Summer officially begins this weekend and so too does a a desire to “lighten up!” As we emerge collectively from the interior “burrowing” of COVID, the enjoyment of lighter, refreshing wines becomes a welcome metaphor for the transition away from the darker past season.
Which is exactly why this mini-series about the four best wine words for summer 2021 began with “salinity” (think sunny geographies and cool wines sipped alongside coastal or beach waters) and “flintiness,” with its reference to ultra elemental and even geological characteristics that express themselves through wine and draw us outside and into the natural world.
The remaining two best words for summer wine drinking in 2021 bridge the experience of the wine itself and the experience of drinking wine with others. In both cases, as I wrote in Part One of this mini-series, this list is a fun jumping-off point for a wine-focused “refresh” as we head into warmer weather and embrace once again the more social and in-person conditions of enjoying wine.
Summer 2021 Wine Word Three: Fresh
Using the word “fresh” to describe wine — especially cool white wines that are so suitable for warmer summer weather — is a lot like using the word “smooth,” which I hear most often in reference to red wines like pinot noir and cabernet sauvignon. As I’ve written before, “smooth” is one of those words that matter to wine consumers (if judging by frequency of use is any measure) but is largely ignored by wine industry professionals who replace it instead by more technical terms like “well-integrated.”
“Well-integrated” might be what winemakers and wine marketers are going for, but “smooth” is what consumers want and express for themselves. Similarly, “bright acidity” might be what wine makers have worked to achieve in their wines that you’ll find in your glass this summer, but I’ll be just as happy to hear (and say) “fresh.” You know what you mean by that. I know what you mean by that. Winemakers, too, know what you mean, and in every case “fresh” is a positive connotation.
“Fresh” also has the advantage of serving as the base for “re-fresh,” which is perhaps the most quintessential word of this entire list for 2021. This summer we’re looking to refresh our palates and our perspective. Wines that are fresh first of all will point us in that direction.
Summer 2021 Wine Word Four: Restraint
“Restraint” hardly seems like the word of choice to wrap up this list of wine words for the summer of 2021, particularly not when the list begins with a celebration of “salinity” and “flintiness” as elemental, nature-based characteristics and continues on with with positive connotations associated with “freshness” in wine. Each of those first three words awaken our thirst and inspire us to reach for our glasses and corkscrews — there’s an exuberance and enthusiasm about them — and now we’re making a U-turn toward “restraint”?
It isn’t exactly a U-turn, because a certain amount of restraint is required to appreciate fairly nuanced characteristics in wine like salinity and flintiness. In this sense, I mean “restraint” in terms of slowing down enough to appreciate the potential and the complexity of wine, so that the post-COVID emergence is more like a refresh than a saturation.
Exuberance and enthusiasm, yes. But without going overboard.
Restraint is worth mentioning in this summer of wine drinking in 2021, partly because some of the other words I considered including in this list were “sober curious,” “pandemic wine consumption” and “making up for lost time.” As I wrote a few weeks ago in an article called “Alcohol, Interrupted: COVID’s Impact on Personal Wine Consumption, and Best Practices Moving Forward,” there’s a tangle of living conditions during COVID (and after it) that complicate our consumption and enjoyment of wine. One of those well-documented conditions is that anxiety and depression contributed to increased drinking during the pandemic, particularly for people over the age of 40 and for women more than men.
As we head into the enjoyment and pleasures of summer, and drinking wine while the weather is warmer, it’s also valuable to be mindful of the individual momentum we’re each carrying into this seasonal transition. This could very well be where the fourth and final word on this list — restraint — comes into play.