Thoughts on: Wine and Summer

Well, it’s officially August. Summer-time in Barcelona means different things for different people; days on the beach, parties late into the night… for me, I commonly associate it with unbearable heat, stifling humidity and worst of all, an almost complete inability to enjoy a bottle of wine without it turning into soup. You know the story; you pour yourself a lightly chilled glass of wine and by the time it’s taken you to drink half the glass, your wine has changed from a refreshing beverage to a lifeless, bitter concoction with little resemblance to the drink of barely 10 minutes prior. So where does that leave us? Two options, really:

  1. Fight the heat! Find ways to enjoy your drink without the heat killing the experience. Lighter styles of wines, ice-buckets, cocktails and cold beers really come into their own over the summer.
  2. Take a month off drinking! A great opportunity to… why are you laughing? I’m serious. What? I was just sayi…. Fine, ok, we’ll focus on point 1, then, shall we? Sheesh.

Lighter styles of wine: We commonly associate Spanish wine with full bodied reds and with good reason; it’s really the signature style of the country and accounts for a huge proportion of overall production. However, in cooler areas of the country, refreshing, lighter styles of wines not only exist but thrive:

Whites wines: Look out for Albarino from Rias Baixas, Godello from Valdeorras, Verdejo from Rueda and Picpoul from Catalunya. These are all light, fragrant and high acid styles of wines that will be both refreshing and relatively easy to pair with food and of course being Spanish, are unlikely to break the bank.

Red wines: Consider Sumoll from the Penedes and Mencia from Ribera Sacra. In theory you can play around with any sort of lighter red wine but I particularly like those with red fruit flavours, high acid and a certain austerity to the style.

Sangria: There is no better time of the year to grab a jug of Sangria than the summer. It’s pretty simple stuff to make and you can use very affordable wine as the base; the simple, fruity wine you can buy by the litre in traditional Bodegas is ideal. Check out this easy recipe from the food network.

Young Cava is also a strong choice for the summer with its light body and refreshing acidity and of course, Fino Sherry is more or less designed for this sort of blistering heat. Fino Sherry served lightly chilled with a bowl of almonds and olives on the side; bliss.

Service of wine: Spanish wine culture isn’t that fantastic and it’s quite common to find wine being served far above the desired temperature at the best of times. Never be afraid to ask for an ice-bucket, even for red wines. In this heat I like to pour red wine much, much cooler than I would ordinarily drink it, safe in the knowledge that it will heat up in a matter of minutes. This allows me to start sipping at the cooler end of the spectrum and finish the glass at the perfect temperature and with lighter bodied red wines, sipping them chilled is really quite lovely!

Cocktails and beer: In truth, I drink less wine during the summer than at any other point of the year. Whilst there is no substitute for a glass of wine with dinner, I’d far prefer to grab a cold beer or a refreshing cocktail at most other times during the day. You can barely throw a stone in Barcelona without hitting a gin bar at the moment, which is a drink that can quite happily sit in the sunshine filled with ice and not care one bit. Time to take advantage of that!

Trying not to drink over summer with the days on the beach and the increase in social activity is pretty difficult, but there is a good case for cutting down a bit, at least. Alcohol dilates the blood vessels near the skin, instigating sweating which, I think we can all agree, is not something that needs extra encouragement at this time of the year. In truth, completely cutting out drinking for a short period is something I like to do from time to time anyway and summer isn’t a bad place to give this a go for a week or two. Whichever route you choose, make sure to have fun, stay hydrated and enjoy the summer!