Beyond the Vines: Wine Pairings Made Simple for Summer

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The hottest days of wine country are here, and its all about keeping flavors light and fresh while you’re enjoying those decadent farm-to-table meals. if you’ve ever wondered what what wines to pair with your summer fare, then look no further. I asked three winemakers from top winemaking regions on their recommendations on the perfect wine pairings for light, summery foods. Santé!

Napa Valley

Nova Cadamatre of Mondavi Winery – Oakville, Ca

Nova Cadamatre of Mondavi Winery
Nova Cadamatre of Mondavi Winery

Nova is one of the newest winemakers at Robert Mondavi Winery in Oakville, CA, a region famous for its Sauvignon Blanc and Bordeaux varietals. The 10-year veteran winemaker says, “When choosing a wine for summer fare, look for wines with fresh acid and lighter body.”

“A great summer go-to wine for me is always a dry rose. Our Robert Mondavi Winery 2013 Napa Valley Rose is delicious as an aperitif on its own or as a great wine choice for the season’s more savory dishes such as seared Salmon with Succotash.

For a white I would choose the Robert Mondavi Winery 2012 Oakville Fume Blanc to pair with Tuna Nicoise Salad. The acidity of the wine will revive the palate and it creates a nice counterpoint to the tuna’s fatty flavors.  More generally speaking, the fresh, herbal notes of our Fume complement lighter summer foods perfectly.

For really intensely-flavored dishes, I always recommend a wine with an equally intense flavor profile.  One of my favorite pairings is the Robert Mondavi Winery 2011 Napa Valley Merlot team with our winery Chef Jeff Mosher’s creation Chicken Thigh Risotto with Chanterelle Mushrooms and Salsa Verde – delicious!

Bill Hardy of Hardy’s Wine – Austraila

Bill is the great great grandson of Hardys founder Thomas Hardy. After 27 vintages abroad and in Australia, Bill was appointed Hardys Brand Ambassador and Corporate Oenologist in 1995. He now travels around Australia and the world promoting his family’s proud winemaking history, the wines of Hardys and the stories behind them.

Bill Hardy
Bill Hardy of Hardy’s Wine

“Summer generally demands wines that have good acidity and not too much body or tannin, that can be chilled and are therefore really refreshing.”

“I am a great fan of Rosé in summer. It looks really pretty on the table and, with a little more body than white wine and often a touch of sweetness,  it pairs wonderfully with Asian salads. Hardys Stamp of Australia Shiraz Rose with Thai Beef Salad is a classic example.

For seafood, particularly warm seafood dishes, a chilled, modern lemony style of Chardonnay is ideal. The William Hardy Chardonnay with grilled prawns or lobster drizzled with a little top-quality  butter or olive oil and cracked black pepper is ‘to die for’.

The Nottage Hill Pinot Noir, which can be comfortably chilled to 14ºC or 15ºC (57 ºF or 59ºF), is ideal with salads involving tomatoes, beets or berries, as well as simple light pasta dishes.

Sebastián Labbé of Carmen – Chile  

Carmen is the oldest winery in Chile and its Head Winemaker Sebastián Labbé, has some great recommendations for warm-weather wine and food pairings.

Sebastián Labbé of Carmen
Sebastián Labbé of Carmen Image via

Robert Mondavi Winery Oakville Fume Blanc bottle high“For summer, I recommend red and white wines that are fresh, vibrant and dominated by fruit – rather than oaky, heavier wines. Our carménère is a great, fruity red varietal that is largely undiscovered in the United States, but it’s incredibly popular in Chile.  A cool climate Sauvignon Blanc is a nice choice for summer, too.  Our estate vineyard in Leyda Valley consistently produces an elegant Sauvignon Blanc.

Finding a great red wine in the summer can be challenging; with notes of spices, tobacco and earthy aromas, Carménère pairs nicely with a spicy dish such as chicken curry.”

In terms of whites, Labbé suggests pairing the Chardonnay with fresh fish such as Sea Bass or Tuna, or something a bit creamier such as King Crab Cannelloni with cheese sauce. For the Sauvignon Blanc, Labbé likes something a bit lighter such as a Peruvian Fish Ceviche, which plays on the different levels of acidity.

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