What better way to celebrate our all-too-short alfresco season than with a little party? Whether your taste and budget run to catering a lavish cinq à sept under the setting sun in the back garden, or just sparking the 'cue and having friends over for wine and a casual lunch on the balcony, wining and dining outdoors is a treat in Canada. Which begs the question, What to uncork? Just as we change our clothes to suit the weather, I look to different corners of my wine cellar as the seasons change. During fall and winter, I turn to wines with rich, robust flavours, and solid body and balance to match the heartier foods we tend to eat. For summer drinking, I enjoy light, crisp, juicy wines -- with lighter body, lower alcohol and a refreshing bite of acidity -- so welcome at this time of year.
Wining and dining
Here are seven refreshing options.
1 "Unoaked" or "unwooded" chardonnay
The best of these is Chablis, which I like to compare to champagne, but without the bubbles. This classic French white burgundy that's grown due south of the Champagne district goes with all the same foods and moods as champagne. Other Chardonnays worth searching for: those from cooler regions such as Canada, New Zealand and South America.
2 Sauvignon blanc
Most winemakers want their version to emulate Sancerre or Pouilly-Fumé, two greats from France's famous Loire valley. The top contenders hail from New Zealand and Canada, where strong overtones of pungent greenness are balanced by pure, ripe kiwi and passion fruit flavours.
3 Portuguese vinho verde
Another of the world's great coastal regions is in Portugal, where the grapes are picked early to preserve crisp, light flavours in a barely spritzy wine that complements any seafood, fish or starter. Wines from the Albariño grape are more aromatic. When buying, choose the youngest, freshest vintage available.
4 Moscato d'asti
This is a perfect quaffer from northern Italy, with a refreshing, sweet, appley taste. Available in still and sparkling versions, it's spectacular on its own and also pairs with appetizers as easily as it complements dessert. Low alcohol (five to seven per cent) means you can tipple without getting tipsy. And no matter which producer makes Moscato d'Asti, one thing's certain: it's always delicious.
Well chilled, most rosés are all-weather friends. The best ones tend to come from the southern coastal regions of France throughout Provence and the Rhône delta (especially Lirac and Tavel). Rosés from other regions have a sweetness that's tolerable if the wine has balance. Learn how rosé wines are produced.
6 Light reds
Beaujolais is the red wine that tries to act like a white. Embrace it like a long-lost friend. Chill it well, serve it in big balloon glasses or modest tumblers, and enjoy it alone or partnered with any food. Other terrific lightweights include the reds of the Loire valley, or Dolcetto and Bardolino from northern Italy.
Really, do I need to explain?