Summer is all about fun and relaxation with the people you hold dear and no gathering is complete without the right drinks. This season, mix it up for the wine lovers in the group and reach for one of these under-the-radar wine varietals:

1 German Riesling. Don’t let all the German classifications scare you: German Riesling is considered the best for a reason. Flavors range from dry to sweet and it goes excellently with lighter summer foods. When trying to find the right one, remember ASK: From sweetest to driest,  Auslese, Spätlese and Kabinett.

2 Vinho Verde. Vinho verde literally translates to “young wine.”  These are fresh, aromatic wines with a light, natural effervescence. Not as bubbly as a Champagne, vinho verde is light and crisp, and the perfect match for the pool or picnic table. Most varieties in the U.S. are white wines that feature peach and citrus flavors.

3 Alsatian Brut. Speaking of Champagne, a great pocket-friendly alternative are the sparkling wines from Alsace, France. These sparklers are crisp and refreshing and come in nearly every variation: salmon-colored blanc-de-noirs, peach-scented blanc-de-blancs and interested blends.

4 Malbec Rosé. No, we are not talking about the super-sweet pink wines. Malbec rosés, made from the same grapes as red Malbecs, are dry and refreshing. Look for darker colored pinks for stronger berry and cherry flavors.

5 Beaujoulais Villages. A red wine during the summer? If you don’t like whites, don’t force it — you should enjoy what you drink! Much better quality than the Nouveau’s of Thanksgiving, wines from the Beaujoulais region of Villages are velvety and smooth. Serve these slightly chilled for better flavor (and a better match for the heat!).

6 Cabernet Franc. The steak, burgers or chicken you just grilled to perfection need a wine that is just as big in flavor. Cabernet Franc, once a blending grape in France, is now easier to find bottled alone. The bright fruit flavors and smokey, peppery oak are perfect as a summer-time big red.

Get creative this summer when putting together wine lists for your guests or yourself, and you may just find a new favorite. : :

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