By Kathy Vogeltanz

As hot weather settles over Atlanta, cool refreshment becomes more important than ever. Of course sweet tea is the staple drink of the South, but summer cocktails and wines can offer exciting tastes without the debilitating bite of a mint julep.

“Sangria is a perfect summer cocktail since it’s served on ice with fresh fruit,” said James A. Tramonte Jr., founder and president of Mavin Brands LLC, based in Atlanta. “When it’s really hot, people want refreshment as well as flavor – and Sangria is the answer. Mixed drinks can be high in alcohol and beer can be refreshing but filling.”

He explained that Savida Sangria (www.savidasangria.com) is particularly refreshing since it doesn’t have any added sugar and blends premium California wine with all natural juice. Its balance of flavors is just right, not overly sweet nor too high in alcohol (only 11percent unless you add brandy, rum or other liquor). Savida contains specialty fruits—elderberry, passion fruit, peach, tangerine—that have high levels of antioxidants. In fact, the elderberry in the red sangria has five times the levels of antioxidants as blueberries.

“Savida offers the same great homemade taste of sangria without the extra calories from added sugar and without the hassle of planning and preparation,” Tramonte added. “It’s perfect for summer entertaining. You can personalize Savida by adding fresh fruit as garnish and your guests will never know it wasn’t made from scratch.”

Among the summer wine choices, Rosés are an overwhelming favorite. Debbie Fraker, the wine buyer for Whole Foods on Ponce (www.wholefoodsmarket.com) in Midtown, reported, “Rosé is finally catching on as the perfect summertime wine, a more full-bodied wine that can be served cold with everything from grilled shrimp or salmon to barbecue. Pinot Noir is always a popular red for summer—and Whole Foods has an excellent selection of Pinots for under $15.”

Other Whole Foods summer choices include Pisato Organic Pinot Grigio, Charles & Charles Syrah Rosé and Opala Vinho Verde.

Ray Woo, wine manager at Mac’s Beer & Wine (www.macsbeerandwine.com) in Midtown, explained that Rosés can be light, crisp and very refreshing. His personal suggestion is a dry Rosé: Domaine Houchart Côtes De Provence. For people who prefer white wine, Woo said a Sauvignon Blanc is a good warm weather choice, and recommended Domaine Merlin-Cherrier Sancerre.

At Sherlock’s (www.sherlocks.com) on Northside Parkway, manager Xavier De Marchi is quick to help and he also named some delicious French wines for quenching a summertime thirst, including a Rosé, Domaine Charvin Côtes-du-Rhône 2009, and a dry white dessert wine that’s 100 percent Sauvignon Blanc: Château Doisy Daëne sec 2007. Other good hot weather choices are Domaine des Aubuisières Vouvray Cuvée de Silex 2009, an off-dry wine that’s 100% Chenin Blanc, and, from Austria, LethGruner Veltliner Steinagrun 2008. All of these wines retail around the $15 to $17 mark.

“I like dry crisp wines in the summer – Oregon Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blancs, Chenin Blancs, Viognier and well-made white blends,” said John Hall, owner of Hall’s of Fine Wines (www.hallsoffinewines.com) in Inman Park Village. “I tend to feature sparkling wines in the summer months—Prosecco, Champagnes, Cavas—and recently there are some almond- and raspberry-flavored sparkling wines that have proven to be crowd pleasers.”

Rosés are back in vogue, Hall agreed, and said he carries a Pinot Grigio Rosé, a Côtes du Rhône Rosé, a Cabernet Rosé, several sparkling Rosés, a Grenache Rosé—and even a Lagrein Rosé. Torrentes from Argentina and Muscato Rosés seem to be hot (no pun intended), he added.

For people who still want red wines in the summer, Hall advised they try the lighter varietals like Zinfandels, Pinot Noir, Grenache, and Tempranillo. “There are also some nice red blends that can be lighter bodied. Finally, try chilling your red wines by putting them in the fridge for a half hour or so. Most folks chill their white wines, but forget about red wines. Serving red wines at around 65 degrees will add to the flavor and be more refreshing.”

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.

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