complexity in just a few years.
~ Apricot, quince, nuts, white blossoms ~
3. Assyrtiko – Santorini, Greece
Indigenous to the island of Santorini, this grape retains its acid very well in the Mediterranean climate, which happens to be one of the hotter grape growing regions in the world. This is critical. It makes a more mineral forward wine (as opposed to fruit-forward) and displays the volcanic soils on which it was grown.
~ Lemon, citrus, ginger spice, salty ~
4. Chardonnay – Walker Bay, South Africa
You can get some amazing Burgundian style Chardonnays at a much better value in this region. Walker Bay is on the coast and cooler than some of the other South Africa wine regions, which means the grapes are going to mature more slowly. This results in a leaner style with nuanced layers of aromas and flavors. Chardonnay is a neutral white grape so it shows winemaking prominently. It’s worth getting to know producers' styles. This Storm Vrede is an outstanding example.
~ Lime blossom, buttered biscuit, wet stone ~
5. Chenin Blanc – Montlouis-sur-Loire, France
The middle of the Loire Valley is renowned for Chenin Blanc. Vouvray is certainly a heavy hitter here, but Montlouis is just across the river from Vouvray, exhibiting a bit more earthy notes and is less well known so you can get more bang for your buck. I really love Chenin Blanc, and not just because it sounds like my name. It has a propensity to botrytize, so you can get flavors of honeysuckle, and butterscotch in even a still dry wine with nerve (although the styles range from dry to sweet).
~ Honeysuckle, wet straw, apple ~
6. Gewürztraminer – Gisborne, New Zealand
Known to be a particularly fragrant and fuller bodied white. One the blind tasters love because it’s very distinct. It performs best in cooler regions where you can get more deeply concentrated golden hue with opulent aromatics but great acid backbone.
~ Lychee, rose, guava, cinnamon ~
7. Grüner Veltliner – Kamptal/Kremstal/Wachau, Austria
Drink more Grüner! You can sound cool like you’re in the “biz” if you shorten it to Grüner, hehe. But really, this is a serious summer wine. Good examples balance fruit, herbaceousness, and spice with nice acidity. It’s refreshing with depth. Arugula is my blind tasting tell for GV. Great pairing for zesty summer sauces.
~ Arugula, white pepper, citrus, pear ~
8. Loureiro – Vinho Verde, Portugal
Found on the Iberian Peninsula, with the best varietal wines from the Vinho Verde region in northern Portugal, more specifically around Braga and Lima Valley. Often you’ll find these with a subtle, mouth cleansing effervescence, low alcohol, bright acidity and possible salinity. Textbook warm weather wine.
~ Orange blossom, acacia, bay leaf, coastal saline ~
9. Melon de Bourgogne – Loire Valley, France
The Melon de Bourgogne grape makes Muscadet-Sèvre et Maine, the latter of which being what you want to look for on the wine labels . This rather neutral white, Muscadet is not to be mistaken for Muscat, Moscato or Moscatel. High quality versions from the appellation Muscadet-Sèvre et Maine often showcase a sense of place with an ocean saltiness (blind tasting tip!) coupled with tangy citrus, toast character (from extended lees contact). Touch of effervesce also common in quality wines. Excellent with oysters and seafood.
~ Tangy citrus, salty, brioche, light carbonization ~
10. Pinot Blanc – Alsace, France
Chardonnay lovers, check this out. Wines labelled “Pinot Blanc” from Alsace are actually often blends of white Auxerrois and Pinot Blanc. Thus, a great trick question for exams like French Wine Scholar. These varietals alone can be simple and one-dimensional, but blended they can become a well-balanced crowd pleaser. These respond well to oak, like Chardonnay, so some versions are toastier with a touch a spice.
~ Gala apple, pear, almond, honey ~
11. Pinot Grigio – Alto Adige/ Friuli, Italy
Pinot Grigio is the Italian name for Pinot Gris. The majority of Pinot Grigio comes from Veneto and is simple, watery wine. Important to look/ask specifically for the regions of Friuli and Alto Adige, which produce the best Pinot Grigio with more concentrated flavors of lemon-lime and nectarine with aromatics and white florals. Crisp, clean yet richer expressions great for hanging out on the patio.
~ Nectarine, meyer lemon, lime, yellow apple ~
12. Pinot Gris – Oregon, United States
Oregon Pinot Gris is a hidden gem and an excellent value. Pinot Gris is a mutation of Pinot Noir, the latter of which gets a lot more buzz for Oregon, but both are performing exceptionally well. Pinot Gris likes the climate here, which is often compared to Alsace, France, producing yellow-to-copper tinged medium bodied whites with a nice balance of green fruit and minerality in a refreshing style.
