For many wine lovers, summer is the season for fresher, brighter, lighter wines. These styles can still carry a hefty price tag, but reaching for the more affordable options means you can crush a bottle—or two or three—without the monetary guilt. For inspiration for easy-drinking, warm weather–suited wines that won’t break the bank, we’ve called on six sommeliers from Wine Spectator’s Restaurant Award winners to share their top suggestions. Check out the wide variety of picks from these experts, from effervescent Basque wines and crisp Grüner Veltliners to light-bodied reds and grown-up rosés.
Wine Spectator: What are your favorite wines or regions for affordable summer drinking?
Christian Shaum, beverage director at B. Hospitality Co. in Chicago
For summer sippers, I’m always looking for things that are refreshing and keep my palate from getting fatigued or blown out. I’d point to dry Chenin Blanc from Savennières [in the Loire], someone like Château d’Epire or Domaine des Baumard. This is always a refreshing, complex and ubiquitous food wine that you can put with almost any summer spread.
Also, I’d urge you toward some Grüner Veltliner from Austria’s Wachau. Something from Franz Hirtzberger or Prager at the Federspiel ripeness level is always perfect, as the wine is not too ripe or tropical, so it retains some pleasant green-fruit flavors.
Amanda Abbott, wine director at the Oyster Bar on Chuckanut Drive in Bow, Wash.
I have recently discovered the delightful and reasonably priced white wines from the Friulian region of Collio [in Italy]. One of my favorites is the Tiare Sauvignon Blanc. The nose is bright with hints of lime. The citrus follows through to the palate joined by a fantastic minerality and mild salinity—an excellent pairing with our first-of-the-season, fresh Alaskan halibut.
Patrick Gartner, beverage director at Jack Rose in New Orleans
Clos Cibonne Tibouren Rosé! It is incredibly mature and complex. It's hard to describe how a wine that's been barrel aged for months can be so light unless you are already a huge fan of fino Sherry.
My second answer is crisp and cool fino Sherry. One of my favorite bars in New York has it on draft; we spent many warm afternoons drinking pull after pull of fino.
Katey Taylor, wine director at the Essex in Centerbrook, Conn.
For fun summer drinking and great value, I love wines from Santa Barbara County in California. The transverse mountain range, running east to west from the coast, allows for many microclimates and allows for different varieties, from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay to Syrah and Sauvignon Blanc, grown in this region. One of my favorite wines is Whitcraft Pence Ranch Mt. Eden Clone Pinot Noir, an awesome, light-bodied summer red that pairs wonderfully with a variety of different meats, seafood and flavor profiles.
Another favorite from this region is Stolpman vineyards' Love You Bunches. Both the carbonic [maceration] rosé and Sangiovese are refreshing wines with food or on their own, and great value for the quality!
Jaime Pinedo, wine director at Spruce in San Francisco
The rosés of France’s Provence are perennial and rightfully anticipated arrivals in May and June. Domaine Tempier Bandol Rosé needs no introduction, and there is enough press covering all of the greats from Southern France. A couple of surprising alternatives definitely deserve mention: Margerum Riviera Rosé from Santa Barbara, Calif., was easily the best rosé I tasted last season. Alberto Graci’s Etna Rosato made from Nerello Mascalese is a staple both at and outside work. Tangy, tart and bitter, like a still Aperol spritz.
Natalie Tapken, beverage director at Bluepoint Hospitality Group in Easton, Md.
I think Italy’s Alto Adige is great; those amazing, fresh whites and really light reds. I think Spain’s Bierzo too has some really good, fun, light summer wines. If you go to the Basque [in Spain] for summer, I love Txakoli rosé. Ameztoi does a really nice one, and those are slightly effervescent, really fun summer wines.
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