The Best Summer Red Wines
The warm temperatures of summer tend to help complete the seasonal transition from heavier-bodied red wines to lighter, refreshing whites and rosé. While these are great choices for summer drinking, we should not completely forget about our red wines. There are a few different red grapes particularly great for wine drinking in the warmer months such as Pinotage and Pinot Noir. There are also some less obvious ones such as Grenache and even certain Cabernet Sauvignons. All of these wines listed will be on the inexpensive side reaching no higher than $20 if that. The wines listed here are great for drinking at the pool, the beach, or at your family cookout.
Pinot noir is great for drinking any time of the year, no matter how hot or cold it may be. They are typically lighter-bodied; easy to drink and refreshing; and perfect for casual wine drinkers or those looking for some complexity.
The grape historically claims its proud ancestry from France but is now produced globally in places such as the United States, Australia, and even some stranger regions such as Moldova. We will be looking at three different pinot noirs with two coming from California and one coming from France. All three are distinctly different but embody the general nature of the pinot noir grape.
Pinot Noir is great at any time for any occasion. It is great for sipping at the pool, while you are watching a movie, or paired with a tasty salmon for dinner. Quality pinot noirs can be found for around $10 with that price increasing infinitely from there, so you will have an extensive list of great to choose from at just about any price range.
Here are a few pinot noirs that I think are great for the summer temperatures whether you are trying the varietal for the first time or you are a seasoned wine drinker. These can all be enjoyed by the same person in any setting, but I do think some may work better than others for particular tastes and scenarios.
Poppy Pinot Noir
First, there is Poppy Pinot Noir. It is going to be fairly fruit-forward with notes of bright raspberry and cherry carried by a light but satisfying body. Poppy comes from southern California in Monterrey County with the vineyards at the foot of the Saint Lucia Mountains. This is a very versatile pinot noir in terms of who will like it. Poppy is very smooth and approachable with its fruit-forward essence, but there is also a surprising bit of complexity that will please those that want some character in their wine.
Poppy’s pinot noir is very approachable for those that may just be dipping their toes into red wine, but it is also very enjoyable for the more avid wine drinkers. Due to the higher acidity and medium body, this wine has the potential to go great with fattier fish and even slightly more gamey meat such as chicken and duck. It is just a matter of finding what you like and what works best for you, as this wine could be too heavy for lighter fish but too light for something such as steak.
Chateau St. Jean Pinot Noir
On the other end of the pinot noir spectrum, there is Chateau St. Jean’s pinot noir. This bottle is great for those that prefer the earth, dirt, and funk over pinot noir’s typical fruit notes and aromas. This is not to say that the earthy funk is overbearing in this pinot though; just that it balances the earth and dirt with the usual fruits in a very pleasant way. This is my personal favorite pinot noir I have had so far, but remember that everyone’s individual tastes, preferences, and palettes are different.
If you do not have much experience with red wine or if you typically prefer more fruit-forward wines, you should consider trying this one after the others. Chateau St. Jean’s pinot noir is a bit heavier bodied than the Poppy, though it is still very much in the pinot range. Unlike many pinots though, the earthy notes are more present and intertwined in the bottle here. People who like earthy wine, such as me, will love this bottle, but others may not. You should still try their pinot noir, possibly with some food to ease you in. This pinot will also go great with more gamey proteins such as grilled chicken, duck, and even lighter beef dishes. It could potentially go with fish as well, but I would recommend a fattier fish.
La Cosmique Pinot Noir
Finally, we are going to take a trip to pinot noir’s ancestral stomping grounds, France. In Pinot Noir’s motherland, the grape is most famously known as the king grape of Burgundy, but this particular wine’s grapes, La Cosmique, are grown and bottled in the Rhone Valley. This is not overly crazy, but it is interesting enough to point out due to the two different regions of Rhone being known for producing grenache-heavy blends (GSM Blends) and Syrah. La Cosmique is light-bodied with just enough acidity and tannins to give the wine the traditional old-world mouthfeel.
Cosmique’s pinot noir opens you up to a couple of different realms in the wine world. For one, you get to try a light-bodied tasty pinot that is very approachable. You also get to ease your way into the wines of the old-world if you have not yet. This bottle resembles the mouthfeel, taste, and overall structure of an old-world wine at a very approachable and enjoyable pace. Oftentimes, you will hear people say pinot noir pairs well with fish due to the wine’s lighter body. This is one of those pinots that would pair beautifully with a nice salmon filet. This one is also great for drinking at the pool or your backyard BBQ while you are waiting on the food.
