When the heat of summer arrives, fashionistas break out their white clothes, and we foodistas break out our white wines. Not just any whites. We avoid the powerful, oaky chardonnays with full body and lots of alcohol, and look to whites that are light and bright.
And we break some traditional wine rules in drinking them.
We want them low in alcohol, because alcohol makes us feel hot. So we like whites that are 11 percent alcohol, sometimes as low as 7 percent.
We drink them refreshingly cool, even down to 40 degrees — way cooler than big reds, and even cooler than regular whites.
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If no one’s looking, we might glance around nervously and drop an ice cube or three in the glass. Many producers don’t mind. The makers of “Opera Prima” Sparkling Moscato recommend serving it “well-chilled.” Barefoot Cellars gives us permission to serve its “Crisp White Wine” over ice with a wedge of lime.
We often like a bit of sweetness in the wines, to go with simple summer foods — fresh fruit, grilled veggies, fruit salads, potato salads, sandwiches, shellfish or other seafood. A sparkling prosecco is great with cold fried chicken. Or takeout Chinese food.
Often distracted by beach, mountain or backyard grill, we treat these wines casually. We drink them outdoors, where the wind would blow away any highfalutin aromas in any case.
And we don’t cellar these wines for long aging. Carpe diem is the rule. When the leaves fall, it’ll be time for heartier, redder wines.
Some of the nicest summer whites are from grapes that are less familiar to us than the standard chards and cabs. To help, here’s a glossary of some of those grapes, plus tasting notes on the wines they make and a handful of recommended bottles.