Wine and warm weather have a natural affinity, one that can lead to excess. Heat makes us drink more than we might otherwise, and feel it more, so the ideal summer cellar is predominantly white and low in alcohol -- a balance between refreshment and complexity. Some of the whites can be effervescent, some can even be pink, and there should be a few good reds for late- night noshes over ribs and corn on the cob.
Summer whites should be more quaffable than intellectually demanding, with good fruit and acid to give the chilled wine some excitement. European whites are probably a better buy for the season, since supply is good, the dollar's still strong and continental whites tend to be slightly less alcoholic.
One traditional entry comes from the Mosel region, the famous, lighter-style German riesling. The Piesporters, from the middle Mosel, are intensely flavorful without being heavy or high in octane and offer a wonderful lift as an aperitif or as an accompaniment for cold fare. The wines from Bernkastel are equally delicate and appealing, with a slightly flinty edge. For German wine, 1983 was a very good year, particularly for mosels. If you want to put some away, buy a mixed case and work on your riesling appreciation while on vacation.
Another good, straightforward summer white is pinot blanc (pinot bianco in Italy), an acceptable substitute for the less oaky chardonnays and a lot less expensive. Alsace pinot blancs tend to be fuller and more aromatic, needing to accompany food; those from Italy -- and there are many good ones -- tend to be lighter and mellower, suitable before or during a meal. Pinot blanc goes well with seafood, hors d'oeuvres or chicken barbecued with a little vermouth and lemon juice brushed on.
The "blush" wines, better known as blancs de noir (white wines made from red grapes), have lately been growing in popularity. The white zinfandels from California are in particularly good supply. The color is a bit strange, but the wine is light and fruity, with a touch of the zinfandel spice. The pink blush is picked up by allowing the wine to have brief contact with red grape skins during fermentation. Another blush wine is made from pinot noir and often called "eye of the partridge"; it lacks the zest of white zin, but can be very good. Cabernet franc is also made into a blush wine on the West Coast and, like the others mentioned, tends to be lower in alcohol and off-dry.
A good summer red is beaujolais, slightly chilled and served with chicken, chops or cold pasta. The '84 beaujolais nouveau should have been consumed by now, but there is inexpensive beaujolais-villages around (not great but serviceable) or the more substantial and mesmerizing models from Chiroubles and Fleurie. They will stand up to the goat cheese that follows the scallops, and so will Italy's good bardolinos that may also be lightly chilled.
No summer cellar is complete without some effervescence, and by that I don't mean spritzers. Buy some nonvintage champagne, still reasonably priced, or some of the less expensive sparkling wines from California or Spain. If you aren't wild about the taste of the latter, add a few drops of cassis, or black currant liqueur, to the chilled glass before filling. Kir is the aperitif of Burgundy, but is not limited to mixing with chardonnay or aligote. If you like kir in the summer, you might try making it with vinho verde, the dry, fresh, spritzy white from northern Portugal. The combination is simply perfect.