Summer is finally here! And after the spring we had, it's never been more crucial to savor the season. The best way to do that? Venture outdoors with one (or all) of the 9 best wines for camping, lazy days at the beach, and relaxing summer picnics.
Whether you’re going camping (or glamping) or just lounging in your neighborhood park, this guide has got your summer wine-related needs covered. Take a look at how to pick the perfect wines for summer and raise a glass when you reach your destination.
The Best Outdoor Varietals
In the summer, your wine should be like the fabric of your romper: light. Lighter-bodied wines (under 14.5% ABV) are perfect for a hot, sunny day – no matter which kind of wine you prefer.
That’s right, red wine lovers. Even though summer is practically synonymous with white wine and rosé, light reds are totally in season.
And honestly, there’s nothing wrong with popping open a bottle of Cabernet once you get back into the air conditioning. For your outdoor enjoyment, however, you might want to stick with light- to medium-bodied reds. Here are the 9 top varietals for your next outdoor adventure:
1. Sauvignon Blanc
This popular white wine is perfect for your trip to the woods or the shore. Dry and zippy with fruity flavors and its signature “green” streak, Sauvignon blanc is great on its own or with a wide array of foods, from summer salads to your favorite seafood.
2. Vinho Verde
This light-bodied blend from Portugal is also an ideal choice for a hot day spent with your toes in the sand. With notes of lime and pink grapefruit – and coming in at only about 11% ABV – Vinho Verde pairs well with light summer dishes like fish tacos and mango salsa.
Another wine from the Iberian Peninsula, Albariño is a light, zippy wine with notes of lemon zest, nectarine, and saline that’s reminiscent of the seashore. This white wine pairs well with ceviche and sushi.
Chablis comes from northern Burgundy, and although it’s made with Chardonnay grapes, it is not your typical Chardonnay. Chablis is light and lean, with notes of quince and chalk. It’s a perfect pairing for oysters.
5. Grüner Veltliner
Don’t be scared off by the name. Grüner Veltliner (pronounced GROO-ner VELT-leaner) is a popular Austrian white wine with notes of starfruit and crushed gravel. It’s a great choice for picnic foods like tarragon chicken salad and sushi.
This sparkling wine comes from Spain and it’s a bargain compared to Champagne. Light and fizzy with notes of yellow apple and almond, Cava is a dream when it comes to food pairings. It’s a great match with fried food and even heavier dishes like paella.
7. Sparkling Rosé
While any chilled rosé is a treat on a hot day, there’s something extra refreshing about sparkling rosé. Look for a dry variety with notes of strawberry and rhubarb. Garnacha rosé from Spain or Pinot Noir-based rosé from France and Oregon are great for a summer trip.
8. Pinot Noir
We haven’t forgotten about you, red wine lovers. This light and fruity red wine tastes great served chilled and pairs well with salmon, portobello burgers, and grilled chicken.
Another light red wine that’s perfect for a summer night under the stars is Beaujolais and other red wines made from Gamay grapes. Light and fruity, Gamay wines pair well with everything from grilled salmon to beef skewers.
Best Wine Cocktails for Camping
The key to making a wine cocktail in the woods or on the beach is keeping it simple. Leave your shaker at home, and stick to a small handful of ingredients.
The Wine Radler
This is the perfect cocktail for the wine lover who also loves beer. Simply mix your favorite light white wine with a can of your favorite radler (i.e., beer mixed with lemonade). Try it with Riesling or Vinho Verde.
Ros-ade is simply rosé and frozen lemonade – which conveniently comes in a can that you can keep in your cooler. Add a splash of lemon-lime soda to make it a spritzer.
Wine & LaCroix
This concoction is so simple, yet so delicious. To make this most basic wine spritzer, simply fill your glass halfway with wine and then add your favorite sparkling water. Match the flavor of the water with the flavor notes of the wine. For instance, peach-flavored LaCroix will go well with a Pinot Gris or Chenin Blanc.
Tips for Enjoying Vino on the Go
When packing for a camping trip or picnic, think about what you’ll need. The best wines for camping often come in can form – they’re easy to keep cold and they save you the trouble of needing a cup. Similarly, if you go with a screw top bottle, you won’t need a corkscrew.
However, if your favorite wine only comes in a bottle with a cork, don’t let that stop you from living your best life. Just make sure to pack everything you need so you’re not stuck in the woods trying to pop the cork with a Swiss Army knife (It can be done, btw). Consider adding these handy items to your packing list:
- A corkscrew
- Wine glasses – plastic ones, if you have them
- A cooler
- Styrofoam with wine bottle-shaped holes
- A wine picnic basket or backpack
- Cooling gel packs
If you’re driving, fill a cooler with ice and then put your bottles in styrofoam on top of the ice. The styrofoam helps to keep the wine’s temperature consistent, and provides a little extra protection in case you hit any bumps on the road. Once your ice melts, cooling gel packs can help keep your wine chilled.
Going to the lake? Here’s a life hack for keeping your wine cool: Tie a rope around your wine bottle and submerge it in the water – just make sure to keep the cork dry to avoid contamination. When you’re done, remember to pick up any bottles, and leave the natural habitat you visited free from trash.