It may seem at first like an oxymoron… “Summertime reds.” Florida summers are hot, period, even if you have some coastal breezes. Finding refreshment in a red wine can be problematic as you are wiping the sweat from your brow. If the issue is temperature alone, then why don’t we just chill them? Sadly most red wines lose what makes them most interesting when chilled down to 40º. Now there is nothing wrong with bringing your Cabernet Sauvignon down to cellar temperature (about 60º to 65º) the ideal tasting temperature. If we Americans were more aware that “room temperature” should not be so relative, and truly they should be at cellar temperature, we might already enjoy more reds during our summers.
What I find most sweat producing in big, red wines, are the tannins, and if we look to go lighter in tannins, we might find more enjoyment and a cooler demeanor. I also find that red wines from warm locations, like much of the Mediterranean, are also great choices for summer imbibing. By the first criteria alone we should consider lighter varietals like Pinot Noir, or Gamay Beaujolais or some Merlots and Cabernet Francs, none of which are on this particular Top Five list. These are some other suggestions to get you started on your own summertime red wine exploration:
- Pavia Blina Barbera d’Asti ($13) – This all stainless fermented Barbera is one of my warm weather favorites, as well as a great wine to pair with certain seafood, like salmon or Ahi tuna. This wine has all the bright fruit of its pristine locale in Northwestern Italy, and no oak, letting the real fruit flavors of the grapes come through. This helps minimize any tannins, giving a wine with bright fruit acidity but no heavy, woodiness to interfere. Think black cherry and clean granite with a mouthful of currants and pomegranates and a clean acid finish.
- Casas del Bosque Carmenere ($13) – Two consecutive years with over 90 scores makes this fine Chilean wine noteworthy, but the light tannins of this nearly forgotten Bordeaux varietal make it a great warm weather option. Somewhere between the density of Cabernet Sauvignon and the soft blueberry of many Merlots, Carmenere is closer to Cabernet Franc, with a little Malbec spiciness thrown in. Here I get red currants and cranberries, with a lovely earthy character, like red bell peppers, which grounds the berry tartness. Lighter tannins make this a great wine to pair with barbecue or grilled veggies.
- Xavier Cotes du Rhone ($14) – This high-scoring Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre blend is the prototype of a Mediterranean red that still has some underpinning mineral structure, akin to classic tannins but subtly different. Here the herbal garrigue notes on the nose dominate with hints of brambleberries and pomegranates. On the palate there is a big wave of acid that then recedes into ripe fruit on the palate that mellows to a chewy depth, from kirsch to cedar and spice. This wine can go with your grilled steaks or lamb chops, but also pair perfectly with grilled eggplant or ratatouille.
- Murviedro EKO Monastrell ($12) – From the Spanish Mediterranean region of Alicante, this Monastrell, called Mourvedre in France, is all organic, and ready to drink without any more aging. In warmer Spain, Monastrell gets some abundant juicy characters, softening it compared to its cousin in Bandol. The tannins are minor players here and in Yecla and Jumilla, letting Monastrell show off its fruity potential. This wine has nice rustic acidity to give complexity to this lighter weight fruit bomb, and make it perfect to pair with complex Spanish cheeses, like Manchego and Drunken Goat.
- F-Bomb ($16) – Talk about a fruit bomb, the F-Bomb is named for that characteristic (one presumes). This hilarious label belies the jam-packed wine in the bottle. From a field blend of Grenache and Barbera, we see two of my favorite summer grapes back together, sourced from sunny California. Very ripe fruit overshadows any heavy tannins, and neither of these grapes tend to be very tannic, leaning to abundant fruit acidity. My impression is of a bowlful of overripe cherries with just a sprinkle of pomegranate seeds and a hint of vanilla or anise. This is a great wine for lighter barbecue fare and easy to pair with a cheeseboard by the pool. I would even chill this wine down to 55º to serve al fresco, and remember, no dropping of f-bombs is required.
Yes, we’re all feeling the heat, but that doesn’t mean you need to abandon all your red wines. Think lighter tannins and warm-weather regions to find some ideal summertime red wines. Cheers!
Daniel Eddy, ABC Fine Wine & Spirits wine and spirits supervisor
Wine Pairing Examiner for Examiner.com
Follow me on Twitter @abcwineDanE