Summer is finally here, and the warm nights are ideal for al fresco meals highlighting summer’s bounty of fresh produce and delicious meats and fish cooked to perfection on outdoor grills. This welcome change of menu, however, often makes food and wine lovers wonder if they should be making a change in the wines they serve or give as wine gifts, as well. While many modern wine gurus will tell you to forgo the old rules and to simply drink whatever you like, following some simple wine and food – and weather – pairing guidelines will help your summer dining into a highly enjoyable experience.
Generally speaking, as the temperature begins to rise, it’s a good idea to bring out younger, more acidic white wines that pair well with seafood, salads, and lighter, grilled fare. By appropriately matching a white wine to your dish, you’ll be able to bring out distinctive flavors and aromas, thereby enhancing your and your guests’ dining experience. Best yet, chilled white wines offer a cooling, refreshing respite from balmy weather, which is an added bonus when dining outside on hot afternoons.
The most popular white wine, Chardonnay, can often be buttery and heavily oaked, making it a nice match for rich seafood dishes, such as lobster or salmon. Chicken dishes and pasta should also be served with a nicely chilled, but not icy cold, Chardonnay.
Crisp Pinot Grigio pairs nicely with salads, appetizers, and cheese and cracker combinations. Since the wine is fairly acidic itself, it is best to avoid pairing it with foods that have high acid contents, like citrus or tomato-based recipes.
Because of Riesling’s vast regional influences and style variations, Rieslings can be paired with a diversity of foods, ranging from desserts to spicy dishes. Dry Rieslings are a great counterpart to seafood and dishes prepared in a cream or butter sauce. Sweeter Rieslings, on the other hand, pair well with desserts and also provide a nice balance to spicy meats.
Gewurztraminer has a dry finish and high acidity, making it also able to stand up to spicy Asian foods and pastas. Gewurztraminer even crosses the color barrier, matching well with a fairly wide range of smoked and spicy red meats.
With its medium-bodied style and approachable acidity, Sauvignon Blanc is terrific with appetizers, herbed dishes, veggie dishes and dips, and even sushi. Fans of Sauvignon Blanc also swear by its perfect pairing with goat cheese.
Sparkling white wines and champagne are simply exquisite for sipping during the summer months and also can be served with fruit, raw oysters, and mild cheeses. Chocolate-covered strawberries and champagne make an excellent summer dessert pairing.
Lastly, red wines still do have a place under the sun during summer. Light-bodied reds such as Beaujolais and Pinot Noirs can be served slightly chilled with pork, ribs, and poultry. For heavier grilled meats and steak, Cabernets and Zinfandels are still the recommended, no-fail match.
Need a place to start? Check out our Meridian Wine Trio, which offers two white wine varietals as well as a Merlot for your die hard red wine fans. Enjoy!