Not to put too much import on something as silly as summer wines, but this year they have to work harder than ever. Run-of-the-mill rosés and humdrum white wines will not cut it. Finding the exact right thing to give space and a little bit of pause is necessary at this point. And if pét-nat is what you need to get just a little bit of a break, we’re here for it.
To get a sense of what’s resonating during this most unusual summer, we asked 10 wine pros what they’re drinking right now. Turns out, pét-nat is the overwhelming go-to—be it from Sonoma, Trentino, Provence or the Loire. It’s joined by a coastal rosé, a skin-contact moschofilero, a floral Chilean white wine with a bigger story to tell, a sauvignon blanc that will change your mind about the grape and many more. Here, a varied—and very bubbly—wine playlist to get you through the next six weeks.
“Made from 100 percent zinfandel in Dry Creek Valley, California, this wine has an amazing mineral-driven acidity and a fresh red fruit juiciness that delves into guava and lemon verbena territory. It’s fun and intricate at the same time—a happy balance of approachable and drinkable, but leaves you curious and constantly going back to the glass. The name ‘Breaking Bread’ is pretty meaningful in the summer of COVID-19. I’ve been blessed enough to have a quarantine ‘pod’ that has been committed to keeping each other safe and healthy during these difficult times. We’ve gotten so close and shared so many beautiful moments together and, for me, this wine is a perfect representation of that.”
“There’s a head-spinning quality to dry muscat that I obsess over a little. It’s so effusively aromatic, all lilies and honeysuckle, that the fresh saltiness of the palate can shock. In a good way. It’s like jumping into the ocean. Leo Erazo is making this one in Itata, the forgotten birthplace of viticulture in Chile. Red granite, rolling hills, local farmers safeguarding ancient vines without irrigation or chemicals. Chilean wine has been held hostage by Francophile aristocrats and copper mining robber barons for 150 years; drinking wine from Itata is like drinking an alternate history of what wine in Chile could have been all along. And it’s a good reminder that wine doesn’t just belong to Europeans, and that its roots elsewhere are deeper than we realize. The 0.3 hectare of vines that go into it (basically a third the size of Gramercy Park!) are 175-plus years old. It’s a wine of dimension and place, and even though that little bit of land means there’s not a lot to go around, it only retails for around $20. This is the kind of wine the future of our industry needs, for all kinds of reasons: ecological, political, economic. I’ll be grabbing as many bottles as I can find while this strange summer lasts.”
“This pét-nat [from Italy’s Trentino] is like adult Ecto Cooler (without the freaky chemicals, of course). It’s electric green, refreshing AF and exactly what you want to pop a straw into after your turn on the Slip ’N Slide. Made from 100 percent joannita, a superrare hybrid grape variety, this zippy stuff spends one week on the skins before being bottled by the skilled hands of winemaker Matteo Furlani. It looks like joy, it tastes like joy, and I sure as shit could use as much of that as I can get this summer.”
“More so than ever before, who you share a glass of wine with matters more than the technical details. This pét-nat from Karina and Guillaume Lefèvre of Domaine de Sulauze has been the refreshing end-of-shift drink I’ve shared with my team at King more often than not since we re-opened in June. After a week of heat-wave dinner shifts behind a mask and face shield, followed by a torrential downpour or two, this has been the sigh at the end of long nights. As you make your way through the bottle, you’ll notice the color gets darker and darker. We like to fight for who gets that last pour of yeasty deliciousness.”
“At the end of each day, my business partner Kori [Saika Chen] and I usually open something for education and, more often, enjoyment. We try to pick spirits or wines we aren’t as familiar with, but for the last four days, all I wanted to drink was the sparkling blanc de blancs from Bodkin Wines. Vinny Eng (our incredible wine guide and dear friend) helped us create a wine program purely from BIPOC, women and queer producers, resulting in this really interesting and focused list. Through Vinny, we were introduced to Bodkin Wines, made by Christopher Christensen in Sonoma. The combination of perfect tiny little bubbles, stone fruit and biscuity notes make it my favorite summer wine.”
“Oreads from Papras Wines sounds like a dream; in mythology, the Oreads are the nymphs of the mountains, joining Artemis in her hunt. This wine, made from black muscat of Tyrnavos, a funny offspring of schiava grossa and muscat of Alexandria, produces something gorgeous, delicate and effusive. Stelios Papras cultivates these vines at the foothills of Mount Olympus, and teases out the best of this relatively unknown variety, making it prime for summer drinking. Salty, full of pink grapefruit, blood oranges and pink flowers, it’s the perfect accompaniment for a Greek salad (natch) or a Zoom call on the beach. Considering how this summer’s going, I’d let these nymphs take me just about anywhere else than here.”
“I love wines like this for summer drinking: crisp, dry, loads of minerality and a perfect match for seafood. (Being a Maryland native, summer is also blue crab season!) Picpoul may not be the first grape that comes to mind when looking for an approachable summer pounder, but it definitely merits some thought. The Benau family began their wine venture by selling the majority of their grapes to nearby producers, but upon Julie’s return home in 1999, that all changed—and we are lucky that it did. A natural pairing for any shellfish, I’ve also paired this with various grilled vegetables, chicken dishes, bratwurst and 5 p.m. Zoom calls.”
“This is the first rosé release from Ampeleia [a project from Elisabetta Foradori, Thomas Widmann and Giovanni Podini] in Tuscany’s coastal Maremma region. Made from carignan and whole-cluster alicante nero, it’s delightfully salty and infinitely drinkable—perfect for all the socially distanced fun of imagining being transported to the Mediterranean. With just over 400 cases made, snag it if you can find it.”
“Lise and Bertrand Jousset are working vines in the Touraine and Montlouis in the Loire Valley, and they just opened a tiny bar à vins (wine bar) on their property, which I cannot wait to go visit. This is a pét-nat for day and night. It’s pomegranate seeds popping in your mouth—earthy and juicy. It’s bruléed ruby grapefruit out on the porch, a warm breeze on your face. This wine is like that raspberry lemonade you knew you needed as a little kid in the dog days of summer, over and over again.”
“I think Oregon is producing some of the most interesting wines in the country right now. It’s like the Wild West up there—cheaper land, varietal experimentation and a natural proclivity to just do what feels right rather than what makes the most money. Graham Markel had worked alongside Maggie Harrison at Antica Terra and Nate Ready at Hiyu Wine Farm when he started making the Buona Notte lineup. The wines are simply spectacular; I first encountered them at the Sardine Head pop-up while I was consulting on a project in Portland and fell instantly in love with how much soul his wines contained. This sauvignon blanc is just as good sitting in a hot tub as it is alongside the tomatoes that have finally started to ripen in my cold San Francisco garden. ‘Vibrant’ is a word that gets thrown around a lot in reference to wines but this has it in spades; it’s an electric Kool-Aid acid test in a bottle… minus the hippies.”