How long this summer continues is anyone's guess. In the meantime, the grapes look fully ripened in my neck of the woods and could be harvested much earlier than usual.

Fingers crossed, but this is shaping up as a cracker of a vintage and lighter al fresco-style wines are still very much in vogue.

Varietals that show with flair at this time of year include ros, arneis, albarino, riesling and those perennial favourites sauvignon blanc and pinot gris.

Reds are not really sidelined and pinot noir is always welcome at the table with tempranillo, merlot and pinotage sitting nicely with anything off the barbecue, especially if it's reeking of those smoky characters.


Rose works particularly well at one of those long summertime lunches and seems a perfect match with everything.

Arneis and albarino are not exactly top of mind for most of us, but those brave, innovative growers who are having a go are producing (in the case of arneis) soft, mellow, herbaceous almond-flavoured wines.

With albarino, Coopers Creek SV Bell-Ringer from Gisborne is a fine effort ($20), managing to capture those slick, crisp, tropical fruit flavours with hints of spice. Both styles have a lightness and brightness to them, without too much complexity, and are pleasant easy quaffers.

Summer drinking ought not to be overwhelmed or buffeted by wines that require too much contemplation and effort. Ideally, we want wines that are appealing, approachable and on the gentle side. Tempranillo and pinotage come into their own as the cuisine heads into the red meat and pasta areas - tempranillo can be a swaggering, confident youth with loads of attitude and personality and a whisper of red berries and tobacco.

Pinotage used to have a following in the 70s but was elbowed out of the way by other reds. Now it's making a comeback and, if you like touches of pepper and a gamey "splash in the glass", this could be your new favourite.

Frankly, when the sun is shining, everything tastes great.

2012 Tironui Estate - $23

From a relatively new 2ha vineyard overlooking New Zealand's oldest winery, Mission Estate, this wine has 66 per cent malbec and 34 per cent merlot and is full of fresh lively flavours of blackcurrant, plum and cranberry. It is soft, firm and dry.


2012 Villa Maria East Coast Arneis - 22

From the private-bin collection,with grapes from various sites between Hawkes Bay and Gisborne, this is a fine alternative to sauvignon blanc with a mix of citrus, almond and honeysuckle characters. A dry finish and lowish alcohol of 12.5 per cent.