During the summer when the weather is warm and the sun is shining, not many will think to order red wine – who envisions sitting al fresco in August with a class of heavy Cabernet or Shiraz? No one, of course. As we like to point out on the Coravin blog, these days are reserved for crisp white wines, or a fresh Provençal rosé, or even a pitched of fruity sangria. But that’s not always the case! In fact, as Master Sommelier Brett Davis recently shared with Eater online, he still enjoys red wines in the summer months, but prefers to stick with the group of thin-skinned varietals he calls “the Big Five,” or Pinot Noir, Grenache, Sangiovese, Nebbiolo, or Tempranillo. In each case, the wines made from these grapes tend to be more fruit forward, and will often pair quite well with grilled meats or vegetables – typical barbecue or cookout fare.

Chilled reds?

Yes, you can chill your red wines. In fact, they’re meant to be served slightly cooler than what most people think (this goes back to the real meaning of “room temperature,” and moder-day climate control…for more on that topic read our post on Wine Storage). Sommelier André Hueston Mack of Mouton Noir said in an article recently that he “favors what he calls the 20-20 rule, ‘Take your whites out of the refrigerator 20 minutes before you’d like to drink them and put your reds in the refrigerator 20 minutes before you’d like to drink them.’” This is a good rule of thumb, and will ensure that your wines aren’t too warm or cold. It’s especially applicable in the summer, and works well with these lighter red wines you might enjoy in the summer.

On a similar note, Madeline Puckette at Wine Folly gives the following helpful hints for the ideas serving temperatures of red wines. For light red wines, “the fruitier the wine, the warmer it can be. Put the bottle in the fridge 30 minutes before opening.” For rich red wines, she notes that “High tannin wines smooth out a bit at warmer temperatures. Remember, it’s easier to warm your glass than cool it.”

Watch the alcohol

Something else to consider is the level of alcohol in your red wine. High alcohol wines tend to be bigger, and bolder. Alcohol will also affect you more quickly in the heat, especially if you’re dehydrated. In the summertime, skip the high alcohol Amarones or Syrahs. Most experts will guide you toward 13% alcohol and below. These lighter red wines will be more versatile in the heat!


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