Superior Red Wines for Summertime


White wines are a summer classic, but it has been a long summer. There is a good chance that you are surfeit with white wine by now. Ultra-hip rosé and orange wines aren’t your only options. Be a true trendsetter and cozy up with a late summer red. Summer calls for diaphanous red wine grapes that allow fresh fruits to shine without the deep, dark heaviness associated with winter wines. There will be plenty of time for cigar box notes, forest floors, and gripping tannins. Right now, in the dead of August, you’ve got to keep things light. There are plenty of airy red wines to weather the late summer heat -- and the web’s top wine writers have rounded them up just for you. Their suggestions are broken out by specific grapes, specific regions, and specific wines. Pro tip: Don’t be afraid to pop one of these puppies in the fridge. Leading wine expert Jancis Robinson says you can put open bottles of white or red wine in the fridge to slow down oxidation and preserve freshness.
Summertime Red Grapes

Cabernet Franc

When it's hot out and rosé doesn't fit the bill, there's no summer red better than Cabernet Franc. This parent of Cabernet Sauvignon is lighter in body than its offspring, but still offers all the earthy, spicy flavors and tannins that red wine drinkers love. In essence, Loire Cab Francs like those from Anjou and Chinon offer the comforting red wine hug of fall with the lightness of summer, and red fruit flavors that pair beautifully with whatever is flying off the grill. Plus, they're budget friendly. My go-to is Olga Raffault Chinon, a peppery classic from the central Loire Valley that ages beautifully--I buy it anytime it's on the shelf!

Laura Burgess, The (Mis)Adventures of Laura. Uncorked.


My favorite red wine for summer is grenache/garnacha. It is grown around the world, primarily in France, Spain, Italy, the United States, and Australia. Often used as a blending grape, it shows well on its own and is enjoyed by many because of its fruit-forwardness, lower acidity, and softer tannin. This past year, I have been exploring grenache/garnacha from various regions and at different price points and happily discovered the 2014 Madrigal Family Winery Estate Garnacha, Calistoga, Napa Valley ($50), the winery's fourth vintage of garnacha. Chris Madrigal, third-generation vintner, fell in love with Spanish varietal wines on a family trip to Spain 10 years ago and decided to plant both garnacha and tempranillo at his 40-acre estate vineyard in Calistoga. With only a fraction of an acre planted with garnacha, Madrigal currently makes only about 50 cases. However, due to its popularity, Madrigal planted more and production will increase to about 200 cases once the vines begin to produce grapes. Madrigal's 100% garnacha has medium body and tannin and spends 18 months aged in French oak, 50% new. While deceptively light in color, Madrigal's garnacha is big on fruity aromas and flavors like juicy, ripe black cherry, cranberry, raspberry, and strawberry. With mouth-warming, peppery spice and food-friendly acidity, pair this garnacha with ribs, chorizo, pork and beef barbecue, grilled and roasted meats, and a variety of cheeses.

Elizabeth Smith, Travel Wine Chick

Summer’s heat often makes me reach for a glass of rosé or white wine to cool down and enjoy after work. But at dinnertime I am more likely to open up a bold summer red. In warm weather, few grapes can beat grenache (garnacha in Spain). Any other avowed Francophile will agree that  Côtes-du-Rhône is an easy call for grenache, with value wines in the under $20 range and high end bottles for the connoisseur. One of my personal favorites is actually from the Mclaren Vale in Southern Australia. Eclipse by Noon is a Grenache-shiraz-graciano blend that is big, bold, fruity perfection-  an ideal example of the Grenache grape’s flexibility. Often sold as a cold-weather wine due to the massive flavors, when served properly chilled (60-64 degrees Farenheit or 16-18 degrees Celsius) and decanted, this wine offers massive enjoyment and pairing for grilled meats and summer evenings.

Jim van Bergen, JvB UnCorked


The Grignolino grape variety makes ideal red wines for summer. It has exhilarating, pretty notes of rose hips, red currant and sour cherry with mouth-watering acidity and an overall lightness of being that is highly prized by those who love it. Its home is considered to be Monferrato Casalese DOC, in Piedmont (Piemonte), where marl/clay dominant soils typically make wines with more stuffing than their Asti versions, where the soils have more sand. I recommend serving these wines slightly chilled with a quick 15 minutes in the refrigerator. Grignolino wines are ideal with anything fatty, such as charcuterie and cheese, and as one can imagine, is a perfect picnic wine. The classic Piemontese pairing is Grignolino and Vitello Tonnato, a dish that consists of cold, thinly sliced veal with a caper and lemon mayo sauce. I highly recommend the 2014 Cantine Valpane Euli Grignolino del Monferrato Casalese DOC. The acidity is not too harsh but still crisp and refreshing, with a lovely nose of spice and the classic rose hip note. It will truly blow your mind to taste such an unknown delicate red that gives so much pleasure that you'll be wondering, "Where have you been all my life?!" I bet it will not only dominate your summer wine choices but you may even consider adding it to your colder weather aperitif lineup as well.

