Ultimate Summer Wine Guide
New and classic wine pairings for grilled foods of all kinds.
In this Article
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.
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.
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
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
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
New Pairing: Grilled Chicken or Vegetables + Pinot Gris
Classic Pairing: Chardonnay
New Pairing: Grilled Salmon + Cru Beaujolais
Classic Pairing: Pinot Noir
New Pairing: Grilled Lamb + Nero d’Avola
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