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Wine is often matched to the seasons but in a far less obvious way than food. Think about it - the winter is a time when we crave thick stews, spicy dishes and heavy, warming desserts. In the summer, we tend to eat more salads, grilled foods, and seasonal produce.
Since wine can be matched to food, it should go without saying that what we drink in the summer might not be the same as what we drink in the winter.
A lot of people make the mistake of believing that cheap whites or basic roses are the only wines, which are good for summer drinking, but why is this? Just because you are cooking sausages and burgers on the grill does not mean you have to drink the most basic white wine you can lay your hands on.
People tend to drink more wine in the summer because there are more parties and get-togethers. Also, the summer can be expensive with vacations and other expenses, so economizing on wine is one way to offset this. Of course, not every cheap wine is necessarily a bad wine but price does signal quality to some degree, else nobody would spend more than five dollars on a bottle of wine!
It is easier than you might think to match wine to traditional summer dishes. If you are having a party and serving basic appetizers, why not offer a sparkling white wine? This does not have to be champagne. Try a Cava or a mid-price fruity rose wine.
Sparkling white wine goes really well with chips, nuts and other popular nibbles and the slight sharpness cuts through the grease. If you prefer red wine, try a bold Australian Shiraz. A semi-dry rose is nice with nachos, or try a sparkling wine if your nachos are extra cheesy.
If you are enjoying a healthy plate of crisp vegetables with a ranch dressing, try a citrus flavored Sauvignon Blanc. Its herbal flavor will be nice with the veggies. If you prefer red, try a Merlot.
If you are enjoying meat fresh off the grill, try a Shiraz or Zinfandel for a bold, spicy finish or a Merlot if you want a mellow flavor instead. Pinot Noir or Merlot is good with grilled fish, chicken, or pork. If white wine is more your style, try a Spanish Albarino or a Californian Chardonnay.
These are also very nice with shellfish. If you have a combination of meat and fish on your plate, try Sauvignon Blanc or a vibrant white, unless you have teriyaki sauce, BBQ sauce or another strong flavor on the meat, in which case choose something that will stand up to the flavor.
It can be hard to match wines to summer salads because of the acidic dressings. Rose and Sauvignon Blanc tend to go with most salad recipes. If there is bacon, ham, or egg on the salad, try a Pinot Grigio or Prosecco. Chardonnay is nice with a ranch dressing topped salad and something sweet like Reisling is tasty with fruit salad.
Whichever wine you choose to complement your summer fare, make sure the serving temperature is correct. The heat can make room temperature red wine too warm so chill it slightly before serving and do not leave it in the sun. Do not leave the white wine in a full ice bucket either; too many people serve white wine too cold and then some of the flavor will be hidden.