Cathrine Todd, Dame Wine

GSM Blends

With each passing day bringing the end of summer ever closer, most of us are trying to grab as much outdoor fun as we can. For most people that involves cookouts, picnics or some sort of food themed festivities. Whatever you’re eating and serving your guests, wine is only going to make the celebration more jovial. If you’re grilling, late summer sipping is about pairing wine with burgers, flank steak, or pizzas. If on the other hand you’re having a picnic you’re more likely to be pairing with fried chicken, muffuletta sandwiches and hearty grain salads. In either case you’ll want a wine that stands up to them. I look towards GSM blends because they’re often loaded with eager and varied fruit flavors that will marry well with a smorgasbord. While GSM’s are most synonymous with the Rhone region of France there are other countries which make notable examples, such as Australia. That said anywhere these three grapes flourish a terrifc GSM has the potential to be produced. This example from Washington State is perfect for your late summer dining pleasure. Maryhill Winery 2012 Marvell “GSM” ($33): This classic blend of Syrah, (37%), Grenache (34%), and Mourvedre (29%) was produced from fruit sourced at Hattrup Farms in the Rattlesnake Hills AVA of Washington State. Violet and black plum aromas provide a welcoming entry point. Red and black raspberry and cherry flavors dominate the palate along with black pepper spice. Hints of smoked meat and a dusting of baler’s cholate are present on the long, velvety finish. This juicy, fruity, food loving wine combines great curb appeal with more than reasonable depth and complexity to keep both casual wine drinkers and seasoned winos interested. If you’re pouring it at a late summer blowout it’s likely you have friends in both camps, This GSM from Maryhill will make both of those groups happy.

Gabe Sasso, Gabe’s View


For sure, summer sippers need not be limited to only white wine and rosé. Zweigelt, pronounced TSVYE-gelt, is a red Austrian grape that generally produces light and nimble wines with fresh fruit flavors and good acid structure. These wines are versatile on the table and great for summer sipping. If variety is the spice of life, then look no further than Lodi, California. The region’s diversity of soil types and Mediterranean climate allows for a wide range of grape varieties, with over 75 unique wine grapes in commercial production. It should come as no surprise that one of those grapes would be Zweigelt. Hatton Daniels, a producer specializing in small production wines, sourced fruit for this wine from the famed Mokelumne Glen vineyard. This small, family-owned vineyard specializes in German and Austrian grape varieties. I have had a number of exciting wines from this site, so be sure to put this grower on your radar. As for the 2015 Hatton Daniels Zweigelt, it pours a brilliant, deep purple color with flavors redolent of sour macerated cherries, fresh blueberries, and floral perfume, accented by a dash of black pepper and cooking spice, all propped up by a pleasant zing of acidity. It is light , fun, and lean, closing with good energy and lift. Enjoy this delicious wine at cellar temperature (i.e., around 55 °F). Only 72 cases of this wine were produced. Region: Lodi California. Vineyard: Mokelumne Glen Other info: SRP $24, ABV 11.9%, zero-sulfur, cork enclosure.

Dezel Quillen, My Vine Spot

Summertime Regions

Beaujolais (but not Nouveau)

I don’t know about you, but when the temperature rises to near triple-digits I’m more likely to reach for a glass of white wine or a rosé than a glass of red wine. A gin and tonic is not entirely out of the question. But, there are times during the summer months when I do get a hankering for a red wine. So, here is what I look for in a red wine to sip during the summer months. A lighter body, smooth tannins, a modest alcohol level and plenty of flavor. Smooth tannins and plenty of flavor because I like my red wine slightly chilled when the weather is hot and chilling exaggerates tannins and can mute flavors. So I choose a variety that is fruity, from a region known to produce elegant wines with silky tannins. The grape: Gamay Noir. The region: Beaujolais. The Cru: Fleurie. My current favorite is Stephane Aviron 2011 Fleurie Vieilles Vignes Domaine de la Madrière. Light body, generous spice and fruit flavors, smooth tannins. For many years I thought I didn't like Beaujolais, because of an unfortunate Beaujolais Nouveau experience, but then I discovered Beaujolais Cru wines. That discovery has expanded my warm weather red wine options. If you haven't tried Beaujolais — you really should. There is plenty of warm weather left this summer.

