Exploring summer sipping trends

With the warm weather here, certain alcoholic drinks and styles are more popular. Common sense would dictate that, whatever the category, lighter and fresher are the keys to enjoyment. I’ve also noticed over the years that folks like to experiment with new flavours a bit more in the warm weather, often trying things they haven’t before. Here’s what’s trending this summer.

When it comes to wine, the heat encourages folks to sip white rather than red. Those with minimal or no oak and good acidity top the list. Enter varietals like Riesling, Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc. Vinho Verde from Portugal is a popular summer sipper. Bubbly is widely consumed as well, especially lighter styles like Italy’s Prosecco and Spumante, France’s Crémant, Germany’s Sekt and Spain’s Cava. Rosé is no slouch at this time either.

Some reds do show increases in sales like fruity styles and lighter blended versions. Many “light” wines (lower alcohol/carbs/calories) and varietals tend to sell better in the warmer months. New flavours of vino are more likely to be on peoples’ “to try” list.

Sometimes certain packaging is also preferred. Rather than clunky glass bottles, consumers vie for alternatives like bag-in-the-box, tetra-packs, pouches and cans. Containers that are more mobile for outdoor activities and easier to dispose of are key.

What would summer be without beer? More than a third of all sales occur at this time of year and the majority of product sold is from Ontario. Lighter brews with lower alcohol are what are needed. So pilsners, lagers and lighter ales fly off of shelves, as do “light” (lower alcohol) versions. Fruitier beers are in high demand, especially flavoured beers like those with apricot, wild apple and honey. Specialty brews like Lambic ales with raspberry and cherry are perfect for the heat. Those infused with citrus such as lime and lemon are great thirst quenchers. Generally, cans do better than bottles merely because they’re more mobile and chill down quicker. Interestingly, single unit sales tend to drop off and multi-packs increase.

Even ciders do well at this time of year. In fact, sales have increased drastically in the last several years. More folks tend to drink at home as summer entertaining shifts outdoors with barbecues and social get-togethers.

And what of spirits? Vodka tops the list for summer imbibes. After all, it’s clean and the key ingredient for so many refreshing drinks. Flavoured versions do extremely well. Rum plays big too. Flavoured styles like coconut and pineapple, reminiscent of the tropics, are a big hit when the temperature rises. Tequila heats up in the summer too.

Let’s not forget cocktails. Although huge all year long, summer sees this category skyrocket, especially for ready-to-drink versions and coolers. Premixed drinks that are packaged for mobility and outdoor enjoyment make life so much easier in the warm weather: just chill and sip out of the bottle with a straw. New flavours like hard root beer should do extremely well.

Regardless of what you like to sip when it gets hot, there are lots of trendy drinks out there sure to please. Keep in mind that summer’s heat seems to intensify alcohol’s effect on your body, so please drink responsibly and consume plenty of water alongside your favourite tipple. Cheers!


Edward Finstein is a wine writer, award-winning author, TV and radio host, educator, judge

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