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Wine Toast Outdoor Dining
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If Summer Fridays and weekends at the beach are any indication, summer is the ultimate opportunity to cash in on some much-needed chill time. And, whether you’re lounging poolside or cozying up next to a s’mores-ready fire pit, rest and relaxation tastes so much better with a glass of vino in hand. Though most oenophiles will tell you that a great varietal or vintage can be enjoyed year-round, there are certain specifications you’ll want to consider when choosing the perfect bottle for summer. Since summer is notorious for its sweltering heat, you’ll want to find a blend that’s light and refreshing. You know, almost air conditioning in a glass. After all, those rich, heavier wines will be a little too much once the temperature’s in the triple digits.

Wine Glasses and Shadows

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1. Sidestep the Sweet Stuff

“Rosé all day” might be a standard summertime saying—and sip—but it’s not without its merits. “Although it’s become almost cliché now, rosé is a summertime go-to for me, but the wine geek inside me won’t let go of an insistence for high quality,” says Jay James, master sommelier and president at Benchmark Wine Group. For a great glass, James recommends looking at drier rosés from the Mediterranean. (He cites wine regions like Grenache, Mourvèdre, Carignan, and Cinsault as a few of his favorites.) 

2. Bring out the Bubbly

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Alternatively, if you’re looking for something with a bit of a “wow” factor, James said you can’t go wrong with champagne. “Something light and refreshing in summer heat is key,” he said. Looking for an extra fizz for your happy hour al fresco? Check out these sparkling, west coast-based sips.

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3. Match Your Meal

Whether you’re serving perfectly ripe produce or something fresh off the grill, it’s important to consider how your menu will play into your wine pairing. According to James, it’s all about matching the wine textures with the food’s flavors and styles. 

For example, summer fare like barbecue can be inherently salty, so James avoids wines with higher alcohol content because they can “clash and create bitter flavors.” An alternative: “Sauvignon Blanc with a salad featuring fresh shrimp,” he suggests. “Light and crisp fruit in the wine pairs, but doesn’t overpower the delicate dish.”  

4. Don’t Discredit Red Wines

Malbec, Merlot, and Sangiovese–let’s face it: Red wines are often thought of as rich, robust, and far too heavy for summer. But, according to the pros, you shouldn’t swear off red wine once the temperature rises. Instead, it’s all about picking the right varietal.

“Lighter extraction red wines are excellent alternatives,” says Kashy Khaledi, Proprietor, Ashes & Diamonds Winery in Napa. “Consider them the Swiss Army knife of any occasion: They provide full flavors and are crisp, clean, and refreshing.”

Khaledi has a soft spot for chillable reds like rosatos and rosas. Not only are they light enough to be delicious during the dog days of summer, but they’re also incredibly versatile. (He even says they pair with “just about any style of barbecue.”) “If a guest wants an Aperol spritz or negroni, serve them a rosa,” Khaledi adds. “You will make them happy.

Toasting Wine Glasses

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5. Optimize Your Order

Since summertime is all about outdoor entertaining, it can be all too tempting to use your next gathering to open up your finest bottles with the people you love most. But while sharing is caring, James says it’s important to be cognizant about what you open up and when.

“If you want to open the rock star, do it early, when everyone you’re sharing it with will have the best chance to truly appreciate its quality and value,” he explains. “I know many wine lovers who have lamented opening that special bottle after midnight.”

Instead, James encourages hosts to have a “defensive wine” on deck; a beautiful and budget-friendly bottle that can be enjoyed… well, whenever. For inspiration, check out these strategies for finding that perfect economical bottle

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