~ Pear, melon, white peach, minerality ~
13. Riesling – Germany
If your experience with Riesling has been the inexpensive, cloyingly sweet versions and thus you think you don’t like Riesling, set that aside. We need to start fresh. Riesling can be made in a variety of styles in Germany so, to dismantle any preconceptions, look for dry (trocken). Another varietal that can have a sweeter fragrance and then surprise you with mouthwatering acidity, bright tart fruit and crisp stone minerality in its youth. With age, these develop into riper fruit with more honeyed notes and subtle petrol or kerosene flavors. If you’re studying for an exam, the petrol note is good to practice recognizing and will be your tell!
~ Stone fruit, honeyed, nutmeg, petrol ~
14. Riesling – Washington, United States
Washington’s Colombia Valley has unique soil composition from a series of cataclysmic historical events. The short version includes tectonic shifts, meteor strike, lava rivers, ice age with glaciers, flooding, and wind erosion forming the topography of today. That coupled with mean temperature on par with Alsace and Germany, but slightly warmer summer days, gives way to world-renowned Riesling. Styles range from dry to botrytized dessert wines and everything in between. For refreshing summer beverage lean toward the dry to off-day.
~ Green apple, apricot, jasmine, flinty minerality ~
15. Sauvignon Blanc – Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
Marlborough put New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc on the map with its distinctly perfumes and concentrated flavors. If you love that style and want to explore Sauvignon Blanc’s range, give Hawke’s Bay a try. These wines are a slightly softer with more tropical fruit, while maintaining that freshness.
~ Mandarin orange, yellow peach, passion fruit, bell pepper ~
16. Sauvignon Blanc – San Antonio/Casablanca, Chile
Another category where you can find great value. Much less well-known than New Zealand’s Marlborough Sauv Blanc, for example. San Antonio and Casablanca have cooler climatic influences that shape fresh styles with good acidity and that signature herbaceousness you know and love.
~ Kiwi, gooseberry, lemongrass, herbaceous ~
17. Semillon – Hunter Valley, Australia
A good wine style to know for blind tasters. At first you think, this is refreshing, light, bright acid, dry, hmm what is that flavor, Key lime? These grapes are picked early in the Hunter Valley so you get low alcohol and zippy citrus flavors, perfect for cleansing your palate. These are actually great wines for aging too, but you can enjoy this summer with pasta dishes with veggies, seafood, pork even, and any featured asparagus.
~ Key lime, papaya, burnt toast, lime blossom ~
18. Verdejo – Rueda, Spain
Aromatic and herbaceous undertones mark this varietal from Spain, similar to Sauvignon Blanc. Look for Rueda Verdejo on the label which are most often 100% Verdejo (although only 85% is required). This is a beautiful aperitif (drink before dinner) and can pair nicely with summer fare too.
~ Honeydew, fennel, nutty ~
R O S É
As these are often blends and/or you can find so many varietals per region this category is listed by region rather than varietal.
19. Corsica, (Mediterranean island, France technically)
Harder to come by but worth seeking out, this island in the middle of the Mediterranean, and while technically a part of France, is a world of its own. Indigenous red grape varietals like Sciacarello, Nielluccio in Corsica rosé possibly blended with international varieties like white Vermentino or Grenache. Rosé represents about 30% of production here and are made with the saingée or bleeding method with malolactic fermentation intentionally avoided.
~ Rhubarb, herb, island salinity ~
20. Provence, France
Provence rosé is quintessential summer wine. A lot of blends here, but you can certainly expect Grenache, Mourvèdre and Cinsault to be involved. Vineyards grow next to lavender fields that blanket hillside in Provence, which you can sometimes taste in the wine.
~ Berries, lavender, Mediterranean herbs ~
21. Santa Barbara, California, United States
The top red varietal in Santa Barbara wine country in Pinot Noir, so naturally the many of these rosés are made from Pinot Noir. Although you can certainly find Rhone varietals as well, the Pinot Noir rosés are signature. Each AVA brings a fresh perspective to the wine. The unique geography of the region (mountain ranges facing east to west) gives life to noteworthy characters of rose petals, perfectly ripe fruit and a hint of savory minerality.
~ Rose, cherry, watermelon, white mushroom ~
22. Rioja, Spain
Rosé is known as Rosado here and you’ll find Tempranillo grapes front and center, usually blended though with Garnacha (Grenache). This gives the wine finesse and breadth. These are even sometimes matured in oak and (some) can age!
