Sooner or later, it happens to all of us: The Sauvignon Blanc or rosé we bought by the case to enjoy over the summer starts to lose its luster. What once was so refreshing begins to seem one-dimensional and—though we hate to admit it when we still have a few bottles left—boring.
And while we can see the light of cool weather ahead in the reflection of summer’s last zucchini and tomatoes, it’s still too warm to pull the big Cabernets or Châteauneufs from their safe spots in the cellar.
Fortunately, there are a number of red wines that thrive served with a slight chill—and make a welcome respite from the parade of summertime whites and rosés. Reach for reds high in acid, the same thirst-quenching element that brightens those other warm-weather choices, and low in tannins, which give those bigger reds their mouth-drying finishes.
Ideally, the wine will have moderate alcohol levels and plenty of fruit, which will help it emerge fresh and flavorful despite a quick dunk in ice water.
Perhaps the quintessential example is Beaujolais, from the center of France. The Gamay grape, when grown on the cool granite hillsides of the region, yields wines that meet all of these criteria. Don’t spend the extra money on the pricier crus, like Morgon or Moulin-a-Vent, as they’re typically more tannic. Go for a Beaujolais-Villages, or a cru with a reputation for silkiness, like Chiroubles or Saint-Amour.
Other French wines to consider are the Cabernet Francs of Bourgueil or the Pinot Noirs of Sancerre, both in the Loire Valley. When buying summer reds, avoid expensive cuvées—you’re looking for drinkability, not ageability. Irouléguy, from the French Pyrenees, is a more offbeat choice.
From Italy, the variety that boasts low tannins and high acids is Barbera, grown in Piedmont. Grab a version without any oak aging—the wood adds tannins that will just make the wine less attractive when chilled. Grignolino and Ruché, rarities also from Piedmont, work well, too.
Grenache, which goes into so many excellent rosés, can also fill this role as a red wine if it’s made gently and without much oak. Suitable versions can be found from Spain, France, Australia and California.
Lemberger is originally from Austria, but is successfully cultivated in Washington State and New York. From a good producer, it may be the summer’s best burger wine.
8 REFRESHING RED WINES
Look for versions made with minimal oak.
Stick to Beaujolais and Beaujolais-Villages.
Lightweight Cabernet Francs work well with herbal dishes.
Serve inexpensive versions from Campo de Borja.
Heitz—in California’s Napa Valley—makes a terrific version.
High-altitude vines equal high-acid wines.
Don’t overlook Austrian versions labeled Blaufränkisch.
Pinot Noir that’s perfect with grilled salmon.