Pinotage is a South African hybrid of pinot noir and cinsault that has gone through a great deal of trial and error since its creation in 1925. It was created by Stellenbosch University’s first viticulture professor, Abraham Izak Perold. Perfecting the grape took decades and getting the rest of the world to recognize the grape’s improvement took even longer. The first Pinotage wines were strongly disliked and seen as an inferior grape due to the nail polish-acetone taste that seemed to accompany the grape. That could be part of the reason why pinotage was historically and currently used more in blends with South Africa’s shiraz and cabernet sauvignon. Luckily, knowledge and technology within viticulture have grown and advanced alongside wine production, allowing for big, tasty single-varietal pinotages.
M.A.N.’s pinotage captures everything about the grape and wine, and that could be great or not so great depending on who is drinking it. M.A.N.’s pinotage has hints of the nail polish-acetone notes that once made pinotage so infamous. While these notes are not overbearing, and could even be seen as good, interesting notes, they could easily be off-putting to some. Now that the potential bad is out of the way, here is the good. There is a variety of ripe, vibrant dark fruits that jump out at you and finish with notes of fresh dirt and minerals.
This particular bottle is very versatile in terms of setting and circumstance. You could enjoy their pinotage by itself while on the beach or grilling out in the backyard, or you could pair this bottle with heavier meats such as sausage and lamb.
Capital Heights Pinotage
Capital Height’s pinotage is going to be more approachable for some than M.A.N.’s, as it lacks any hint of nail polish. Aromas of dark and bright red fruits hop off of the wine, and their notes are very similar on the tongue. While it is very fruit-forward, there is still a slightly earthy undertone.
Like the La Cosmique pinot noir, this is another easy-sipping wine for just about any occasion. It has enough complexity to impress your friends and is simple enough to enjoy in just about any situation. Similar to M.A.N.’s pinotage, this could go with sausage, lamb, and gamey meats, but you could also pair this one with lighter meals such as tuna steaks roasted chicken.
Garnacha is the version of the name I am going to use for this particular post since the one Garnacha I mention is Spanish, and this is how the Spanish spell the name. Otherwise, it is known as Grenache in France and Cannonau in Sardinia, Italy. The grape is most commonly used in GSM blends in southern Rhone, France, and in Spanish blends in Rioja and Navarra. They typically thrive in warmer climates such as those mentioned and others such as California and Australia. This makes for vibrant, bright red fruit notes with bits of earth and oak.
Single-varietal Garnacha is also produced, though not as common as their blends. From my experience and knowledge, many single-varietal Garnacha come out of Spain, and they make for beautiful, adventurous wines. One of the great things about Garnacha wine is that the taste, body, and different characteristics can vary so greatly, so there is likely one for any red wine drinker. I have had sweeter, more fruit-forward Garnacha such as Honoro Vera, the one I have listed here, and dirt
Honoro Vera Garnacha
If you have any experience with the Garnacha grape, this may seem like an odd recommendation for a summer wine. If you have never had the grape, this Spanish Garnacha is an enjoyable and easy intro. With Pinotages and Pinot Noirs, you could make a decent argument for including most in the summer category. With Garnacha, it will depend on the individual bottle and personal preference. Garnacha wines tend to be drastically different from one another with some being very fruit-forward and others being very earthy and dirt-like.
Honoro Vera was very fruit-forward. With aromas of blackberry and cherry, they carry over onto the tongue. The fruit notes are far stronger on the nose than on the tongue, but they are still very present. As the Garnacha aerates and my palette adjusted, hints of smoke that became increasingly stronger made their way through alongside subtle peppery notes. This is a very full-bodied wine, in general, and in comparison, to other Garnacha. The heavier body is complimented with medium tannins and acidity. With Honoro Vera’s full body and medium tannins and acidity, this would pair perfectly with some gamey meats and spices.
This is meant for all wine lovers. If you typically drink red as a seasonal wine, meaning in the cooler months, then this list will give you a few bottles that you can enjoy in the summer. If you love red wine and drink it no matter the season, then these are just a few good recommendations. There are millions of other pinot noirs, pinotages, and other varietals that can be great for the summer. It is just a matter of what you enjoy and prefer. It might take a little trial and error, but you will figure it out. Some honorable mentions that are worth checking out are Sixty-Five & Broad Cabernet Sauvignon and lighter Argentine malbecs. Have a great summer, sign up for our newsletter, and check back in for your wine news and reviews.