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Ultimate Summer Wine Guide

New and classic wine pairings for grilled foods of all kinds.

Affordable Summer Wines

F&W’s Ray Isle tells what to drink this summer and explains why transporting wine in the trunk of your car is a very bad idea.

One August day a couple of years ago, a friend of mine set out to visit his girlfriend’s family at their weekend house, an hour away on the Jersey shore. Because he wanted to make a good impression, he brought along a 2007 Rubicon, a top Napa Cabernet that cost about $150 at the time. He put the bottle in his overnight bag, stuffed the bag in the trunk of his car and set off.

Three hours later, thanks to holiday traffic and a multicar accident on the highway, he finally arrived. He was fine, if frazzled. The Rubicon, on the other hand, had roasted—it was the temperature of soup, so hot that the expanding liquid had pushed the cork a good inch or so out of the neck of the bottle.

During the summer, keeping wine in the trunk of your car isn’t wise. On a 90 day, a car’s interior temperature can climb to 124 in just 30 minutes; in an hour-and-a-half, it can reach 138. That’s medium-rare, if you’re cooking a steak, but it’s way past well-done when it comes to wine. (If you do need to stash wine in your car on a hot day, an inexpensive cooler and a bag of ice will keep bottles safe for hours.)

Though my friend was bringing a trophy Cabernet, he might have been better off with something lighter, given the sweltering temperatures. The bottles here would have been ideal: Light whites such as Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling, chillable reds such as Beaujolais and Dolcetto, dry rosés and affordable sparkling wines like Prosecco are all perfect possibilities for summer drinking.

Summer Wines: Light Whites
Photo courtesy of WilmingtonWineshop.com

Light Whites »

Summer Wines: Chillable Reds
Photo courtesy of CellarTracker.com

Chillable Reds »

Summer Wines: Dry Rosés
Photo courtesy of Vera

Dry Rosés »

Summer Wines: Inexpensive Sparklers
Photo courtesy of Gloria Ferrer

Inexpensive Sparklers »

Updated August 2013

New Summer Wine Pairings to Try

Generally, grilled dishes mean bold flavors, and the top wine matches are intense and full-flavored, too—Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel. But sometimes, these classic pairings can seem ho-hum, so I’ve chosen six great substitutes.

Summer Wine Pairings for Grilled Fish

New Pairing: Grilled Fish + Albariño

Albariño shares Sauvignon Blanc’s grapefruity tang, making it a great partner for grilled fish, yet it has a flinty minerality all its own.

Classic Pairing: Sauvignon Blanc

Summer Wine Pairings for Grilled Meats

New Pairing: Grilled Pork or Beef + Monastrell

Spanish Monastrell, known as Mourvèdre in France, has the same luscious fruit that makes Zinfandel so good with grilled pork, but with a spicy edge that arguably creates an even better match.

Classic Pairing: Zinfandel

Summer Wine Pairings for Grilled Steak

New Pairing: Grilled Steak + Malbec

Malbec, like Cabernet, has firm tannins that help it pair beautifully with steak, plus its fruit is as robust and dark.

Classic Pairing: Cabernet Sauvignon

Summer Wine Pairings for Grilled Chicken

New Pairing: Grilled Chicken or Vegetables + Pinot Gris

Classic Pairing: Chardonnay

Summer Wine Pairings for Grilled Salmon

New Pairing: Grilled Salmon + Cru Beaujolais

Classic Pairing: Pinot Noir

Summer Wine Pairings for Grilled Lamb

New Pairing: Grilled Lamb + Nero d’Avola

Classic Pairing: Syrah

More Classic Summer Wine Pairings

On the Grill: Barbecued ribs, leg of lamb, steaks
In the Bottle: Powerful, tannic red: Cabernet Sauvignon, French Syrah

On the Grill: Hamburgers, sausages
In the Bottle: Rich, fruity red: Zinfandel, Australian Shiraz

On the Grill: Grilled tofu, pork chops, steak salad
In the Bottle: Medium-bodied, tangy red: Sangiovese, Grenache

On the Grill: Shrimp, scallops, lobster
In the Bottle: Succulent, minerally white: Pinot Gris

On the Grill: Halibut or other light fish, vegetables, citrus marinades
In the Bottle: Aromatic, zesty white: Sauvignon Blanc, Albariño

First published June 2008

Published June 2008
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