When we talk about wine pairing, it’s usually a match made with food — a Syrah with steak, Grüner Veltliner with vegetables, and Merlot with chicken — but in the summer, we tend to think in terms of activities. The wine we drink while lounging poolside (you know it’s rosé) doesn’t necessarily feel right on a breezy beach night. To improve our summer drinking game, we turned to Stephanie Danler, creator of the show Sweetbitter and author of the best-selling novel with the same title. Before she became a writer, Danler honed her wine-pairing skills in New York’s high-end restaurant industry, and this summer, she’s co-opening a wine store, Desierto Alto, in Joshua Tree, California. To celebrate Sweetbitter’s second season, which premieres July 14 at 9 p.m. on STARZ, Danler chose the perfect wine for five summery activities, laid out in the infograph below. It’s our cheat sheet to better choices — at least when it comes to wine.
Backyard Barbecue: Pinot Noir
Chilled, fruit-driven red wines for one and all! Yes, put your lighter-bodied reds on ice, and that includes pinot noir. I’m usually looking for a pinot that’s peppery and round, with some tart acidity. It’s still the wine everyone is guaranteed to love.
Pool Day: Rosé
Day-drinking in summer means rosé. I can get down with something cheap and cheerful, but a slight upgrade is usually well worth it. Try the herb-scented, strawberry-colored rosés from Loire Valley regions like Chinon and Anjou.
Clambake: Spanish White Wine
Where there’s seafood, there’s bound to be white wine. Instead of a sauvignon blanc, try a Spanish white wine. There are salty albariños and floral whites from Penedès, but Basque Country’s Txakolina (chah-kuh-leena) is slightly sparkling with tons of citrus notes.
Bonfire on the Beach: Rioja
The beach usually cools down a bit at night, so you might want a red wine with a bit more substance if you find yourself fireside. I love a smoky, leathery Rioja made from medium-bodied, ripe-cherry-scented tempranillo grapes.