Best Summer Red Wines
The best summer red wines have lighter acid, body, and tannin, making them feel bright and fresh in your mouth. This is exactly the red wine style most people will want to enjoy on a hot summer evening. Here are some good summer red wines to try.
Helpful Tip: Red wines from cooler regions, like Canada, Coastal California and Chile, and the Jura region of France, make higher acid, leaner red wines with brighter fruit that work with hot summer days. If you’re unsure what to look for, ask for a “cool climate red wine” at the wine shop and they’ll help you out.
Pinot Noir: Lighter
The first pick for summer red wines has to be Pinot Noir. This is a bright, light, fun red wine with low tannins and tons of red, juicy fruit. Pick a young Pinot Noir, nothing aged or fancy, and you’ll enjoy a summer red wine that pairs beautifully with grilled fish and pasta salads.
Personal Note: Aged Pinot Noir works well with the earthier foods you usually enjoy in the fall – roasted white meats, risottos, and gravies.
If you’ve never heard of Schiava, it’s time to go find a bottle. This summer red wine is the twin of Pinot Noir. Look for Schiava wines from Northern Italy. These are bright, red-fruit-driven wines that deliver quality juiciness in your glass. Again, pair these wines with your green salads and tofu burgers that could benefit from a little pick-me-up.
Trousseau is a lesser-known red wine grape that’s widely grown in the Jura region of eastern France. It’s a bright, high-acid red with lighter tannins that will perk you up with juicy red fruit. Pair Trousseau as you would a Pinot Noir. Think cold pasta salads, white grilled fish, or even chips and dip.
Grenache, or Garnacha, as the Spanish say, comes in different styles. From lighter to fuller-bodied. You’ll want a youthful, lighter-style Grenache wine. Choose less expensive Grenache from Southern France, Pays DOC IGT. Stay away from Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre (GSM) blends. These will be heavier red wines that work better with soups and richer dishes which you probably aren’t enjoying on your patio.
Lambrusco is Italy’s answer to light, fruity, fun, red sparkling wine. Typically affordable, and best served chilled, Lambrusco is the perfect summer red wine, especially if you’re looking to enjoy it as a cocktail wine (no food necessary). Pour it over ice and let those bubbles tickle your nose! Get some aged Italian cheese and a few crudites and put your feet up to enjoy the sunset!
Moving to light- to medium-bodied red wines, try a Zweigelt. This is a German red wine that’s less-well known and has red cherry, raspberry, and a touch of pepper. Zweigelt delivers freshness that can be paired with pasta salads, dark leafy salads, and BBQ chicken. Yum!
Cabernet Franc: Medium
Cabernet Franc can have a rustic quality to it that pairs with picnics. Black fruit, herbal notes, and chewy tannins give this wine delightful complexity. Pair it with salami, aged and smoked cheeses, and a fresh baguette, and call it a day.
Zinfandel: BBQ Wine
Zinfandel’s California’s darling of a grape. Also known by the name “Primitivo”, Zinfandel doesn’t ripen evenly on the vine, resulting in wines that have a range of fruit flavors, from just ripe to jammy and dried. Zinfandel’s a great wine with more body that will stand up to BBQ sauce and pulled-pork sandwiches. Go for it!
Pinotage: BBQ Wine
Pinotage has a smokey profile and black fruit that works well with grilled meats. At home in South Africa, this red wine grape has a mixed reputation. Pick the more expensive Pinotage if you have two bottles to choose from. Here’s everything you need to know about Pinotage (and why it’s my favorite chili grape).
Check it Out: Pinotage Pairing Guide
Syrah: BBQ Wine
Syrah delivers dark fruit, a bite of black pepper, and rich, ripe tannins that pair beautifully with all of your favorite grilling meats. If you enjoy summer cookouts, then Syrah should be your go-to summer wine. You’ll find inexpensive Syrah from Australia (where it goes by the name Shiraz), but also Chile and Central California. These will all taste similar, so don’t sweat it.
Check it Out: Syrah Pairing Quick Guide
Watch Out for These Red Wines
Full-bodied, high alcohol, high tannin red wines won’t pair with lighter summer cuisine. If you enjoy salads, grilled fish, or even pasta salads in the summer, then these bigger red wines overpower and seem over-the-top for the season. Save them for when you’re doing a BBQ or, even better when the kiss of cool fall finally arrives!
Thirsty for More?
Check out this full post on light red wines that’s worth checking out for the summer.
Check out this list of cold appetizers for red wine tasting.