The Top 5 Wines for Summer

One of the things I love the most about summers in Texas is pool parties. When the heat is on, we tend to congregate with our friends around the pool, the grill and our favorite wines. There's no better time -- in my experience -- to break out all those under-$25, easy-drinking, low-alcohol wines to share with friends. (And of course, Tracie P and I get invited to all the best pool parties because we're the ones who bring the wine!)

The title of this post is deceptive: I just couldn't resist adding a sixth "bonus" wine at the end. Every year, it seems, more and more great wines make it to our market and there are so many great values out there, especially during this time of year when wine sellers are focusing on reasonably priced quaffers.

Just keep in mind that during summer, we tend to eat saltier foods and we tend to drink more to quench our thirst: Low-alcohol wines are the key to food-friendly pairings that we can enjoy more liberally.

One last note: When shopping for these fresh, bright, youthful wines, make sure that your wine seller gives you the most recent vintage (and not a bottle that's been sitting on the shelf since last year). Wine-Searcher.com is a great resource for checking availability of current releases and pricing (it's what I use).

Happy summer, everyone!

5. Sicilio Etna Rosso: There is perhaps no greater value in fine wine today than Southern Italy. I've been loving the earthiness and dark red fruit of this superb Etna Rosso (Sicily) made on the northern slopes of Mt. Etna -- an active volcano. Don't be afraid to chill this red wine, my top pick for summer burger pairing. (Under $25 at the Houston Wine Merchant.)

4. Darting Pfalz Scheurebe Spätlese Dürkheimer Spielberg: The only thing I regret about opening a wine like this is that it would have only continued to get better as it aged in my cellar. Wonderful acidity, focused and fresh white stone fruit, and just enough residual sugar (and low enough alcohol at around 10.5 percent) that my mother-in-law will definitely ask for a second glass with her Chex Mix. This wine, by the way, will keep well after opening, a perfect weekday wine to enjoy over the course of two, three or even four days. (Under $25 at the Houston Wine Merchant.)

3. Terlano Lagrein Rosé: Together with Mourvèdre (Bandol, France) and Negroamaro (Puglia, Italy), Lagrein from German-speaking Italy is -- in my opinion -- one of the greatest rosé grapes. This wine is all about freshness and bright fruit, but it also delivers just enough tannin to make it pair superbly with, say, herbed and grilled salmon, whose beautiful color is rivaled only by the gorgeous pink hue of this wine. (Under $20 at the Houston Wine Merchant.)

2. Scarpetta Spumante Brut Rosé Timido: This wine from Friuli, Italy, by Master Sommelier Bobby Stuckey (of La Frasca fame) is currently our favorite pizza wine. Gorgeous cherry and berry fruit flavors, gentle bubbles and balanced alcohol. (Under $25 at Spec's.)

1. Bottex Vin du Bugey-Cerdon La Cueille: Don't worry about pronouncing the name of this wine -- my number one wine for summer 2012. Just drink it. Made mostly from Gamay, with smaller amounts of Poulsard, this light, bright sparkler pops with bright red fruit and weighs in at around 8 percent alcohol. I cannot think of a better and more versatile wine to pair poolside. (Under $30 at the Houston Wine Merchant.)

BONUS WINE: Groth Sauvignon Blanc: Last week, I tasted this California wine at a wedding reception at the famous restaurant Brix in Napa. It was bright and fresh, varietally correct (it also has a little bit of Sémillon in it) and it had that zing (read acidity) that I crave, especially during summer. (Under $20 at Spec's.)

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