Cooling wines for blazing summer

It’s hot around here. Almost too hot for comfort. The National Weather Service has placed much of the Midwestern and Eastern U.S. under excessive heat warning status for a dangerous heat wave.

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Our town is looking at highs near 100°F for the entire weekend, with heat indexes rising well into triple digits.

So here’s my question: When it’s so fiery hot outside that officials warn the public not to work too long outdoors and never to leave children, pets, or elderly folks inside cars for fear of lethal temperature buildup, is it too hot to open a sturdy red wine?

To be realistic, in the age of air conditioning, the old seasonal principles of wine selection can be set aside, if that’s your pleasure. Crank the air down to 72 or so, light a fire in the fireplace, ignore the angry glares of environmentalists, roast a chunk of beef, and pull the cork on your best Syrah. Bless your heart.


But even with the blessing of air conditioning and a smart thermostat to make it work, there’s something I like about the old seasonal wine traditions. When winter returns, even in the comfort of a toasty home, I’ll feel good about settling in with a glass of strong Sherry or Port.

And now that summer is drooping sweatily from fiery July toward the hot and humid dog days of August, lighter, brighter summery wines feel just right, whether we’re enjoying them in an al fresco cafe, picnicking in the park, relaxing on our patio, or even in the air-conditioned indoors.

What does the perfect summer wine look like? For starters, it can be any color. Even if we rule out the big, oaky, highly alcoholic behemoths, I’m not ruling out red wine. But lighter texture and lower alcohol are the features to look for in summer reds. The Prébrende Beaujolais Vielles Vignes that I reviewed in the June 28 Wine Advisor would serve well in this role, as would any good Beaujolais or Gamay-based red from the Loire Valley. But that’s not all. Look for Bonarda from Argentina, lighter-styled Dolcetto or Barbera from Northwestern Italy, Zweigelt from Austria; even lighter Pinot Noirs from the Loire or Germany. A light chill from a half-hour in the fridge before serving wouldn’t do these wines any harm.

White wines are traditional summer sippers, but again, it’s a good idea to look for lighter-bodied but crisply acidic whites with oak presence muted or absent. Skip the big Chardonnays and heavier Chenin Blanc in favor of Sauvignon Blanc, if you like the style; drier-style Rieslings, or Austria’s signature Grüner Veltliner.

And then there’s rosé. The first category that many of us think about when we’re looking for a cooling summer wine, rosé went through a period of unpopularity a while back when sweet, shapeless “blush” wines took over the low-end pink-wine market. But rosé is coming back, and rosés from Southern France in particular, but also Italy, Spain, and the U.S. are filling the shelves with dry, snappy and fresh selections that can cool you down fast. Don’t be shy about chilling them, but stop short of freezing temperatures that stun your taste buds. Cellar temperature, around 45F/13C, is just right to let the subtle flavors shine. Try the crisp, fresh La Vieille Ferme Rosé reviewed below. Available well under $10, it’s one of the best-value rosés around.

Finally, don’t overlook a chilled bubbly on a sultry evening. You might want to save your trophy Champagnes for autumn, but the wide range of Proseccos from Northeastern Italy and Cavas from Spain awaits your attention. The Scarpetta Prosecco Brut reviewed below is a good one, fully dry without the edge of sweetness that marks some of its cheaper cousins.

Enjoy your summer wines, and if you find a good one, or would like to tell us about your approach to cooling summer items, we’d love to have you share the info on our WineLovers Discussion Group forum or our WineLovers Facebook Page.


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Today’s Tasting Reports

La Vieille Ferme 2018 Vin de France Rosé ($8.99)

La Vieille Ferme

This pretty, pale-pink rose color wine is made from a typical Southern France blend of Cinsault, Grenache, and Syrah. Fresh, subtle strawberry aromas add a hint of green herbs. Tart and bright on the palate, light fruit sugars are well balanced by crisp acidity, with juicy watermelon in the long finish. The label claims 13 percent alcohol, and there’s no impression of alcoholic heat. U.S. importer: Vineyard Brands, Birmingham, Alabama. (July 18, 2019)

FOOD MATCH: Versatile with food. The winery suggests serving it lightly chilled with hors-d’oeuvres, cold buffets, tomato salads, grilled meat, and other summer lunches.

WHEN TO DRINK: The sturdy screw cap will keep it fresh for a while, but still, it’s best enjoyed while it’s young and fresh. Then look for next year’s vintage.

My local price is in line with’s $9 average retail. It’s a fine bargain, one of the rare good buys left in the range under $10.

Here’s an info page from La Vieille Ferme, and another from importer Vineyard Brands.

The producer’s Facebook page is here.

Find vendors and compare prices for La Vieille Ferme Rosé on

To browse a wide variety of crisp and dry rosé wines ideally suited for summer, see the many listings and vendors at this Wine-Searcher link.


Scarpetta non-vintage Prosecco Brut ($14.99)


The indigenous Glera grape of Prosecco is blended with Chardonnay to make this zippy Northeastern Italian sparkler. A frothy mousse mounts up over the pale, straw-color wine but falls back fast, leaving persistent streams of bubbles in the glass. Light melon scents lead into a crisp, dry green-apple flavor, while carbonation provides a creamy mouthfeel followed by a long, tart, cleansing finish. Light 11.5 percent alcohol makes for easy sipping. U.S. importer: USA Wine West LLC, Sausalito, California. (July , 2019)

FOOD MATCH: The winery suggests using it as an aperitif. “Prosecco when done in a light, dry, vibrant style makes it the quintessential aperitivo. This wine pairs with anything from a bag of chips to light appetizers. Also to be enjoyed on its own.”

WHEN TO DRINK: Prosecco is best drunk up in the current vintage, while its flavor remains youthful and fresh.

I paid $15 for a bottle.’s average retail is $16. It’s a good buy in the middle to lower teens.

Here’s a fact sheet from the winery. (PDF file)

Compare prices and locate vendors for Scarpetta Prosecco Brut on

For more information about Prosecco and links to a wide variety of other Proseccos and vendors, browse this Wine-Searcher link.


More affordable wines

Want tips to still more good, inexpensive wines? Here are Wine-Searcher links to vendors and prices for a bunch more wines for $10 or less that I’ve told you about during the past year or two. Please tell us about your favorites!

  • Laroque 2016 Cité de Carcassonne Cabernet Franc ($9.99)
  • Domaine de Pouy 2016 Côtes de Gascogne ($7.99)
  • Alamos 2015 Salta Torrontés ($9.99)
  • Alamos 2015 Mendoza Malbec ($9.99)
  • Caposaldo 2014 Chianti ($8.99)
  • d’Arenberg 2012 McLaren Vale “The Stump Jump” ($9.99)
  • Oveja Negra 2014 Maule Valley Cabernet Franc – Carmenere Reserva ($9.99)
  • Côté Mas 2016 “Rouge Intense” Sud de France Pays d’Oc ($12.99/1 liter)

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