Whether you’re relaxing on the porch before dinner or hosting a backyard barbecue, it’s time to think about warm-weather wines. From crisp whites and ravishing rosés to light reds and pitchers of sangria, the right pairing for your favourite summer dishes is right here in our summer wine guide.
1. Crisp Whites
As the mercury rises, people naturally crave crisp, refreshing white wines. Sauvignon Blanc—whether from New Zealand or France’s Loire Valley (under the name Sancerre)—is the ultimate summer wine, with passion fruit flavours and zesty acidity. Aged in stainless-steel tanks instead of barrels, trendy unoaked Chardonnay offers amazing aromas of just-picked apple and pear. Lean, snappy French Chablis is the most famous example of this style, but Canada and Chile are making their own delicious, fruit-forward bottles too. Finally, Portuguese Vinho Verde is light-bodied, bone-dry and gently bubbly (sommeliers call that “spritz”). Best of all: It’s budget-friendly.
Pair Them With
- Sauvignon Blanc — Tomato & Bocconcini Salad with Balsamic Glaze
- Unoaked Chardonnay — Grilled Halibut Steaks with Basil-Garlic Butter
- Vinho Verde — Crab Cakes with Zesty Dipping Sauce
Serving Tips: Serve Sauvignon Blanc well-chilled in white wine glasses. Use the same glasses for Vinho Verde, but freeze the bottle for 15 minutes before serving so it’s ice-cold. Serve unoaked Chardonnay in red wine glasses, but pull it from the fridge 15 minutes before pouring.
These summer stars always seem to taste better when sipped outside. Rosés are made from red wine grapes, but the skins only stay briefly in the freshly pressed juice. This gives these wines their pretty colour, which ranges from pale copper to neon pink. New World rosés (ones that aren’t from Europe) are usually deep pink and fruity, with a hint of sweetness. French rosés from Provence, where almost 90 percent of the grape harvest becomes rosé, are very dry, with delicate red-berry flavours. They also have nice herbal notes, which give them a savoury edge.
Pair Them With
Serving Tip: Serve all rosés well-chilled in white wine glasses.
3. Summer Sparklers
Toasting a special occasion with champagne is great, but there are plenty of more-affordable sparkling wines for everyday drinking. Spanish Cava is made the same way as champagne but rarely tops $20. This dry, citrusy sparkler is a tasty companion for cured meats and summery appetizers. Equally inexpensive Prosecco, from northeast Italy, is slightly sweeter, with frothy bubbles and a peachy flavour. For dessert, try Moscato, a sweet, fizzy, low-alcohol wine. It also hails from Italy, but Canada, the U.S. and Australia all make their own bottles.
Pair Cava and Prosecco With
- Smoked Salmon, Capers & Arugula Flatbread
- Spinach, Tomato & Feta Quiche
- Grilled Vegetable & Salmon Bow-Tie Pasta Salad
Pair Moscato With
- Peach & Ginger Pie
- Strawberry-Topped Cake with Honey-Lemon Mascarpone
- 3-Ingredient Dulce de Leche Mousse
Serving Tips: Serve Cava and Prosecco well-chilled in flutes or in white wine glasses with narrow bowls. Moscato is best enjoyed ice-cold in white wine glasses. Skip coupe glasses—they make sparkling wine go flat quickly.
4. Cool Reds
Warm weather doesn’t usually make you think of red wine. But light reds can be refreshing. (Insider tip: Lightly chill them!) Gamay, the workhorse grape of Beaujolais, France, creates tasty reds with strawberry aromas and hints of pepper on the finish. Pinot Noir that’s grown in cool climates such as Ontario or Burgundy, France, is light, with a cherry flavour and bright acidity. Spanish Garnacha (a.k.a., Grenache) is more medium-bodied; after a quick chill, this blackberry-flavoured big-value red is excellent with grilled meat.
Pair Them With
- Gamay — Grilled Sausage with Garlic Bread & Quick Bean Salad
- Pinot Noir — Grilled Rack of Lamb & Roasted Beet Salad
- Garnacha — Steakhouse Burger
Serving Tips: Refrigerate Gamay for one hour and Pinot Noir for 30 minutes before serving in red wine glasses (preferably those with wide bowls to capture their aromas). Serve Garnacha in red wine glasses, but refrigerate it for 20 minutes before pouring.
While we’re talking about summer wines, we can’t help but give a nod to sangria, that refreshing wine-based punch from Spain. Its sweetness pairs well with spicy foods and desserts, and it instantly turns a bottle of fruity, inexpensive wine into a pretty party punch. Try a Sauvignon Blanc for a white wine summer sangria, with ripe peach and honeydew melon slices floating on top. If you prefer red sangria, a Garnacha does the trick, especially when topped with juicy plum slices and blackberries. Don’t forget Sensations by Compliments Italian Sodas—they are great mixers that add layers of flavour.
Best Sangria Recipes
Pair Them With
- White — Grilled Guacamole
- Red — Barbecued Spanish Rice with Sausage & Seafood
- Red — Spicy Steak Tacos
6. Sweet Desserts
- White — Orange Pound Cake with Poppy Seed Glaze
- Red — Honey-Mint Fruit Salad
- Red — Cherry-Chocolate Clafoutis
Serving Tips: Before serving sangria, stock up on ice—you’ll go through a lot! If possible, freeze serving glasses for at least 30 minutes before pouring to help this punch maintain its chill.