~ Dried fruit, white pepper, dill, touch of floral ~
R E D S
23. Frappato – Sicily, Italy
A thin-skinned red varietal grown primarily on the southeastern side on Sicily, Frappato produces light and fruity wines with a spicy kick. Frappato is sometimes blended with the more robust Nero D’Avola (another Sicilian red grape varietal), which adds some weight and complexity. Besides being fun to say, it’s a red wine perfect for warm weather.
~ Juicy red berries, pomegranate, black tea, clove ~
24. Gamay – Beaujolais, France
Situated to the south of Burgundy and north of the Rhone Valley, Beaujolais is an often overshadowed and underappreciated region that produces some serious wines. Gamay is like Pinot Noir’s little brother. Why do you care? This can mean better quality at a lower price point. Gamay produces typically lighter bodied wines, red fruit, underpinned with earthiness. Sound familiar (Pinot Noir)? Gamay also has a delicate floral component and can get into a touch of sweet tropical like banana. (Important note: Beaujolais Nouveau is completely different).
~ Raspberry, purple flowers, loamy soil, banana ~
25. Grenache – Barossa Valley/ McLaren Vale, Australia
Grenache produces paler pigmented red wines but with medium body. It buds early and ripens late giving it a long growing season and higher sugar content. It’s often blended to add sweetness, think candied fruit, and mellow out tannic deep varietals like Syrah and Mourvèdre. Alone or as the majority player, however, it is well situated for a sizzling summer beverage. Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale produce excellence quality, some from dry farmed, bush vines that are 100 years old. Be careful here, because Riverland, also in Australia, makes very forgettable bland versions.
~ Black cherry compote, plums, lavender, oregano ~
26. Lambrusco – Emilia-Romagna, Italy
Lambrusco can get a little confusing because it’s both a collective term for a group of grape varietals and an Italian wine. There are red, white and rosé versions of Lambrusco. Explore the red category. Pretty big range but generally fruity, frothy light red wine ready to drink now. If you like some sweetness look for Lambrusco Reggiano. Otherwise you can tend to expect dry to off-dry from Lambrusco (Grasparossa, Sorbara or Salamino). Inexpensive versions tend to be sweeter for a broad international appeal, so look for the word “secco” meaning dry. Dry examples can be such a great conversation piece. Fruity sparkling red wine that finished dry? Yes, please!
~ Blackberry, violets, rhubarb, cream ~
27. Pinot Noir – San Antonio/Casablanca, Chile
Considered one of the finest grapes in the world, and the ninth most planted wine grape varietal globally, Pinot Noir also happens to be an excellent summer companion. The San Antonio (including Leyda which falls within it) and Casablanca Valleys in Chile are making noteworthy quality at a much lower price point than more commonly known regions like Burgundy. Chilean Pinot Noirs offer a subtle twist on a classic varietal, with a lighter body and higher acidity and a freshness almost like mint.
~ Strawberry, wildflowers, earthy thyme, mint ~
28. Schiava – Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy
Schiava is the name for a group of grape varietals common in the Trentino-Alto Adige area of northern Italy. Schiava grapes make light-medium bodied reds with perfumed aromatics and sweet fruit. It might bring you back to your youth with notes of cotton candy. Some of the best examples come from Santa Maddalena DOC, and even these can be remarkably affordable.
~ Cherry, potpourri, almond skin, cotton candy ~
29. Spätburgunder – Germany
Spätburgunder is the German name for Pinot Noir. It is the most important dark-skinned grape in all of Germany, where it shines in the cool northern European climate on the edge of grape growing viability. Germany is the third largest Pinot Noir producing country in the world, behind France and the United States. Späts are excellent, sometimes velvety, wine for summer and pair well with a variety of foods from fish to poultry to barbecue.
~ Cranberry, blackberry, wet leaves, vanilla ~
30. Zweigelt – Austria
Zweigelt is one of Austria’s most popular red grape varietals. It was developed in the 1920's when Dr. Zweigelt crossed Blaufränkisch and St. Laurent grapes. So don’t be put off by the tricky name, it’s just a cool viticultural scientist, and you can always fall back on asking for the “Z” grape from Austria. It combines sweet and sour and is perfect slightly chilled.
~ Cassis, dark cherry, blackcurrant, cinnamon ~
Let me know what you think! Comments always welcome. Share your favorite summer wine finds with me in the comments or on Instagram. Cheers!