Summer Sipper or Patio Pounder — you call ’em what you want, but the point is that the warm weather is here, and it’s time again to get outside, light the grill, relax and enjoy a couple of glasses of your favorite patio wine with your favorite people.

I’m calling them patio wines, but they work just as well in the backyard, on the deck, at the pool or on the boat. There are a lot of rules, classifications and laws that govern what a wine can and cannot be: what grapes can be used, where they come from, how long they need to age, etc. Even with all of the American Viticulture Areas, appellation d’origine contrôlées and denominazione di origine controllatas (and such) making all kinds of rules and regulations, no one has officially specified what a patio wine is. This allows for two great opportunities.

The first opportunity is that I get to come up with a list of criteria for what a patio wine is. The second, and more important, opportunity is that you can choose your own favorites.

However, don’t stop reading and run off and do your own thing just yet. Please give me my opportunity to lay out the specifications. Following is my easy 1-2-3 method to determine if a wine can be classified as a true patio wine.

Easy to Drink

First and foremost, it’s hot out and you’re not looking for anything complex. Patio wines must be approachable, refreshing and fun. Wines that you can sip on for awhile, happily gulp down the last couple of ounces and then pour yourself a second glass. Nothing bold, heavy, overbearing or too high in alcohol will be allowed here.

Easy to Pair With Food

My favorite part of the warm weather is the summer menu. Cold salads, corn on the cob, burgers and hot dogs, barbecued chicken and ribs, grilled fish and seafood, plus all of the fresh-from-the-garden fruits and vegetables. Any proper patio wine must not only complement all of these textures and flavors, it must also be a refreshing companion for the guy or girl doing the cooking over a hot grill.

Easy on Your Wallet

The most important factor that determines a great patio wine is, of course, its cost. I like to use what I call the “12 by 12” Rule. This rule states that you should buy the wine by the case (12 bottles) and the cost must be $12 or less per bottle. That means these wines are not only easy to drink but are easy on your wallet as well. A Patio Wine must be a good value, overperform for its cost — and you should never think twice about popping open another bottle or two when friends show up.

A Few to Try

You might have noticed that I didn’t specify that a patio wine must be white, red or rosé. That’s because patio wines can be any of the aforementioned. Here are a few that fit the bill and are legal under the “12 by 12” Rule.

  • 2014 Castelmoure Vin-Gris Corbieres Rosé: Languedoc-Roussillon, France. A blend of Grenache, Carignan and Cinsault. Beautiful pale pink in color, with bright and crisp flavors of citrus, cranberry, pomegranate and red berry. This wine is great with all kinds of food, even something spicy.
  • 2014 Chateau Montaud Rosé: Côtes de Provence, France. A blend of Syrah, Cinsault, Grenache, Tibouren and Carignan. Fruity and floral aromas with melon, strawberry and citrus flavors. The refreshing acidity lends itself to pairing with many different types of food.
  • 2014 Viejo Feo Sauvignon Blanc: Maule, Chile. On the nose, citrus, tropical fruit and some floral notes. Citrus and peach on the palate, with a finish that is crisp and bright. Great with light seafood dishes.
  • 2013 Alois Lageder Riff Pinot Grigio: Delle Venezie, Italy. Aromas and flavors of apples, peaches and a note of minerality. Dry and medium-bodied with a long, crisp and well balanced finish. Great alone or with salads, shellfish and poultry.
  • 2013 Resinata Nero d’Avola: Sicily, Italy. Lush and ripe bouquet of mulberries, blackberries and spice. Well balanced with good berry fruit in a spicy background. Excellent with grilled and barbecued meats, salads and dishes with olives or capers and strong cheeses.
  • 2013 Cline Zinfandel: Lodi, California. Aromas and flavors of dark berry, black cherry and strawberry, with notes of vanilla and spice. Pairs well with charcuterie, grilled steaks and barbecued ribs.

Now, it’s your turn. By all means, try some of my suggestions, but don’t be afraid to come up with your own. Use my 1, 2, 3 method and you will become a patio wine expert. Cheers.

Sam Audia is a former advertising and marketing professional with more than 20 years of experience in the wine and spirits industry. He is a wine specialist at Bay Ridge Wine & Spirits, in Annapolis, holds a Certification Diploma from the Sommelier Society of America and Intermediate and Advanced Certificates from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust. He can be reached at [email protected].