Wines for summer drinking

What exactly is a summer wine anyway? Certainly not a tannic, cigar-chomping monster wine, yet, we need enough tannin and acid in a red wine to work with a good steak, the product of Alberta’s favourite summer culinary pastime, grilling.

We don’t want high alcohol or a wine with loads of sugar. We want elegance and refreshment, lightness. Yet, a certain gravitas is welcome. Then again, we love what the French call vindesoif, a thirst-quenching wine that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Or a wine of contemplation, one we can savour through a lingering Alberta twilight.

Refreshing, lighthearted, tasty, layered, easy-going — ideal choices all, for your summer drinking consideration.


2010 Marotti Campi Xyris Lacrima di Moro d’Alba Frizzante
(Le Marche, Italy)

Wildly aromatic, summer garden; roses, honeysuckle and peonies, with refreshingly berry-sweet flavours and a soft bubble. Xyris (pronounced ‘zee-rihs’) is made from partially fermented must — the fermentation is stopped at seven per cent, leaving residual sugar in the wine and a lovely freshness on the palate. Xyris pairs beautifully with charcuterie, cheese, or with chocolate desserts. Serve lightly chilled, $28.

2010 Zestos Manuel Martinez, Vinos de Madrid
(Madrid DO, Spain)

The high altitude growing area around Madrid keeps the old-vine Grenache from tasting too candy-ish in this 50/50 blend with Tempranillo. We love its medium-bodied bright flavours — juicy, zesty and refreshing. It also has one of the best back labels in the business: informative and approachable, $17.

2010 Costaripa Mazane Marzemino
(Garda, Italy)

Leonardo at Liquor Select suggested this less-well known bottling from Northern Italy. It’s an old variety, perhaps related to Refosco, deeply coloured and tasting of plummy red fruits. Drink as you would a straightfoward Chianti with grilled sausages and red-sauced pastas, $22.

2008 Anvers Langhorne Cabernet Sauvignon
(Langhorne Creek, South Australia)

If we could drink only one wine this summer with grilled meats, it would be this elegant south Australian cab. Elegant and Aussie an oxymoron? Not this time. The Anvers Cab has an appealing structure, with silky tannins and the right amount of acidity to keep ripe berry fruit in check, $38.

2010 Xavier Cotes du Rhone
(Rhone Valley, France)

This mostly Grenache (with Mourvedre, Carignan, Syrah) blend is a bigger, more opulent red than most from the region, with notes of black pepper and liquorice along with rich red fruit in the aromas and flavours. Drink with juicy burgers this summer, and Indian spiced beef in the fall, $25.

2010 Anvers Brabo Cabernet Shiraz
(South Australia)

This rustic (in a good way) medium-bodied blend has just enough supporting tannin to handle lamb chops on the grill. We love the juicy blackcurrants and spice; drink slightly cool for true refreshment, $25.


2011 Hester Creek Trebbiano Old Vines Block 16
(Okanagan Valley, Canada)

Trebba what? The workhouse grape of central Italy is unusual in the Okanagan. The vines were planted in 1972 by an Italian expat eager for a taste of home — and we’re glad the present owner didn’t rip them out, as the vines situated on the Golden Mile make a stellar wine. Enjoy its unexpectedly rich texture, beautiful balance, and gravelly mineral and tropical flavours with spicy grilled shrimp and watermelon feta skewers. Ageable, too, if, there’s any left at the end of the summer, $25.

2010 Little Straw’s ‘La Petite Paille’ Sauvignon Blanc
(Okanagan Valley, Canada)

Medium-bodied, with an attractive soft grassiness as opposed to the gooseberry/grapefruit aromas we’re accustomed to in Kiwi sauv. A steady thrum of steely minerality along with lemony green bean notes makes this an excellent choice with heirloom tomato salad and grilled fish, $28.

2011 Casa Viva Reserve Sauvignon Blanc, Casas del Bosque
(Casabalanca, Chile)

Chilean Sauv Blanc always delivers on the price point and Casa Viva is no exception. This is a terrific fridge door wine. You’ll want a bottle of Casa Viva there all summer long due to its refreshingly citrusy kick of grapefruit, lime and soft jalapeno pepper. Crisp and clean, have a glass while making dinner, carry on with appetizers or pizza on the grill, $16.

2011 Cedar Creek Dry Riesling
(Okanagan Valley, Canada)

Subtle, elegant, with all the beautiful raciness and stony character associated with good Riesling, with flavours of peach and apricot, orange peel and green apple wrapped in honey. Just off dry, definitely a vindesoif, $20.

2011 Marotti Campi Luzano Verdicchio Dei Castelli Di Jesi DOC Classico Superiore
(Le Marche, Italy)

Lovely almond, mineral and citrus, silky-textured, versatile and there’s enough refreshing acidity to carry fat — as in pasta dishes or seafood, love it with nuts, really attractive. Cellar some, well-made Verdicchio such as this can be quite long lived; flavours and colours deepen and become even more complex with age, $25.

2010 Mar de Frades
(Rias Baixes, Spain)

Albariño is a hot grape right now and this bottling explains why — intense colour, medium body, dry with mouthwatering acidity, tasting of luscious stone fruit with a lingering, slightly herbaceous finish. That it’s a pleasing match to seafood and fish is to be expected due to its Atlantic heritage, but try also with cheeses or grilled pork. It’s a fun package too — the label is sensitive to temperature; when the bottle is chilled, a little ship magically appears, cheerily riding the waves on the label, $38.

2011 Backyard Gewürztraminer
(Okanagan Valley, Canada)

New! Saw for the first time at the spring VQA tasting. Easy drinking, off dry with subtle spice and fruit in harmony. Great package, $20.

All prices are approximate. Find at Aligra, Crestwood, City Cellars 123, Keg & Cork, Liquid Harvest, Liquor Select, Sherbrooke, Unwined, Lacombe Liquor. Not all wines in every shop.