Nancy Brazil, Pull That Cork

I think Beaujolais is perfect year-round, but it’s a super-smart choice for summer drinking. The grape used in Beaujolais is gamay, which if you age if for a few years, takes on a pinot noir quality. But upon release, Beaujolais is ready for summer!  Morgon seems to be a familiar choice for cru Beaujolais, but for summer, step out of your comfort zone and try the softer, more floral feminine Beaujolais from Fleurie or Saint Amour. For the budget-conscious, for under $15 try Beaujolais-Villages, it’s fresh, fun and fruity, perfect for the beach, poolside or pairing with grilled vegetables for the Labor Day end-of-summer barbecue.

Nanette Eaton, Wine Harlots

New Zealand Pinot Noir

With the exception of Beaujolais, New Zealand Pinot Noir is the absolute best red wine that can be chilled to drink in the late summer. Its fruity characteristics of strawberries and raspberries are the perfect match for the warm, humid, summer air.

Phil Kampe, The Wine Hub

Summertime Wines

Borra Vineyards Heritage 2013

Before there was air conditioning or refrigeration, people drank wine. Look for a field blend to bring you a summer sipper with an historic sense of place. Field blends are wines made from a vineyard where comingled vines of different varieties act as a team to produce delicious wines in harmony with each other. They are picked and vinified together regardless of their own variety. A field blend may need several decades to coalesce. They are not common in today’s modern age of production schedules and market driven plantings. Most exist because they are serendipitously delicious. Since they are harder to find, let me recommend the 2013 Borra Vineyards Heritage, which  is a field blend of 70% Barbera, 10% Carignane, 10% Petite Sirah and 10% Alicante Bouschet. These grapes come from 90 plus year old vines in the Mokelumne River sub AVA in Lodi. Field picked and co-fermented, this combination of grapes produces a wine of warm welcoming primary aromas with deep black spiced fruit underneath. Driven by the acidity of the Barbera, it is earthy and delicious and will stand up to many warm weather foods like barbecue or my favorite no cook summer meal: Charcuterie. The name "Heritage" Steve Borra told us, was inspired by his memories of his dad. Steve describes a scene of his dad who always had a dry salami hanging by a barrel in the basement. He would funnel wine from the barrel to bottle and drink deeply of his field blend. That sounds like a lovely summer sipper supper.

Liza Swift, Brix Chix

Cantina di Mogoro San Bernadino Monica di Sardegna DOC

The dog days of summer are upon us. As the temperature continues to hover at 100 degrees Fahrenheit it seems most wines worth considering are white or rosé. However, summer is also the cookout season and there is a bounty of red wines that pair great with summer foods to help you beat the continuous summer heat. One of my summer red wine favorites is Cantina di Mogoro San Bernadino Monica di Sardegna DOC. It is crafted of 85% Monica and 15% Bovale (aka Mourvedre); Monica is an indigenous grape to Sardegna that dates back to the days of Spanish Aragon domination in Sardegna. It is a beautiful wine in the glass, pouring a bright ruby red with intense purple highlights. It opens with a rustic racking off aroma quickly giving way to dried red fruits along with fresh blue berries and plums, notes of fresh cut violets and baking spice highlighted by nutmeg, and lightly roasted hazelnuts. The versatility of this wine reveals itself on the palate; fresh, yet complex with layers of flavors evolving as they move across the palate. Bright acidity is balanced with well-structured, integrated tannins; medium in body with a long, pleasant finish. Cantina di Mogoro’s San Bernadino pairs with a wide variety of summer cuisines such as seafood and shellfish (common pairings with Monica in Sardegna), grilled meats such as chicken, pork and a lean fillet, as well as perfect for hamburgers, hot dogs, and summer salads. Additionally, its 13% ABV does not weight you down. Give this wine a little chill for optimum enjoyment with your summer cuisine. Furthermore, as summer moves into fall San Bernardino is a perfect transition wine. The grape Monica is lacking in weight and texture so Cantina di Mogoro does two things to assist Monica: first, they blend it with Bovale, adding weight and tannins; second, though 90% of the wine is aged in stainless steel, they age 10% of this wine in chestnut barrels. The chestnut barrels add a touch of roasted nut flavor increasing its food pairings to include pastas with red sauces, pizza, and a variety of braised and grilled meats. So pick up a bottle and let me know what you think.

