Ah, summer! It’s time to kick back and enjoy a drink or two on the patio, deck or by the pool. What could be better? As usual, the LCBO just released its top trends for summer drinking. While I know their data is substantially based on sales, here’s my take on their findings.
It states that interest in India Pale Ale and cider are on the rise. When it comes to beer and warm weather, nothing goes down better than a frosty, cold lager, as far as I’m concerned. It’s actually one of the few alcoholic beverages that quenches thirst. Fresh, clean and easy, this bottom-fermented style dominates the scene. Of course, ales, wheat beers, Trappist brews, and yes, even IPA and other top-fermented versions are popular this time of year as well, but for me, lager is king. With numerous boutique and craft beers, many local, now available, there is a plethora of fine lagers just waiting for enjoyment. As for cider, I don’t ever see anyone sipping it, so I don’t know who’s buying it.
According to the LCBO, pre-mixed beverages and ready-to-drink products are hot, hot, hot, and more than half of annual sales come at this time of year. Although not my cup of tea, I can understand this. Spirits, beer and wine mixed with fruit juice, soda, teas, other potables and seasonings are certainly novel. Furthermore, they’re easy to handle, convenient, portable, chill down quickly and, because they’re merchandized in environmentally friendly packages, easily disposed of. Quite simply, they’re no fuss, no muss.
Wine is always a perennial fave and the monopoly breaks down their attack into European, New World, Vintages and Ontario wine. Regardless of where the vino is from or which faction of the government operation you buy from, here’s the scoop on warm weather wining. Choose those that are overall lighter, with little if any oak, and lower alcohol. Forget about those big, alcoholic, aggressive oaky numbers. They’ll just weigh you down. Whites in particular, especially those with good, crisp acidity (the sour component), are your best options. Such varietals as Pinot Grigio and Verdicchio from Italy, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Alvarinho from Portugal, un-oaked Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc from France, to name but a few, do an admirable job and are infinitely more food-friendly. Rosé wines, including Spanish, Italian, Canadian, French and American options, really shine at this time of year as well. Their pretty pinkish colour just cries out summer. Light- to medium-bodied reds are also desirable. Check out varieties like Gamay from Canada or France (Beaujolais), Tempranillo from Spain, Pinot Noir, Barbera from Italy, Marechal Foch from Canada and Sangiovese from Italy. These lighter numbers are perfect for the season.
Let’s not forget about bubbly either. Lively and crisp, it’s great at this time of year. The effervescent tingle and crisp acidity of most render them the perfect warm weather sipper. If your pocketbook allows you could vie for the ‘real thing’, Champagne. Alternately, try other champagne-method sparklers like Cava from Spain, Crémant d’Alsace from France and numerous other options from all over the world. There’s Prosecco and Asti Spumante from northern Italy and Sekt from Germany, as well.
When it comes to spirits, the LCBO mentions that gin and tequila lead the way and flavoured vodkas are on the rise. With all the cocktails that utilize these white spirits, it makes sense. I’d expand that list to include light rum as well.
Finally, it talks about the popularity of calorie-reduced products. Almost every category of alcohol has jumped on the bandwagon with what I call “diet” versions. Not surprising, especially in bathing suit season! However, many folks figure that, because the drink is “lighter”, they can consume more of it, somewhat destroying the whole concept.
This summer follow the trends or create your own. Just remember to sip responsibly!
a.k.a. The Wine Doctor, wine writer, educator, judge & consultant