Cool Red Wines for Summer Sipping

When temperatures and humidity levels soar above the 90 point mark, we instinctively reach for a cold beverage to cool us down. While we love to #RoséAllDay and everything’s nice with white wine or bubbly on ice, where does that leave red wine lovers?

This summer, chill your reds. 

Light to medium-bodied reds, with softer tannins and lots of fruit make the best bottles to put in your chiller. That’s right, throw that bottle of Pinot Noir or Grenache in the refrigerator, and you’ll be able to sip it on a rooftop deck, by the pool, at the beach, on a picnic or with an alfresco dinner.

Here are four ways to do it:

  1. Fill an ice bucket with a 50-50 mix of water and ice. Chill your bottle(s) for at least 20 minutes, then pop the cork.
  2. Put your bottle in the refrigerator ahead of time then pull it out of the fridge about 30 minutes before you plan to serve it. That way you don’t drink the wine too cold. 
  3. For a quick fix, you can throw that bottle in the freezer for about 20 minutes to get a nice chill going. Be sure to set a timer or you may forget the bottle and end up with frozen wine. If that happens, don’t worry, you can let it thaw out and the wine will be fine.
  4. Here’s one more quick fix. When all else fails, put an ice cube in your wine glass! Give the wine a good swirl, and you’ll have a cool sipper. Once cube will not harm the wine.

Certain wine varieties lend themselves to summer sipping. But others are just too overpowering. Save your Cabernet Sauvignons, Bordeaux, Barolos and Zinfandels for the fall. These full-bodied wines are just too heavy when it’s hot outside, and it’s no fun to drink wine that is too warm. What to drink? Here’s what to ask for at your local wine bar or shop.

  • Light-bodied and fruit-forward Pinot Noir
  • Grenache
  • Beaujolais. Look for “Cru” Beaujolais. These region-specific wines are nothing like their cousin Beaujolais Nouveau. They’ve been made from higher quality grapes and aged much longer than Nouveau. There are 10 Cru, and the lightest-bodied ones are from Saint-Amour, Fleurie and Chiroubles.
  • Gamay, which is the light-bodied red grape of Beaujolais wines. You can find California versions of Gamay from several producers.
  • Chianti, made from the Sangiovese grape. Chianti Classico will be slightly lighter than Chianti Reserva, which is aged longer.
  • Sangiovese from California, especially the Sierra Foothills (El Dorado County, Amador County).
  • Barbera. This is the perfect summer barbecue, hamburger and pizza wine. This is your go-to instead of bolder Zinfandels.
  • Rioja from Spain, made with the Tempranillo grape. You’ll also find single varietal Tempranillo made in the States, especially in California. We love its bright fruity and spicy notes.
  • Want something festive? Try Lambrusco from Italy. This fruity and slightly fizzy red is not the sweet stuff of your parents or grandparents quaffs. You’ll find good quality, dry Lambrusco from abroad and similar fizzy reds in California. Pet-Nats are a good option too. Be sure to serve these well-chilled.

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