Summer does not officially begin until June 20, but the long weekend to celebrate the Queen’s birthday generally signifies the unofficial start of the hottest season here in Cayman.
With temperatures on the rise and not peaking until late August or early September, wine drinkers might find it difficult to enjoy their big reds and oaky whites during the long, hot summer – particularly if they’re drinking outdoors somewhere. But there are plenty of good options available for those looking for a glass of wine that can beat the heat, starting this weekend as you raise a glass to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s 90th birthday.
The best way to enjoy wine in the summer is to drink it chilled. For white wine lovers, that does not require a big change because whites are usually served very chilled here in the Cayman Islands. However, if you are drinking outside, the wine, once poured, will warm up in the glass. One way to avoid that is simply to pour smaller glasses and drink it quickly. If you’re someone who usually buys wine by the glass when you’re out and you do not want to drink it quickly before it gets warm, consider buying it by the bottle and pouring smaller glasses. If you don’t want to drink the whole bottle, you could share it or take what you don’t drink home with you.
Another option, as long as you’re not drinking expensive Puligny-Montrachet or a similar fine white wine, is adding ice. Purists might frown on putting ice in wine, but unless the purists are buying your beverages for you, pay them no mind and leave them to drinking hot wine.
If red wine is your preference, then things get a little more challenging. Even if stored properly between 55 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit, a red wine served outside will warm to 70 degrees or even 80 degrees fairly quickly in Cayman’s heat. Drinking red wine (particularly one with an alcohol content of 14 percent or more) that was 80 degrees in temperature is no fun, no matter how much you like the wine. Ice is less an option for red wines, partially because they are generally less acidic than white wines and watered-down red wine can taste flat. Chilling red wine in a refrigerator dulls the flavors and is definitely not something you’d want to do with an expensive bottle. However, there are some less expensive red wines that have lots of flavor when chilled, especially those with higher acidity levels.
For those who prefer red wines, another option is rosé, which, contrary to common belief, is not always sweet like California’s White Zinfandel wines. Depending on where it’s from and the grapes used to make it, rosé can be quite dry and refreshing – and it’s served chilled.
Because rosé is at least partially made from red grapes, it takes on some of the attributes of red wines, giving it complexity and flavors of red fruits and berries not found in white wines. What’s more, since rosé can be made from almost any red grape – everything from Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo and Malbec to Pinot Noir, Grenache and Syrah – it can take on different colors and flavor profiles that will not only appeal to almost any tastes, but can also pair excellently with a variety of foods.
Those looking for an ideal outdoor afternoon rosé should consider the French wines from Provence, an area which produces light pink rosés that are known for being soft, easy-drinking and food friendly, especially with salads and other summer dishes. Dry rosés from other regions like Oregon, Spain, Italy and Argentina, tend to be more robust and better for pairing with heartier meals, but they are still great for outdoor drinking by the pool as well.
Some rosés available here in Cayman from Provence include Chateau d’Esclans Whispering Angel rosé, Miraval rosé and Chateau Minuty ‘M de Minuty’ rosé.
There’s a good reason why Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc are so popular in Cayman: The acidity and tropical fruit flavors make both of those wines perfect for Cayman’s year-round warm climate. For those looking to expand their wine horizons a bit, German Riesling, Austrian Grüner Veltliner, Spanish Verdejo, Italian Gavi and French Chablis are all great choices for summertime drinking and they pair well with the popular summertime foods found locally.
Of course, if you can afford it, Champagne is naturally high in acidity and a wonderful choice for summer, or any other season for that matter. For those who do not have a Champagne budget, but who like some refreshing bubbles in their white wine, try Spanish Cava or sparkling Riesling.
One of the red wines best known for being served cold is Beaujolais, and it does not have to be the gimmicky “nouveau” version which, although fine for casual outdoor drinking, is a bit light for pairing with foods. Cru Beaujolais, like those made in Moulin-á-Vent and Côte de Brouilly, can still be served chilled and have much more depth of flavor, giving them much more versatility at the dinner table.
Other wines that are good served chilled include Italian Barberas or Dolcettos (both great pizza wines), fruity California or New Zealand Pinot Noirs, California Zinfandels, French Côte du Rhône blends or Spanish Crianza Rioja.
Spritzers and sangria
There is another way for wine lovers to drink their favorite beverage, while at the same time enjoying their favorite summertime fruits: in wine spritzers and sangria.
Although some people might scoff at wine spritzers, they are really just cocktails using wine as the alcoholic ingredient. Recipes abound for delicious and refreshing wine spritzers that use watermelon, canteloupe, berries, peaches or citrus fruits, some using inexpensive white wines, others using inexpensive red wines. Many wine spritzers are served over ice, but even those that aren’t are served cold, so they are ideal for summer.
Another popular option is the Spanish wine cocktail, sangria, which blends either red or white wine with mixed fruit and a sweetener, and is usually fortified with a little brandy. Sangria is a great choice for a summertime barbecue, either as an aperitif or as a beverage to carry through the evening. Be careful though: Sangria is sweet and delicious and is very easy to drink. But it also stronger with alcohol than it tastes and is known for causing bad hangovers.