Believe it or not, wine consumption generally goes down during the hot summer months in Chicago. Sure, there are many parties and get-togethers and you would think that this would equate to increased wine consumption. But au contraire mes amis. If you really think about it, it’s a lot of beer (hopefully, good ones) and mixed drinks like gin & tonics during the summer months. But we’re out to change that.
There are all sorts of great summer wines---Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Beaujolais, Rosé just to name a few---but there are also great wine “mixed drinks.”
Here are a few to consider:
The obvious one: Wine Spritzer
Back in the 1970s (for those of us old enough to remember) the wine spritzer was huge! It’s simple. Fill a wine glass about ⅓ full with wine. Add ice. Top it off with club soda or seltzer. Finish with a lemon twist. It’s light, airy and very refreshing. Goes down very quickly on a hot day, but no worries…spritzers have the added benefit of half the calories and half the alcohol of a full glass of wine.
(A twist on the regular wine spritzer is to make it with White Port instead of red or white wine. The port is a bit higher in alcohol and nuttier in flavor. Really nice aperitif.)
Another obvious one: Sangria
Sangria originated in Spain. Typically, it was a blend of local wine (red, white or rosé), a sweetener like sugar or lemon-lime soda, chopped fruit (whatever’s in season, but usually apples and peaches), and brandy. There’s no right or wrong about how you make sangria. It’s just what you like. Search the Internet to find lots of sangria recipes. Like it lighter? Use less brandy. Like it sweeter? Add some honey or sugar. Like it less sweet? Use club soda or seltzer instead of a sweet soda. Like it fruitier? Add some orange juice.
More elegant: Bellini
The Bellini harkens back to mid-20th century, a creation of Giuseppe Cipriani, founder of Harry’s Bar in Venice. Legend has it that its pinkish color reminded Cipriani of a painting by Giovanni Bellini, and he ran with the name. Made from fresh peaches it was only available in late summer. The recipe has been tweaked to allow the use of peach nectar when fresh peaches aren’t available. Traditionally it’s made from a puree of white peaches mixed with Prosecco (Italian sparkling wine from the region.)
My personal favorite: Sgroppino
Like the Bellini, this drink originated in Italy. Again, there are many variations of this drink online, but the basics are Prosecco (or any sparkling wine), vodka and lemon sorbet. To make four cocktails, the approximate quantities are: 4 oz. Prosecco, 1 oz. vodka, and 16 oz. lemon sorbet. Mix them together by hand or whip them in a blender. Garnish with a sprig of mint or a twist of lemon.
Other fun options:
• Wine in a can by Union Wine Company in Oregon. Perfect for on-the-boat or by-the-pool, this Can O’ Wine comes in two varietals: Underwood Pinot Gris or Pinot Noir. Each 12.5 oz. can is equivalent to ½ bottle of wine.
• Tess (by Peju Province Winery in Napa) is a blend of slightly off-dry red and white wine in the same bottle. Chill it slightly and it’s perfect for sipping on the patio.
• Innocent Bystander Pink Moscato from Australia is sweet, citrusy and slightly effervescent. Sealed with a beer cap. It’s just fun. Chill it. Pour it over ice. Add some fruit. Any and all of that. It’s delicious.
Whatever you choose, remember summer isn’t just about beer and mixed drinks. There are an awful lot of good wine options out there.
Cabernet and Company
with Alixe Lischett
Alixe Lischett is owner of Cabernet and Company in Glen Ellyn. She offers her 20 years of expertise in the wine industry to the DuPage County community.