July 29th, 2014
10:00 AM ET
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Ray Isle (@islewine on Twitter) is Food & Wine's executive wine editor. We trust his every cork pop and decant – and the man can sniff out a bargain to boot. Take it away, Ray.

Summertime, you know, it's all about the white wines. Well, and the rosé wines. And the sparkling wines. But what is there for people who get the heebie-jeebies when they're presented with a nice glass of Sauvignon Blanc? Who think pink wine is for poltroons and pikers? Who feel that the sadly departed English wine merchant Harry Waugh's reputed comment - "the first duty of wine is to be red" - is gospel, and not just a nice idea? What about their wine, huh?

Well, because this is an equal opportunity column, I feel it's incumbent on me to provide some recommendations for great summer reds. What makes a red wine ideal for summer? Not too much alcohol, for one - skip the 16.5% Amarones, and put the port away until wintertime. A good summer red should also have a certain crispness of character, an acid-driven zip that perks up your taste buds rather than sending them to sleep. Finally, and ideally, it should taste good when slightly chilled. With all that in mind, here are some great options.

2012 Coltibuono Cetamura Chianti ($10)
This pale ruby-hued, floral wine is a delicate take on traditional Chianti, and ends on a peppery note that adds depth. You could drink it all night long and still feel light on your feet.

2012 Gnarly Head Pinot Noir ($10)
Though a bit on the rich side, with a flavor recalling ripe black cherries, this inexpensive Pinot is still very true to the character of that grape: a rare thing at the price.

2012 Librandi Cirò Rosso ($12)
Calabria, in southern Italy, is the source of this crisp, pale red, lightly grippy wine, a good one for grilled sausages. Or grilled anything, really.

2012 Shadow Chaser Red Wine ($14)
Not all Australian reds are massive and dark - this Grenache-based blend from the McLaren Vale south of Adelaide is surprisingly graceful, with fresh strawberry and white pepper notes.

2012 Bon Marché Red ($15)
Generally speaking, California Zinfandel blends tend to be bruisers. But this raspberry-scented red from the Buehler winery checks in at a (fairly) modest 13.4% alcohol; plus, it has lots of lively Zin-driven fruit, and doesn't come off heavy or dense at all.

More from Food & Wine:
Sangria Recipes Perfect for Summer
10 Wine Cocktail Recipes
Wine Pairings for Grilled Foods
Wine Experts to Follow on Twitter
Modern Summer Cocktails

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soundoff (One Response)
  1. grapefulapp

    Great post.

    As much as I love a glass of Provence rosé in the summer, I agree with you that reds are unfairly overlooked. My favourites are Burgundian and NZ pinot noir, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, and Beaujolais (sometimes – obviously not Nouveau).

    I'll try my best to persuade you to jump on the rosé renaissance: http://blog.grapeful.co.uk/2014/06/24/rose-rennaissance/

    August 19, 2014 at 4:48 pm |

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