Michelle Williams, Rockin Red Blog

Division Winemaking Company Gamay Noir "Les Petits Fers" 2015

I love sipping on some slightly chilled Gamay reds during the dog days of summer. While my favorite Gamays come from the Crus of Beaujolais, Oregon is home to America's most promising iterations of this bright, red-fruited, refreshing red wine. Division Winemaking Company's 2015 Gamay Noir "Les Petits Fers" is exactly what I look for in a summer sipping red wine: light tannins, lip-smacking acidity, bright red fruit. This wine also boasts complex elements of earth, mineral, baking spices and flowers. When served slightly chilled, this is absolutely delicious and, at about $25, worth every penny.

Isaac James Baker, Reading, Writing & Wine

Domaine Cheveau “Les Champs Grillés” Saint-Amour 2012

It’s still hot. No, it’s still sultry, the heat a murky pall over the land. I want a red wine with cut-crystal clarity. A red wine that can take a chill. A red wine right for salad. I want Gamay. The grape’s levity keeps it refreshing, while its berry and spice notes keep it interesting. Let’s go with one from Saint-Amour, the northernmost Cru of Beaujolais. I recently opened the 2012 Domaine Cheveau “Les Champs Grillés” Saint-Amour (yes, “grilled countryside”—it seemed right for the moment). It was peppery with a ruby-grapefruit kick, like the spritz of the peel squeezed into the juice of the flesh. Its garnet-hued robe had a lilting berry sweetness offset by trenchant acidity. Refreshing! Only a few hundred cases of that particular wine make it to U.S. shores, so look for other options from this Cru. By the way, Saint-Amour is also known as The Romantic Cru (amour—get it?), so you might want to pick up an extra bottle now for Valentine’s Day. Because February’s just around the corner.

Meg Houston Maker, Maker's Table

Domaine Grosbois Clos du Noyer 2012

While I appreciate crisp, refreshing rosés and light whites to pair with the heat and intense humidity of Virginia summers, light to medium-bodied red wines made from Cabernet Franc are my go to wines to pair with grilled meats.

The distinctive cabernet francs from producers like Domaine Grosbois in the Chinon region of France’s Loire Valley are my favorite red wines, especially for summer evening cookouts.

Domaine Grosbois has been family owned since 1820.  Today, proprietor and winemaker Nicolas Grosbois organically farms 22 acres of vineyards, divided into 13 different plots.  Grosbois makes seven distinctive, site-driven wines from these plots of Cabernet Franc.

The thought-provoking Clos du Noyer is one of my favorites from Nicolas Grosbois.  Made from 40 year-old vines grown in clay and limestone, Grosbois fermented this wine in open cement vats.  The 2012 is elegant, layered and beautiful; medium-bodied; ruby color in the glass; opened with aromas of Brett that disappeared quickly, followed by cherry, spice, and black tea with flavors of violet, black cherry, red currents around earthy minerality.  Even better paired with rare grilled lamb chops and a mild summer evening with friends.

Frank Morgan, Drink What YOU Like

Donnafugata Sherazade Nero d'Avola 2015

As we approach the end of summer and shift our wine desires to more reds and fuller bodied reds at that, there is still plenty of time to be considering and drinking red wine in the summer months. It's not all about whites and rose' all the time. The renowned Donnafugata winery of Sicily has their first release of a 2015 Sherazade Nero d'Avola to the United States and I was fortunate to get to sample this wine in time to share with everyone. Nero d'Avola, the indigenous grape of Sicily, is a perfect accompaniment to summer fare with the Sherazade. Ruby red with a beautiful bouquet combined with fresh and fruity notes of strawberries and cherries with an added dash of pepper. Overall a smooth wine with gentle tannins. There is no wonder that the wines of Sicily are some of the hottest wines on the Italian wine scene right now and there is plenty of variety for everyone to enjoy.

Jennifer Martin, Vino Travels

Heitz Cellar Napa Valley Grignolino

Oh how I enjoy a chillable red wine! Especially during the summer when the grilling of meats takes center stage, and I seek a heartier alternative to a light bodied rosé.  For a few years now, one of my favorites has been the Heitz Cellar Napa Valley Grignolino.

Grignolino (pronounced “Green-o-lean-o”) is an indigenous grape from the Piedmont region in Northern Italy. Though it’s considered a minor grape in Italy, there are two DOCs devoted to the grape. Outside of Italy there are only a handful of Grignolino vines.  One of those places is the Napa Valley.

