Beer may postdate wine by a few thousand years but brewing in some ways seems more evolved, or at least more consumer friendly, than winemaking. Take this example: Beer producers long ago clued into the fact that human thirst changes with the seasons.
That's why we have malty Oktoberfest lagers, earthy harvest ales and spicy pumpkin brews for autumn, Christmas ales and chocolate stouts for winter, and light wheat beers and saison farmhouse ales for summer. Wine styles, on the other hand, aren't so explicitly designed around a calendar. Nobody makes Oktoberwein, Christmas cabernet or solstice sauvignon blanc. (Actually, I take that back. There are a few "Christmas Cabernet Sauvignons" out there and a couple of wines called Solstice Sauvignon Blanc. But let's call them exceptions.)
The fact is, many wines do shine brighter in certain seasons. We all know it, even if we're the types to stick with pinot grigio or malbec all year round because, hey, we're just not that adventurous. I can think of many among those I sampled lately that pretty much shout "summer." I suspect you've got some go-to styles or grapes that fit the bill. Maybe grassy sauvignon blanc? Sweet-tart riesling? Muscadet? Perhaps something further off the beaten track, like moschofilero from Greece, which tastes like a shy and dry version of grapy moscato? Or bracing albarino from Spain's cool northwest?
Most of the wines below are not only zippy but also relatively low in alcohol and moderate in price, two generally prized assets for many outdoor occasions by the proverbial patio or pool – or balcony or park bench.
Waimea Classic Riesling 2016, New Zealand
SCORE: 91 PRICE: $18.95
Off-dry, but what perfect balance, and at a modest 12-per-cent alcohol. Sweet orange, drippy peach and tart lime combine for a sunny fruit festival (plus, there's a hint of so-called minerality for the wine geeks out there). Brilliant. Available in Ontario.
Malivoire Vivant Rosé 2016, Ontario
SCORE: 90 PRICE: $19.95
Barely stained, peachy-pink colour. The texture's a big part of the attraction here, polished and seductive. A subtly smoky, flinty aroma gives way to flavours of strawberry, citrus and pomegranate. Bone-dry and elegant. Very Mediterranean. They'd lap this up in Saint-Tropez – if they didn't know it was Canadian. Available in Ontario Vintages stores and direct through www.malivoire.com.
Ogier Ventoux Rosé 2016, France
SCORE: 90 PRICE: $14.15
A big pink bargain. Dry and juicy, with strawberry, peach and apple fruit joined by a delicate herbal essence. Wonderfully silky in the middle. Available in Ontario.
Semeli Feast Moschofilero 2016, Greece
SCORE: 90 PRICE: $12.95
The score is high but the wine is subtle. I just happen to be a member of the moschofilero fan club, and this is a fine rendition of that white Peloponnesian grape. Light-medium-bodied, at 12-per- cent alcohol, and relatively fleshy for its weight, it shows succulent orange and apricot flavours along with a lovely apple blossom bouquet and musky spice. And that tricky texture makes you feel like you're sucking on candy. Nice. Available in Ontario.
Quails' Gate Rosé 2016, British Columbia
SCORE: 89 PRICE: $16.99
It's the colour of Pacific-salmon flesh, which also might make a good pairing. On the rich side for a rosé, with apple, strawberry and watermelon fruitiness underscored by a hint of sweetness, though the finish is dry. Goes down so easy. Available in British Columbia at the above price, various prices in Alberta, $19.95 in Ontario.
Susana Balbo Crios Torrontes 2016, Argentina
SCORE: 89 PRICE: $13.95
Light, dry, clean and floral, with crisp peach and muscat characters typical of torrontes, Argentina's signature white grape. A flower shop crossed with a fruit stand. And a bargain. On sale in Ontario at $11.95 ($2 off the regular price listed above) until June 18, various prices in Alberta.
Stag's Hollow Sauvignon Blanc 2016, British Columbia
SCORE: 89 PRICE: $16.99
A plump and sensuous style. Big, happy grapefruit, candied lemon and tinned-fruit cocktail are what this succulent and summery sauvignon suggests to me. Just released on May 30. Sadly, just 1,500 bottles produced, so it's available direct only from the Okanagan winery through www.stagshollowwinery.com.
Bibi Graetz Casamatta Bianco, Italy
SCORE: 89 PRICE: $14.95
A non-vintage Tuscan blend of vermentino, trebbiano and muscat. Light and deliciously aromatic. Dry but attractively oily and with a slightly sweet impression underscoring notes of white grape and flowers. Bargain. Available in Ontario at the above price, various prices in Alberta.
La Cave du Coudray Réserve du Chiron Muscadet Sèvre et Maine 2015, France
SCORE: 89 PRICE: $13.95
Rich relative to most (super-lean) muscadets, though still just 12-per-cent alcohol. Slightly fleshy, with notes of lemon and apple set against well-integrated acidity. Let your imagination play and you might even catch a salty sense of the ocean in this white from the far-west Loire Valley near the Atlantic. This is classic raw-oyster wine. Great buy, and it's organic. Available in Ontario.
Forrest The Doctors' Sauvignon Blanc 2016, New Zealand
SCORE: 88 PRICE: $22.95
John and Brigid Forrest, the doctors behind the wine and the name, have figured out a way to grow grapes that taste fully ripe yet produce a wine with naturally low alcohol, in this case a remarkable 9.5 per cent. Light in body, the wine is dry and grassy, with zesty key lime and lemon flavours along with a pleasant note of asparagus. Available in Ontario at the above price, various prices in Alberta.
Road 13 Honest John's White 2016, British Columbia
SCORE: 88 PRICE: $15.99
A mix of chardonnay, pinot gris, kerner, chenin blanc, viognier and orange muscat. Off-dry, with sweet pear and tropical-fruit notes and gingery spice. A good match for spicy fish tacos or roast pork, among other things. Available in British Columbia stores and direct through www.road13vineyards.com.
Lolo Albarino 2016, Spain
SCORE: 88 PRICE: $14.95
From a big co-op winery in the northwest Rias Baixas region, where albarino is the star. This is light and bracing (consider yourself warned), with an essence of crisp, underripe peach and lemon peel and a nervy, bitter tension that is the Rias Baixas signature. It's like a dunk in a cold ocean. Great for raw oysters. Available in Ontario at the above price, $14.25 in Quebec.
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