Which wines to drink in hot weather
Which wines should you drink in hot weather - and which should you avoid? Some prefer a cold beer or a long cocktail with heaps of ice or stick to non-alcoholic drinks because they think there is no wine that will be refreshing enough to enjoy when temperatures rise. But for wine-lovers there are definitely some wines that will taste better than others when a heatwave strikes. So here are my tips on which wines to drink in the heat and how to drink them – plus my top current wine-based summer tipple!
I have to admit that neither wine nor indeed any form of alcohol is the best thing to drink in very hot weather. But show me a wine lover who doesn’t enjoy a glass of their favourite tipple whilst sitting on the terrace on a warm summer’s evening or in the shade enjoying a leisurely lunch on a scorching hot day. And of course post-peak-pandemic there are parties to be held to catch up with friends and family members where a few glasses of wine might be consumed. But which wines would be best?
The effects of drinking wine in hot weather on you
We all know the importance of staying well-hydrated in a heatwave – in hot weather our bodies release more fluids to start with. As a diuretic, alcohol messes up the body's water regulation system further, making alcohol more potent, impairing our mental faculties and intensifying the risk of dehydration, heat stroke, exhaustion and even a stroke. So there is absolutely no shame in diluting your wine.
I know there is something very “Abigail's party” about it but spritzing white wines with soda water, tonic water or even sparkling mineral water creates a refreshing long drink, ice-cubes optional. I would stick to diluting only the light, crisp styles of white wine rather than anything too oaky as cooler temperatures will make the oak seem too obvious and I can’t imagine making a spritzer from any red wine or from anything very valuable in your wine cellar. And talking of spritzers, don't forget my recipe for Aperol Spritz as detailed in my blog though in particularly hot weather I would add more soda than usual to the mix.
Whether you decide to dilute or not, always make sure that you drink plenty of water in between sips of wine.
The characteristics of wine to drink in hot weather
The best wines to drink when the temperatures outside are soaring are:
Low in alcohol
Wines with medium to high ABV, anything over 13%, are likely to heat you up and dehydrate you more than alcohol wines at 12.5% ABV or lower. Wines that are lower in alcohol are generally lighter in body and so will also seem less heavy. The high alcohol in some wines will seem more intense in hot weather and is likely to make you feel more sluggish in the heat. Alcohol-wise, low is the way to go.
High in acidity
Wines that are low in acidity can seem flat, heavy and lacking in freshness. In hot weather we are more likely to want wines that are mouth-wateringly fresh with clean fruit flavours and aromas. In general white wines and rosés have higher acidity than reds and wines from cool climate regions be more refreshing than wines from hotter climes. You can read more about acidity in wine in my blogpost.
Low in tannin
Tannins can seem very drying at the best of times but more so in hot weather so avoid heavily tannic red and rosé wines. And if you chill your red wine, the tannins will overpower the fruit flavours of the wine and make the wine taste quite metallic and bitter. If you are following the guidance towards a wine that’s high in acidity, beware, as high tannins will clash with high acidity. Red or rosé wines that are low in tannins will seem lighter and will allow the fruit flavours to dominate.
Wines that have more than a very light touch of oak will also seem heavier in hot weather so stick to unoaked or lightly oaked wines. Chilling an oaked wine too much can make the oak seem very bitter.
White wines to drink in hot weather
Look for light- or medium- bodied white wines with low alcohol and high acidity which will make the mouth water and keep you refreshed. You are more likely to find choice in the crisp light white and aromatic styles of white wine than in rich, creamy whites. Great white wines to drink in a heatwave are Picpoul de Pinet, cool climate Sauvignon Blanc from places like the Loire and New Zealand and Albariño which is usually unoaked. A heavily oaked Chardonnay would not be the best choice but, if you want to stick to Chardonnay, make sure it is unoaked like a traditional Chablis.
I've always enjoy the delights of Portugal's vinho verde in hot weather. This white wine is notoriously light, low in alcohol at around 11.5% and even has a touch of spritz. And talking of bubbles, don’t forget chilled sparkling wine makes a good choice too – just stick to the same principles, lighter in style, only lightly oaked or unoaked and with high acidity – why not try a Crémant de Bourgogne, a champagne-method, champagne style wine that’s lighter and fruitier.
Rosé wines to drink in hot weather
Lighter Provence style rosés are all the rage in the summer – and rightly so as they are the perfect wine for hot weather. That’s not to say that a more aromatic style of rosé won’t do – just make sure it’s unoaked or not too oaky in style. This unoaked Sancerre rosé and this very lightly oaked Burgundy rosé from the Gamay grape are both delicious chilled.
Red wines to drink in hot weather
Red wine may not be the obvious choice but if you are a red wine drinker, why compromise – just make sure you chose the right type of red wine. High acidity and low tannins are essential so look for wines produced from Pinot Noir, Gamay, Barbera, Grenache (though beware of alcohol levels) and lighter styles of Rioja that are not heavily oaked. Some, but not all, red wines can be quite refreshing if chilled, especially lighter fruity styles like Beaujolais.
How to serve wine on hot days
Most wines display their best characteristics when consumed at room temperature but that just won’t do on a very hot day. Most of us will automatically serve white and rosé wine chilled – but as suggested above, try it with lighter red wines too. Even half an hour in the fridge before pouring will make a difference. And don’t let your wine bottle heat up in the blazing sunshine – your wine will be better if kept cool in the fridge or in an ice bucket in between rounds.
And if you have forgotten to chill your wine, you can get it to the right temperature pretty quickly by putting the wine bottle in an ice bucket filled with half ice cubes / half water. I recently read that adding table salt to the mix (about 30g per litre of water) will chill a bottle in just three minutes. To be tested on an appropriately hot day!
Bear in mind that chilling a wine will make it colder but might also alter its taste so don’t be surprised if your favourite wine tastes quite differently from normal.
A wine-based drink for hot weather
And for my current favourite summer tipple… you may have heard of the craze in the last few years for drinking white port chilled but Johnny Graham, winemaker at Churchill Estates, whose amazing wines and ports I love, introduced me to chilled tawny port, something I would never had considered. It’s lovely with or without soda water. According to Johnny chilling should only be done with maximum 10 year old tawny port.
Whichever wine you are drinking when it’s hot outside, make sure you keep hydrated by drinking lots of water in between the alcohol. Stay cool!
© Wines With Attitude Limited, www.wineswithattitude.co.uk
Lindsay Cornelissen DipWSET is passionate about good quality wine and set up Wines With Attitude to share that passion with other wine lovers.