I often hear people talk about summer whites or referring to this time of year as rosé season. While I agree that warm weather ushers in an appetite for chilled wines, I also enjoy drinking red wine year-round.
During the summer months, our produce selection exponentially grows. Heirloom tomatoes, summer squash, corn, stone fruits and berries are available. Arctic char and halibut are in season. Of course, barbecue foods such as ribs and hamburgers are great with big red wines; but lighter reds also have a place during the summer time.
Pinot noir is the grape that first comes to mind when people are looking for a light red wine. Beaujolais, which is made from gamay, is another.
However, there are a number of lighter wines that are made throughout the world that do not contain either of these grapes. Cotes du Rhone from France and bardolino from the Veneto are two that I can think of without expending too many brain cells. With these wines, I'm not averse to letting them spend a half-hour in the fridge to cool down either.
Here are my top three reds for summer amusement:
Vignerons de Chusclan Le Ferme de Gicon Cotes du Rhone, 2006 (Rhone Valley, France): This wine represents a group effort by a host of winemakers in the town of Chusclan in the southern Rhone. The cooperative employs 50 percent carbonic maceration giving this mix of grenache and syrah a heightened fruit quality. A delightful blend of watermelon and berry fruit, this wine should be served with a slight chill and enjoyed on a hot day. Suggested retail: $12
Niklaserhof Lagrein, 2006 (Alto Adige, Italy): Located in Alto Adige, Niklaserhof is at the nexus of a serene vacation spot. In spite of the numerous facets of the business, it is run by the Niklas family and the son, Dieter, makes the wines. Lagrein is indigenous to this area but has only been championed over the last decade. Spicy with a syrah-like game aroma and red currant fruit, this wine should be savored while listening to Mahler or reading Dostoevsky. Suggested retail: $20
Ramon Bilbao Crianza Tempranillo, 2005 (Rioja, Spain): Ramon Bilbao started out as a family-run operation but is now owned by a large liquor company, Diego Zamora. Big as the operation may be, the wine never fails to impress my palate. Medium-bodied with cedar, dried herbs, vanilla and cola, this is a great red to have with lighter meat dishes and tapas. Suggested retail: $18
Pamela S. Busch is the wine director and proprietor of CAV Wine Bar & Kitchen in San Francisco.