With the Season goes the Wine

Or does it? What happened to summer's reds?


Having recently returned from two weeks in Piedmont I am understandably excited about the wines I tasted. Barolo and Barbaresco are of course top of mind, but those two wines don't exactly spring to mind as iconic summer wines now do they? Some lesser known varieties, such as Pelaverga for example, do make perfect summer wines but they turn out to be rather hard sells, and have very limited distribution so what's left to recommend. Well for starters I was super excited by some of the Dolcetto I tasted while in Italy. After years of trying to produce Super-Dolcetto, it looks like many producers took advantage of the recent vintages and returned Dolcetto to its light, fresh, easy drinking roots.
Standouts from my trip included Elio Grasso's uncomplicated yet gulpable 2012 Dolcetto d'Alba dei Grassi, the 2012 E Pira Dolcetto, full of lively, bright, juicy fruit, the decidedly fruity 2011 Cantina del Pino Dolcetto and the grapey and fresh Cascina dell Rose 2012 Dolcetto.
That's all great. but my question is, will people buy these wines or will they continue to fall back on the wines they are familiar with even when the weather calls for something else?  Has Dolcetto become something else in consumer's minds, similar to what has happened with Valpolicella, Beaujolais, and myriad other wines that attempted to trade in their advantage of freshness for power or complexity over the years?

A quick, albeit imperfect, look at Snooth's traffic shows that big red wines continue to be the most searched for red wines on Snooth, though in actuality the top searched for wines are surprisingly dominated by sparking wines: Champagne, Moscato, and Prosecco to be exact. But taking a look at just the reds the top ten searched for wines over the past month include:
Not exactly a line-up of easy drinking wines, even if one keeps in mind the unusually cool temperatures most of us have been enjoying, though in all honesty I do have a bit of a sentimental connection with the Carlo Rossi Paisano!  So the question ultimately become, does the market even want lighter reds? I know that many of us ITB types love these wines, and want to see them prosper, but I'm not sure that mindset is in the marketplace. For too many years the wine media has promoted bigger, blacker, richer, and bolder as better and now we have to pay the price for that misguided advice. 
Of course there are people out there who trust their own palate, and appreciate the beauty of delicacy, freshness ,and the approachability of low alcohol, low tannin wines, particularly amongst the younger generations who seem, for the moment, to be disregarding the advice of the old wine media guard, but do we have enough time to save those wines?
I've posed lots of questions here, and am interested in your experiences with this style of wine. Going into the summer, finally, it seems almost like a make or break moment for deliciously fresh wines. How sad it would be to be in a world where Malbec, Cabernet, and other bold reds are somehow deemed appropriate for the summer months. Perhaps I'm just an old curmudgeon, but I just can't understand how a lightly chilled glass of Artemis is going to make my life on the patio this summer more enjoyable.  
So what are your favorite red wines for summer and what's selling where you are?

Mentioned in this article


  • Summer is all about rosés, albariños, viogniers, rieslings, and the like for us, but for reds we quite enjoy slightly chilled Beaujolais and lighter styled French food wines like some Cotes du Rhone, Chinon, and Crozes-Hermitage as well.

    With a change in season comes a change in food, and therefore inevitably a change in wine as well. While we enjoy a nice cabernet or malbec from time to time with a steak in the summer, most of those guys sit until cooler months in our house.

    Jun 22, 2013 at 9:17 AM

  • I lived on the Rheingau in the late 70's and enjoyed German spatburgunders (pinot noir) in the summer. They were so light as to almost be a rose. They have such a minimal following, anyone know where I can find them in U.S.? Meanwhile we drink the lighter slightly chilled California pinot noir, often with grilled salmon.

    Jun 22, 2013 at 1:30 PM

  • Snooth User: Reserva71
    1042425 12

    i can only second vino de gamba's answer. living in berlin, i have come to appreciate light-bodied yet 13 percent spatburgunders especially from the rheingau / rheinhessen region. lovely strawberryish, young cherry flavours only with a hint of oak, a hint of acidity to give them structure and a fleeting finish that however doesn't leave you with a sour face-contorting frown but a pleased smile. try to get your hands on manz sparburgunder from weinelsheim for instance. more recommendations soon!

    Jun 22, 2013 at 3:09 PM

  • Snooth User: SM
    1097030 218

    I have to say I am impressed to finally see German Spatburgunder discussed in the comments section of Snooth as in the Pinot world, if it isn't Burgundy then its Oregon, or Otago.

    So yes Germany does a lot to offer in regards to a lighter easier drinking red wine. Here in Taiwan they haven't quite caught on to a non-Bordeaux, Napa Cab or big heavy reds concept of red wine; for the market and consumer here it generally has to be big, bold, and high alcohol, preferably with high scores.

    But to be fair it is slowly changing as I am starting to see some changes in the varieties/cultivars for sale. There is starting to be some Beaujolais available, mainly Nouveau but some Crus as well, Sangiovese is becoming trendy somewhat and other Italian lighter reds. Pinot Noir is very hard to find and basically prices start north of 30 US$. Ditto Dolcetto, Barbera, you can find a Valpolicella but it is rare.

    Basically no roses available except for sweet plonk except for 1 drinkable one from Corbieres, Languedoc. As far as whites Chardonnay is still king, but Riesling is starting to make an appearance and people are beginning to wake up, and some importers are moving beyond the trio of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Moscato.


    Solomon Mengeu

    Jun 24, 2013 at 8:29 AM

  • Snooth User: EMark
    Hand of Snooth
    847804 8,176

    I have never really bought into the idea of changing my wine drinking habits when I flip the calendar to a new month. I'm pretty sure that drink as much full-bodied red wine in the summer as I do in the winter. I probably drink as much white wine in the winter as I do in the summer.

    OK, maybe there is one concession to the calendar. I mostly enjoy roses in an al fresco environment, and the fact is we do most of our picnicking in the summer.

    Jun 26, 2013 at 2:29 PM

  • Snooth User: Reserva71
    1042425 12

    As promised, here's another lovely set of ripe yet light Spatburgunders, this time from the Baden Region. They're by Weingut Moosmann. I can warmly recommend the 2009 Spatburgunder Auslese as well as the 2010 old barrel-aged Pinot Noir.

    They don't even lose their aromas when slightly chilled. I tasted strawberries, young slightly acidic cherries with a hint of oak. Their light red colour may hint at a slim, fleeting body but no, they are nicely mouth-filling without needing any chewing. All dirt-cheap at around 10 Euros.

    And no, I'm not affiliated with the winery, won't be paid for my recommendation. Must change that...

    Jul 02, 2013 at 11:47 AM

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