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How to pick refreshing summer wines

As the summer heat reaches its zenith, two sommeliers list their favourite season-appropriate whites, reds, rosés and more

Cool of with refreshing and chilled wines. (Pexels)
Cool of with refreshing and chilled wines. (Pexels)

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Consider the three most popular summer drinks: soda lime, aam panna and lemonade. They have a few commonalities—refreshing, acidic and best served chilled. These factors also apply to wines designed for warmer temperatures.

Sommelier Nikhil Agarwal shared the analogy of fresh lime soda while describing summer wines. The founder of the Mumbai-based wine consulting and events company All Things Nice names a few grapes—Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc infused with flavour notes of kiwi from New Zealand—that are tailor-made for warmer months. Another significant factor is that they need to chill well to provide respite from the sweltering heat. Light-bodied wines, like rosés, offer a far more enjoyable drinking experience than a fuller-bodied bottle, like a Malbec. “To put it simplistically, think of the texture of water to define a light-bodied wine, and milk for something that’s weightier. It’s about the weight on your tongue,” explains Agarwal. Another analogy could be chaas and lassi; the former is light-bodied, whereas the latter is a heavy-bodied drink.

Shades of reds
There is a notion that reds are not suitable for summer, but it’s not wholly true. Red wines are perceived to be heavier, so look for grapes that produce a lighter bottle. Agarwal recommends Pinot Noir, and sommelier Gargi Kothari votes for grape varietals like Gamay and Grenache.

Gamay, from a region named Beaujolais in the south-eastern part of France, is used to produce lighter-style reds which are conducive to chilling.

In summer, one seeks wines which can be served cold, at about 15 degrees or lower. “It would be hara-kiri to serve a red at temperatures lower than that, because it affects the flavour and the wine starts to taste metallic. But, I’d say you can serve it at 15 degrees Celsius and it will start to get warmer allowing the flavours to unfurl with subsequent sips,” advises Agarwal.

The thumb-rule, therefore, is to pick a red that’s easier to chill.

Add some sparkle
French Champagne, Italian Prosecco and Spanish cava: great wines, best served cold, which instil a celebratory mood. While Champagne could feel a bit like Christmas and Prosecco is often a go-to for bridal showers, a Cava could be ideal weekend fare.

“Between Prosecco and champagne, cava does not get its share of the spotlight. So why not try something new and perhaps not as well-known?” says Kothari. She says the process to make cava is similar to champagne, but the grapes used are different. They are grown in Penedès, which is in Catalonia along the coast. Inevitably, cava has Mediterranean flavour notes reminiscent of herbs like thyme and rosemary, which are not present in champagne.

The other attractive factor is price. Most good Prosecco bottles are priced above  3000, and champagne comes for   5000 and more. “A cheap and cheerful entry-level cava is tagged at   2150, and makes for a great buy,” says Kothari, recommending Codorniu Cava, Spain.

Reserve the reds for evenings, and pick Cavas for long brunches or languid afternoons.

White summer
Citrusy and crisp white wines are perfect for a blistering hot day. The most sought after wines for an Indian summer are whites. Homegrown wineries have a wide selection, and rightly so for they instinctively understand the palate. “We have an interesting variety of Rieslings, Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay,” Agarwal points out.

Going beyond the borders, he says, there are wonderful Rieslings from Germany and Sauvignon Blanc from Italy. And one can’t go wrong with the Italian white wine grape varietal Pinot Grigio, with delicate notes of lemon, peaches and pear. To sound like a wine geek—good to start conversations—name the grape varietal Albariño, with citrusy accents of grapefruit and lemon. It comes from the south-west region of Spain. Agarwal shares, “I would love to do the white wines of Spain, particularly from the north-west region.”

For a special occasion, reserve a Sancerre made from Sauvignon Blanc in the Loire Valley of France. “It’s crisp, light-bodied, dry and very refreshing,” says Kothari.

The magic component in these wines is that they ”chill well”.

La vie en Rosé
Blush-hued bottles are the flavour of summer. “You can have rosés for breakfast, lunch and dinner,” says Kothari, while highlighting the fact that they pair well with food. The most popular rosés, especially for novice wine drinkers, are sweeter styles. But Kothari recommends trying drier versions to elevate the wine experience. Look for rosés from Provence or Rhone Valley of France, which are designed to go with light summer dishes.

Agarwal’s pick for a rosé that offers great value is Moulin De Gassac Killam from Languedoc in South of France: “Pair it with some salmon, topped with cream and caper berries, and—oh my god— you are in for a great evening.”

Recommended by Gargi Kothari

Entry level: Pasqua Sangiovese 2020
Mid to premium: Viña Pomal Crianza 2018
Premium: Tornatore, Etna Rosso

Entry level: Apaltagua, Gran Verano Chardonnay, 2019
Mid level: BEX Riesling
Premium: Giesen Estate, Sauvignon Blanc

Entry level: La Vieille Ferme Rosé
Mid level: Marchesi Mazzei Belguardo Rosé
Premium: Aix Provence Rosé - By Gargi Kothari

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