Toasting America's Birthday 

Sip these warm-weather wines on July 4

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Since 2015's Independence Day happens to fall on a Saturday, I suspect some of us will be celebrating America's birthday a little more—um, patriotically than if it occurred midweek. And, given the weather patterns of the past few weeks, it's going to be a hot one. So, for this Fourth of July, if you're planning to picnic, barbecue, go boating, camp or light up the neighborhood with fireworks, I'd suggest locking up those meaty Cabernets, Burgundies and Barolos and choosing lighter, low-alcohol wines that can be pleasurably and abundantly quaffed in the warmest weather.

When thinking about drinking on the Fourth (or on any warm day), think first about what you'll be eating. Burgers and hot dogs? Paella or pizza? Barbecue chicken and bratwurst? Then choose wines (or beer) that will complement the food you'll enjoy. And, as I've advised in the past, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me to raid your wine cellar for rare vintages or hard-to-find boutique wines that you're probably going to chill in a bucket of ice and serve in plastic cups. So, I look to less-prestigious, toasty winemaking regions for my July 4 celebration sippers, such as New Zealand, Australia, Chile and the South of France.

Soft, fruity wines are terrific in the backyard, at the picnic or on the porch. One of my favorites is Bonny Doon Vin Gris de Cigare Rosé from California. For fuller-bodied Rosés it's tough to find better summer wines for a better price than Rosés, from Provence. I'd suggest Tavel Chateau Aquéria, for example. But if you can find it, try a bottle of Rosé Coeur de Grain from Domaines Ott with a lobster roll for an exceptional warm weather lunch or July 4th treat.

Looking for something a little more exotic? It's worth a little legwork to scout out Albarossa Salice Salentino Rosato. This bone-dry southern Italian "pink" wine reminds me of strawberry pie in a bottle; it's terrific slightly chilled on a hot summer day. Then again, it's hard to beat Spain's Marqués de Cáceres Rosé (for about $9) in the bang-for-your-buck pink-wine sweepstakes.

Grilled foods call for red wine with enough tannins to fight spices, smoke and bitter burned flavors. For foods off the grill (even charred chicken and fish) I often turn to Zinfandel. Zins from Ridge or Ravenswood (particularly the Vintner's Blend) can be good, inexpensive choices. Ditto for Cline and Rancho Zabaco. Then again, so is an Australian Shiraz like Rosemount or my current favorite Aussie fruit bomb Zin, called Bulletin Place Shiraz. If you choose to go for a slightly lighter red—and in especially hot weather, I would—you can't go wrong with a versatile, fruity Beaujolais like Brouilly Chateau de la Chaize. You can drink it with everything from grilled rib-eye steak doused in barbecue sauce to marinated quail with rosemary.

In the world of white wine, Pinot Grigio is a good choice for a lighter, low-alcohol white wine on the Fourth, as are Pinot Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Gewürztraminer, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc. The raspberry-laden Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand is a slam-dunk for summer sipping, as is the less expensive Santa Rita Reserva. For a hint of the French Riviera, try Pascal Jolivet Sancerre or maybe Didier Dageneau Pouilly-Fumé. And from this country, St. Supery Sauvignon Blanc is a fine choice. Alsatian wines are also wonderful backyard barbecue thirst-quenchers; look for Pinot Blanc and Riesling from solid producers like Zind-Humbrecht, Trimbach, Hugel and Schlumberger.

Enjoy your Fourth of July celebration!

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