While many associate red wine with heavy, rich, full-bodied pours perfect for winter nights, winemakers are increasingly drawn toward crafting lighter reds that remain uplifting and fresh enough for warmer days. As spring sets on us and summer nears, now is the time to dabble in the world of chillable red wine.
Lighter-bodied red wines are typically high in acidity and low in tannins. This can include those made from thin-skinned grapes like Pinot Noir and Gamay, but can also include offerings produced using carbonic maceration. This winemaking technique causes reds to explode with fruity aromas and a velvety smooth texture.
Here is a selection of reds that deserve a spot in your refrigerator. They drink best with about an hour of chill. If you happen to leave them in the fridge longer, let the wine warm a bit so it opens up (about 54–60°F, for those keeping track). From Californian Cinsault to Austrian Zweigelt and even Cabernet Franc from the Finger Lakes, these are perfect for anyone who needs an extra bit of refreshment for the warmer seasons ahead.
Thacher 2018 Glenrose Vineyard Cinsault (Adelaida District); $36, 92 points. This is an extremely fresh and zesty bottling, quite good chilled as well. It’s a shade darker than rosé in the glass, and offers crunchy aromas of crisp red currant, hibiscus, fruit punch, sumac and cinnamon. The palate is zippy with acidity and lively with white-pepper spice that lifts up the cranberry, rose-petal and blood-orange-rind flavors. Editors’ Choice. –Matt Kettmann
Day 2016 Running Bare Mae’s Vineyard Red (Applegate Valley); $33, 91 points. Sourced from Herb Quady’s vineyard, the blend consists of 50% Cabernet Franc and one-quarter each Tannat and Malbec. It offers red and black berries, with a whiff of leather, while the acidity contributes a streak of pineapple. The tannins are polished and bring a hint of wild herbs. As with all of Brianne Day’s wines, this does not shy away from the wild side of wine, while offering exceptional grace notes and aromatics. –Paul Gregutt
Stolpman 2018 Grenache (Ballard Canyon); $36, 91 points. Crunchy red currant, carnations, rose petals and wet slate hint at some carbonic fermentation on the nose of this bottling. The palate falls in line as well, with refreshing red-fruit and red-rose-petal flavors that are crisp and zippy. –M.K.
Happs 2017 Pinot Noir (Margaret River); $25, 90 points. This Pinot starts off subdued, offering quiet scents of fresh strawberry, vanilla, dried green herbs and a little white-pepper spice. But give it time in glass and it opens dramatically, revealing much more heady, red-fruited and spicy aromas and an amaro-like herbal character. Fruit on the palate is ripe and juicy, backed by a soft savory line of tannins and crispy acidity. That amaro bitterness creeps in on the finish. Drink slightly chilled with summery cuisine. Little Peacock Imports. –Christina Pickard
Louis Jadot 2018 Beaujolais; $14, 90 points. The Beaune négociant house has produced a ripe and structured wine. It offers plenty of black-cherry flavors from the ripe Gamay as well as acidity and a touch of tannins. Enjoy now. Kobrand. Best Buy. –Roger Voss
Martin Woods 2018 Gamay Noir (Willamette Valley); $30, 90 points. Fermented partially by carbonic (whole berry) maceration, this spicy wine is loaded with red fruits and marked with sharp acidity. It’s full bodied and fresh, and should be consumed over the next couple of years. It finishes with a spot of lemon tea as it fades. –P.G.
Produttori del Barbaresco 2018 Nebbiolo (Langhe); $27, 90 points. Rose and wild berry aromas lead the way, while the palate offers ripe Marasca cherry, raspberry compote, star anise and a hint of iron. It’s full bodied but accessible, thanks to pliant tannins and fresh acidity. –Kerin O’Keefe
Red Newt Cellars 2018 Cabernet Franc (Finger Lakes); $20, 90 points. This red shows a pleasing mix of fruit and earth on the nose, displaying raspberry alongside tilled soil, red flowers and black pepper. There’s solid intensity to the red fruit on the palate, with a floral note lingering throughout. A gentle cherry-pit astringency marks the close. Enjoy with a slight chill. –Alexander Peartree
Traslapiedra 2018 Vino de Desierto Marino Malbec (Paraje Altamira); $20, 90 points. This natural-style Malbec is fermented with native yeast and aged entirely in concrete. It’s lively on the nose in reedy wild berry and red currant aromas. The crisp, racy palate is jolting, while flavors of red plum, currant and cranberry lean spicy prior to a tight, focused finish. Drink now. Regal Wine Imports Inc. –Michael Schachner
Hugl-Wimmer 2018 Zweigelt (Niederösterreich); $13 / 1 L, 89 points. The nose is shy at first but, with some air, reveals juicy cherry notes. The palate is easy but juicy, fresh and packed with ripe vivid cherry. It’s almost like fruit juice for adults, but with a lovely balance and dry finish. Kysela Père et Fils. Best Buy. –Anne Krebiehl, MW