It’s hot, so hot the hazy air seems to shimmer abové your friend’s poolside patio. Why did you agree to come to this sweltering late afternoon barbecue? You’re dying for a crackling, cool drink. But when the thermometer tops 100F, a cocktail, maybe; beer, sure; but wine is probably the last thing on your mind.
I’m here to change that.
In the past six weeks, as I suffered heat waves in Paris, Bordeaux, New York, and on my own deck in Connecticut, where I couldn’t go barefoot because the wood was scorching to stand on, I’ve given plenty of thought to which wines are ideal in hot weather.
The requirements for a heatwave-ready wine are dead simple: high acidity and low alcohol, preferably well below 12.5%.
Higher alcohol literally makes you feel hotter, and the air’s heat makes the alcohol in the wine seem even more obvious. Big, rich wines with low acidity make you feel sluggish and sleepy, while citrusy, high-acid examples have the kind of liveliness and refreshment you get from tart lemonade. Super light, crisp whites or rosés with zing will do. Also, a third rule: Avoid wines aged in oak because they taste heavy and listless in the heat.
You might be thinking, why not hard seltzer? I still don’t get the point of this wildly popular (and wildly synthetic) canned beverage. Not when you can just as easily make your own spritzer with sparkling water and a tasty wine.
My all-time perfect hot-weather wine is Spain’s txakoli (pronounced CHOCK oh lee, and also called txakolina), from vineyards that hug the cool, rainy Basque country coast not far from San Sebastian. Wine lovers can’t get enough of this slightly fizzy wine in August.
Txakoli has a kinship with the region’s pristine beaches, where surfers ride awesome waves. It’s the local white, made primarily from hondarrabi zuri and hondarrabi beltza grapes grown on bluffs overlooking the Atlantic, and it’s always light, cool, tangy, citrusy, salty, and lightly spritzy, like ocean spray. The wines usually clock in at about 10.5% alcohol. (For comparison, think of all those big powerful Napa cabs that boast nearly 15% or more.)
A half-dozen other whites-Portugal’s Vinho Verde, German rieslings, moschofilero from Greece, Alpine whites, Muscadet-also qualify as thirst quenchers on hot, hot days, as do tangy rosés, though some have more alcohol than you’d expect.
As for a red? It has to be light-bodied and fruity, with low alcohol and very little tannin. Thick-textured tannic reds taste metallic when served cold. Look for Italian reds from schiava, lagrein, and frappato grapes.
The following 11 wines are fantastic when chilled and have enough aroma and flavor to star in a spritzer. Best of all: They’re delicious, even when you’re not sweating.
- 2018 Txomin Etxaniz Getariako Txakolina. Citrusy, spicy, and juicy, this widely available white (10.5% alcohol) has floral and mineral aromas, as well as bright lime zest and green apple flavors.
- 2018 Ameztoi Getariako Txakolina ($22). Deliciously herbal, this txakoli has fresh aromas of mint and a spicy, soft effervescence. Its 10.5% body has a wonderful freshness. (Also check out Ameztoi’s fruity rosé txakoli, Rubentis.)
- 2017 Selbach-Oster Riesling Kabinett ($21). Just about any riesling Kabinett from Germany’s Mosel Valley will brighten your August. This one is slightly off-dry, with honeysuckle and slate aromas, crackling lime-like acidity, and just 9.5 percent alcohol.
- 2018 Weingut Furst Elbling ($13). This easy-going, refreshing, super dry-as-a-martini German white is made from the historic elbling grape. Few producers are still making it. It has 10.5% alcohol and is available in one-liter bottles.
- 2017 Domaine des Ardoisieres Argile Blanc. This Alpine white, a hot seller in the Hamptons, comes from an incredibly steep vineyard in the shadow of Mont Blanc, tastes like a crystalline stream from a melting glacier, and has 11% alcohol.
- 2018 Aphros Ten Loureiro Vinho Verde. The name comes from the idea of being fermented to 10% alcohol. It’s the lightest, freshest, most gulp-able wine from Vasco Croft, one of the pioneers of biodynamic farming and winemaking in Portugal.
- 2018 Niepoort Docil Loueiro Vinho Verde ($15). White flowers, citrus, and mandarin orange mark this delicate white from a top producer. It’s more elegant than the Aphros, with a tad more alcohol.
- 2018 G.D. Vajra Moscato d’Asti. This is a day-drinking wine, even in a heat wave. Fun, lightly sweet, and sparkling, with pure, intense orange blossom and apricot aromas and flavors of fresh citrus and spice. At a mere 5.5% alcohol, it’s almost like a sessionable beer.
- 2018 Bonavita Terre Siciliane Rosato ($24). This mouthwatering rosé from Sicily is zippy with notes of cherries and raspberries. It’s a serious wine, with 11.5% alcohol.
- 2018 Lioco Indica Rosé. Juicy, fresh watermelon notes, an almost jittery acidity, and 12.4% alcohol define this organic rosé from Mendocino, California.
- 2017 Planeta Frappato ($20). Spicy and tart, this summery light red is made in Sicily, not far from the sea. At 12.5%, it’s fragrant, with aromas of roses and violets, and shows the fresh crunchiness of red berries.