It’s summer, and it’s hot. You’re thirsty, and your mouth is dry.
What you really need is a wine that promises more of the same—one loaded up with astringent tannins and/or mouth-puckering acidity, both of which will make your mouth feel even drier, right?
Aside from water, think about other hot-weather thirst-quenchers, like the ubiquitous gin and tonic, lemonade and sweet tea in the American South, sangria on the Iberian Peninsula and Thai iced tea (made with sugar and condensed milk).
The commonality shared by all these beverages? They’re sweet.
So are the fruits for which summer is famous. From strawberries, cherries and apricots through to blueberries, peaches, raspberries and beyond, the season’s bounty is built on sugar.
Of course, what makes all of these wonders palatable is not just the sugar they contain, but the natural balance of acidity they also provide when picked at just the right moment and coddled until serving time.
When properly made, that same balance of sugar and acid is precisely what makes sweet wines so appealing when temperatures soar. Just seek out wines with crisp acidity, modest alcohol levels and minimal tannin.
Rieslings often fit the profile, whether kabinett or spätlese from Germany or off-dry or semisweet Rieslings from Washington or New York. Moscato d’Asti from Italy adds a bit of fizz to liven things up even further and maxes out at only 5.5% abv. Demi-sec or moelleux Vouvray, from the Loire Valley, is another top candidate.
Because of their sweetness and acidity, all of these can be served quite cold and still make a favorable impression on the palate, a plus when they might be standing in ice buckets or hiding in coolers. As an added bonus, all are generally reasonably priced.
So don’t go crazy and pull out a magnum of 2001 Château d’Yquem to chug by the pool just yet. (Or, if you are, give me a chance to get there first.)
But do consider including some sweetness in your summertime drinks. Your palate will thank you for it.
3 European Summer Refreshers
August Kesseler 2012 R Riesling Kabinett (Pfalz); $18
Ripe peaches and tangerines backed by crushed stone and just-right sweetness create an invigorating wine.
Marenco 2013 Scrapona (Moscato d’Asti); $16
Hints of honey impart a delicate sweetness to this semi-sparkling wine that’s redolent of peaches, citrus and spice.
Eric Bordelet NV Poiré Granit; $30
This profound, off-dry sparkling pear cider from Normandy comes from biodynamically farmed, 300-year-old trees.
Managing Editor Joe Czerwinski’s first wine was cold and sweet—Weber’s Zeller Schwarze Katz straight from the fridge—and it made him a sweet-wine lover for life.