I was acquainted with the grape while tasting at Heitz Cellar, an iconic Napa Valley winery renowned for its world-class Cabernet Sauvignon.  When the Heitz family purchased their first 8-acre vineyard in 1961, it was mostly planted to Grignolino. Rather than replant to the imminently more profitable Cabernet Sauvignon, the Heitz’ decided to keep the variety alive. Heitz crafts both rosé and red wine from the grape.  The red is a fun, and charming wine that shows a delightful light-bodied strawberry, floral character with lively acidity that is accented by a hint of orange rind and nuanced minerality. Pair this vivacious chillable red wine with charcuterie, grilled meats, or pizza. It’s a great picnic wine! (12.5% abv SRP - $22.)

Martin Redmond, ENOFYLZ Wine Blog

Jeremy Wine Co. Sangiovese 2013

Hot out? Still want wine? Then think wine regions with warm weather as inspiration for summer reds. Try grapes like Nebbiolo, Grenache (Garnacha), Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, and Tempranillo - all are classics, especially if you're enjoying grilled meals, as I often do in the summer. Chill the reds to tone them down and add a bit of refreshing coolness. A good area to look at domestically is Lodi, with a wine like the 2013 Sangiovese from Jeremy Wine Co as one to search out.

Kovas Palubinskas, 50 States of Wine

Liparita V Block from Yountville 2013

When I think of summer reds, I usually think of Southern Rhône. Grenache, Mourvedre, and Cinsault never disappoint with fresh acid and lively fruit. But the question posed was not about our "go-to" reds but more superlative in nature. What is the biggest red wine still suitable for summer? When I think in those terms, I think of pairing with a grilled steak and air conditioning, both staples in the Texas heat. I think of Cabernet Sauvignon, which in turn leads to Napa Valley. Earlier this summer I sampled a few Napa Cabs; some monsters made me wish I'd held on until the weather changed. The 2013 Liparita V Block from Yountville, however, worked without requiring a lower thermostat. Bold yet balanced, youthful enough to maintain fresh fruit. It begins with a burst of blackberries and opens into anise, structured with smooth tannins. This wine would pair well with BBQ ribs or grilled ribeye, flip-flops or a more formal affair.

Alissa Leenher, Sahmmelier Wine Blog

Two Shepherds Carignan 2014

When I saw the summer red assignment, I immediately thought of Two Shepherds 2014 Carignan from the ancient vine, Bechthold Vineyard.  While it is billed as a Rhone variety, it has a similarity to a Cru Beaujolais, making it a light, fruity and low in alcohol wine with red juicy fruit, hints of roses and a little spice.  It is new with very limited availability (only 35 cases from the oldest surviving Cinsault vineyard in the world).

Throw in the fact that this “one-man micro winery” is passion of William Allen, a former wine writer, blogger and garagiste for years before moving into commercial production in 2010, and you have an even better story.

Melanie Ofenloch, Dallas Wine Chick

Troon Vineyard Zinfandel 2013

Rain, snow or sizzling summer sunshine, we grill year-round.  Savoring the flavor that only a flaming grill can draw from a myriad of meats and vegetables (and all sorts of pizzas) is simply something that the palate consistently craves. Admittedly, we take advantage of the Willamette Valley's sensational summer months, and we happily grill nearly every day. We love to pair a variety of white wine with a variety of grilled pizzas that have olive oil-based sauces - piling them high with vegetables, and oftentimes, loading them up with juicy summer fruits. But when grilling pizzas with a red sauce, or meats that are slathered in one of our many house-created BBQ sauces, we ultimately enjoy pacifying our palates with a red wine - and we reach for zippy, zesty Zinfandels. We recently pulled the cork on a 2013 vintage Zinfandel from Troon Vineyard and paired it with our fresh-off-the-grill baby back pork ribs that were doused in our very own sweet-n-spicy BBQ sauce. With essential ingredients such as sweet chili sauce, ketchup, brown sugar and copious amounts of ginger, the Zinfandel's firm tannins, bright acidity and lush full body stood up perfectly to the sassy sauce. Aromas and flavors of fresh raspberry, blackberry, cherry and plum were highlighted by alluring zesty fall spices and black peppercorns - balancing the wine (and the sauce) to perfection. Zinfandel has always been the focus at Troon Vineyard, located in Southern Oregon's Applegate Valley AVA.  Founder and previous owner, Dick Troon, seemed to have an eye for the future of wine in southern Oregon as he planted Zinfandel vines back in 1972 - Oregon's wine industry was just beginning to take shape. Read about more Troon Vineyard on

Julia Crowley, The Real Wine Julia

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