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Summer Sippers

Great wines for summer sipping, plus where to find them in town

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Rose Austin Wine
Sip these summer wines, available in Austin. Courtesy of Lucien Albrecht

As we transition into the warm summer months when backyard barbecues and pool parties reach their pinnacle, it’s always nice to have a good selection of wine on hand either to serve guests, or to offer as a gift for friends who are hosting.

But when you’re staring down the aisles of your neighborhood wine merchant, it can be easy to glaze over at the many options available. How do you know which wine to choose? What styles represent the best for summer? How do you break away from your old standby selections? Don’t fret, we’ve got just the wines your looking for — and where you can find them in town.

White Wines
Whether crisp and dry, or slightly sweet, a nice cold white wine can cool off any long day at the office. While it’s just fine to stick with varieties you know, this summer, expand your palate to try new things such as dry Alsatian Riesling, fragrant and fruity White Rhones, or zippy Austrian Grüner Veltliners and Italian Vermentinos. You can always stick with the familiar Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, but try to find ones that are exceptions to the norm.

2012 Simmonet Febvre Saint Bris Sauvignon Blanc
Whole Foods, $12
Though it’s odd to find a Sauvignon Blanc coming out of the Burgundy region, this is a crisp, refreshing wine with a medium body and fresh floral, citrus and green notes that is great for hot days during summer. Pairs well with Caprese salad, grilled fish, and picnic fare.

2012 Ipsum Verdejo
Spec’s, approximately $12
A Spanish gem from the Rueda region, the Verdejo grape is both aromatic and herbaceous; a perfect substitute for Sauvignon Blanc fans. This particular wine has beautiful notes of lemon and lime zest, white flowers and summer herbs with a hint of salinity on the palate. A great wine for summer salads, grilled shrimp or scallops.

2012 Jordan Chardonnay
Spec’s, HEB, Whole Foods, approximately $30
For those who just can't do without Chardonnay, this is a must-try wine. Fuji apple and fresh, ripe pear mingle with bright citrus tones and a touch of vanilla for a Chardonnay that comes as close to white Burgundy as you’ll likely ever find from the U.S. Try this with poached or cured salmon or a mid-day brunch quiche.

Rosé Wines
White wine is fine, but Rosé is better. Forget what you know about cheap White Zinfandel in a box — these days pink is the way to go. Don't believe us? Just check out John Bonné’s recent article in the San Francisco Chronicle, “Is pink the new white?” Rosé has all the zesty acidity and refreshing verve as white wine, with the added fruitiness and depth of red wine. And in the hot Texas climate, it’s something we can enjoy all year.

2013 Miraval Cote de Provence
Whole Foods, approximately $24
Full disclosure, this wine is the first release from famed celebrity duo Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. But don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it. A combined venture with the Jolie-Pitts and the famed Perrin family, this wine has become a fast favorite for the summer. With bright acidity and a balance of strawberry, grapefruit and cherry blossom, try this with grilled seafood or a cheese and charcuterie plate.

Mulderbosch Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé
Triangle Wine and Spirits, approximately $11
Specifically grown for Rosé production, this wine is the perfect “bridge” wine for red wine drinkers who need something a little lighter in the hot summer months. Black cherry, black currant and a touch of watermelon make this an excellent picnic wine. Serve with charcuterie, seared tuna, or our personal favorite, a juicy grilled burger.

Lucien Albrecht Crémant d'Alsace Brut Rosé
Spec’s, approximately $22
Nothing brightens up Rosé like bubbles. And the secret to avoiding an expensive Champagne purchase is to head east of the region to Alsace, where sparkling Crémant d'Alsace is some of the best sparkling wine for the price. You can’t beat this Lucien Albrecht, with flavors of strawberry and wild cherry along with a pleasing creamy texture and long finish.

Red Wines
Just because it’s hot outside, doesn’t mean red wine completely loses its place at the table. Typically, it’s better to serve lighter styles of Pinot Noir, Gamay (Beaujoulais), and Zwiegelt. But you can get away with any red as long as you treat it right. Though it’s said that you should serve red wine at room temperature, this is usually for places around the world where room temperature is somewhere around 65 degrees — which is not Texas.

When wine is served in a too-warm climate, all you end up tasting is alcohol, not the nuances of fruit, earth and spice. The key to good summer red wine is chilling it. That’s right, put that sucker in the fridge! If you give it a good 15-20 minutes cool down before serving, you should be in good shape. (A little longer if you are planning to serve it outside.) People may look at you funny, but you’ll be the one with the upper hand.

Cain ‘Cain Cuvee’ NV10 
Spec’s, approximately $34
From a special Spring Mountain winery in the Napa Valley region, this is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot that is surprisingly light and refreshing in style. It pairs beautifully with seared tuna and grilled meats. 

2012 CrossBarn Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
Spec’s, approximately $35
From the skillful hands of famed winemaker Paul Hobbs, this CrossBarn Pinot Noir is a more value-driven second label that carries through in quality and overall structure from his namesake label. A perfect summer Pinot, this wine has cherry-raspberry fruitiness with restrained character and balance that would be perfect with grilled pork loin.

2010 Sequoia Grove Cabernet Sauvignon
Spec’s, Davenport Wine & Spirits, approximately $39
Even in summertime there’s always someone who just has to have a big Cabernet Sauvignon. This is one that won’t compete too heavily with the summer heat, but has smoky chocolate and dark fruit characteristics that make for a perfect grilled steak pairing.

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