Cabernet Sauvignon. Shiraz. Barolo. These delicious reds are also big, bold and tannic—often too much so when the thermometer climbs to 90° or higher. So what’s a red wine lover to do in the summertime? Reach for a bottle that won’t make you wilt on even the hottest August day. Pop the wine in the fridge for 20 minutes before serving, which makes it refreshing without masking its aromas and flavors.
Dolcetto: Italian for “little sweet one,” Dolcetto hails from the northwest Piemonte region. The translation is a bit deceiving, though, as most are dry wines. Dolcetto is easy drinking, with moderate tannins and acidity, and pleasant cherry and plum flavors. Drink it this summer or next, as most bottles are not meant for long-term ageing.
Valpolicella: This Italian gem is made in the Veneto region from the Corvina grape. It’s low in tannins and full of sour cherry flavors, and would be perfect for a summer dinner al fresco. Seek out wines that say “Classico” on the label for the less intense, fruity style. “Ripasso” is produced using dried grapes, resulting in a heavier wine.
Beaujolais: Lush and fruity, French Beaujolais owes much of its light style to a fermentation process called carbonic maceration. Instead of pressing the Gamay grapes, whole clusters burst under a blanket of carbon dioxide, leading to wines with bright fruit and virtually no tannin. Among the highest quality Crus Beaujolais, those from the village of Brouilly tend to be softest.
Pinot Noir: Although Pinot Noir’s flavors can run the gamut from cherries to raspberries, from spice to earthiness, most bottles share a light and elegant style, as well as a silky mouth feel from low tannins. Opt for a mid-priced bottle from Oregon’s Willamette Valley or California’s Carneros or Russian River Valley regions. These wines strike a nice balance between fresh fruit flavor and Pinot’s distinctive earthy notes.
Kelly Magyarics is a wine writer and educator in the Washington, D.C. area. Kelly can be reached through her Web site, which is www.trywine.net.