Summer time is a perfect time to let loose and relax a little more than usual. Especially if you’ve taken some weeks off for vacation, or even just a staycation! Who doesn’t love a warm breezy sunset outside with a glass of wine, surrounded by loved ones or alone with your four-legged best friend. We sure do! So we’ve done the testing for you and put together a list of quality summer wines, affordable wines with the occasional splurge. We present the wine here based on how much of a buzz is generated – the buzz you get from drinking. Start at the top if you want lower alcohol content wines
that give you a lighter buzz over a few glasses, or skip to the end for the one-and-done kinds. We link to our favorite bottles (no one sponsored these picks!) so you can easily shop and get one step closer to your own relaxing summer nights.
Low Alcohol Wines
We’re grouping low alcohol wines in the 5% ABV (alcohol by volume) to 10% ABV range. Low alcohol wines tend to be sweet, because of residual sugar, and light in body. Grape juice is intensely sweet and then yeast in the fermentation process uses up sugar turning it into alcohol, making wine! Once the desired alcohol level is reached the leftover sugar in wine is called residual sugar (RS). If you’re looking for summer wines with less alcohol many of your options will be sweet, like a Moscato d’Asti or German Rieslings. The following light summer wines are ideal for a celebratory evening when you want to indulge in more than one glass.
Medium Alcohol Wines
Looking at the mid range wines, 10% ABV 10 15% ABV, we get the most diversity of grapes and styles! Definitely check the bottles you buy because sometimes even typically low alcohol wines have a higher ABV (like the Cupcake Vineyard Moscato D’Asti with 12.5% ABV, double the alcohol of Saracco’s!) so remember to look at the labels so you buy what you want for your summer wines. Wines at 10-12% ABV are commonly produced when less sugary grapes are used, often grown in colder climate regions, or even picked early to keep a zesty flavor to complement bubbly sparkling wines. Wines with higher alcohol content will have richer and bolder flavors with more complex layers of acidity and tannin. Acidity levels in wine determine how tart, or sour, the wine tastes. Sweetness masks acidity, so when yeast is left to react with more and more of the sugar creating more alcohol in the wines, acidity becomes more noticeable. Tannin is greatly affected by the winemaking style – herbaceous flavors, also the bitter taste, and dryness are a result of how much tannin is in the wine. Individual preference is important for choosing wines when flavors are more complex, but one tip we use is to splurge on a quality vineyard product over the mass produced labels when you have the chance (It will taste better!)
High Alcohol Wines
Wines with an alcohol content above 15% ABV haven’t been around that long. Yeast used in the fermentation process typically would die and the fermentation would stop naturally around 13% or 14% ABV. Recently stronger yeasts have been developed that allow for higher alcohol levels. In fortified wines the fermenting yeast is stopped by mixing in a grape brandy of high alcohol content, so many fortified wines can reach around 20% ABV. These stronger wines are excellent in smaller serving sizes with a surprising treat: chocolate! While most wines are paired up with dinner food or cheeses, we recommend trying out our high alcohol picks with a rich dessert, preferably something with dark chocolate. The combination will not disappoint!