Nancy Sinatra’s Summer Wine, perhaps her most enchanting and memorable hit, always gets me thinking about what the perfect summertime tipple is. Although the song itself isn’t overly interested in whether sauvignon blanc, chardonnay or chenin blanc are the perfect accompaniment to the warmer weather, it does make you thirsty for a summer time quencher.
It’s difficult to put your finger on what you should be drinking when the sun decides to put its hat on. So many of our wine choices are driven by mood, surroundings, friends, food and budget. Thankfully there are quality wines being produced that suit all budgets, match a huge range of food and help us enjoy our friends’ company even more than we already do!
Crisp, lively whites with cleansing acidity are usually at the forefront of people’s minds when the temperature dial creeps up. Riesling, sauvignon blanc and pinot grigio are reliable when it comes to quenching your thirst, but there’s a whole range of other new (and old) varietals on the block that are giving wine drinkers more choice than ever.
Semillon Sauvignon Blanc
Sauvignon blanc takes on another personality when it is carefully blended with Semillon, a blend that finds particular favour in the glorious Margaret River. A number of Semillon Sauvignon Blanc producers are having huge success with this classic blend, none more so than the team at Lenton Brae whose blend is a lesson in restraint, the punchy herbal character of the sauvignon perfectly tempered by citrus peel and a certain pithiness from the Semillon. Think prawns on the BBQ, al fresco fish and chips and lovely, crisp Thai salads.
The iconic Yalumba, based in South Australia, have always been one of the country’s most progressive wine producers, and they forged the way for many others with their early plantings of Viognier. Recent winemaking trends have seen producers picking their Viognier fruit earlier, allowing all the lovely peach and stone fruit characters of the wine to shine through and avoiding any of the high alcohol and waxiness perhaps seen in the past. Yalumba‘s Y Series is a great forward fruit-driven expression of Viognier, great when paired with summer sunshine and lobster served with a rich creamy sauce. Yalumba are it again with a recent release of Vermentino, a variety originally hailing from Sardinia, in Italy. Vermentino is traditionally light, crisp and clean and is a perfect quaffer when chilled down - perfect for drinking by itself on warm summer evenings.
Other Italian varietals worth exploring are friulano and arneis, both of which are being produced with great success on our shores. Pizzini Arneis, from the King Valley in northern Victoria, with its subtle floral and pear characteristics is lovely as a lone ranger but perfect with salads and grilled veggies off the barbeque. Quealy ‘Amphora’ Friulano from the Mornington Peninsula is an altogether different proposition with more body and weight. It has grip and texture and is an excellent example of clever winemaking with an intimate understanding of the grape variety.
An All-rounded Classic: Chardonnay
For more robust summer meals, it would be foolish to overlook the white grape that helped put Australia on the viticultural map. Chardonnay took a bashing in the last few years following the trend to produce full throttle wines with lots of toasty new oak. Thankfully quality-conscious producers have listened to the consumer and started making wines that truly reflect the region they come from and have reigned in the use of oak and are letting the grape speak. Heading back over to Western Australia there are few better producers than Voyager Estate, who produce chardonnay with power and richness but concurrently elegant and focused.
Whether you’re looking for a light crisp number to drink by itself or something more complex to accompany food, there’s a summer white out there for all occasions - but don’t be afraid to be brave and try something new.