Red wines to drink all summer long
It’s that glorious time of year when an afternoon in the park rolls into spontaneous alfresco dinners and on to late-night backyard sundowners. But just because the temperature is rising and the layers are coming off and staying off, there’s no need to leave the reds on the rack.
We love a good red wine. And we love it all year round. But we get it, sometimes lighter nights call for something brighter - so switch up your varietals and you’ll be sipping pretty no matter how steamy it gets. Here’s our top red picks for summer.
Pinot noir is the OG of warm-weather wine. Despite being a cool-climate grape, pinot noir’s bright, vibrant profile lends itself nicely to drinking when the weather is a bit sultry. Go for delicate Australian pinot noirs from cooler regions such as the Mornington Peninsula or Tasmania, or head to France (Burgundy being the big kahuna when it comes to pinot noir) if you’re feeling more continental. Light and limber, pinot noir is made for lazy days outside.
With its light floral notes and lashings of red fruit, gamay is summer in a glass. The Beaujolais region of France is the boss of gamay, having claimed the varietal as its specialty after the Duke of Burgundy banned the grape from his turf in the 1300s. Lucky for us; because compared to wines from its attention-grabbing northern neighbour Burgundy, Beaujolais gamay is far easier on the wallet. Making it even more perfect for summer afternoon drinking, gamay is best served lightly chilled. Not sure where to start with selecting a bottle? Jump in to our guide to Beaujolais and make yourself at home.
It’s no secret we’ve got a bit of a crush on grenache; it’s like it was purposely designed for summer sipping. In the past the variety might have hidden in the shadows as a blending grape, but single-varietal grenache is starting to claim its place in the sun. Bright red strawberries, cherries and plums will warmly smile at you, grenache will make you very popular at your next backyard dinner party (psst, see our guide to grenache to find out what else it can do well too).
Another Spanish export (synonymous with the Rioja region), classically tempranillo is known for its juicy red fruited profile - think strawberries and cherries - with more concentrated styles moving into plummy territory. Tempranillo ripens earlier than a lot of other varietals (it’s name comes from temprano or “early” in Spanish) so it retains a bit of acidity (about the same as a merlot) but it’s thick skins (and common use of oak) give it a tannic profile similar to that of some more rustic wines from Italy and Greece. Our tip - if you’re looking for less oak in your summer sip, opt for a younger Joven or Crianza style.
Okay, so Australia’s favourite red wine might not be the best call when the mercury is high. But add some bubbles to shiraz, and suddenly it’s a different story. Forget the cheap, sweet plonks you might have had in the past – sparkling reds are having a bit of a moment and Australian sparkling shiraz is at the forefront. The bubbles soften out the intensity of the shiraz, without losing that delicious spice. As a bonus, sparkling shiraz plays well with roast ham and heartier foods, making it a must-have for the table for big family barbecues.
The common wisdom is that red wines are designed to be drunk at room temperature. But there’s a catch – it’s a safe bet that your average room in Australia is hotter than one in Europe back in the old days when the rules were made.
Red wine is generally at its best between 12° and 18°C, making Australia in spring or summer a sauna by comparison. Serving a wine too hot enhances the alcohol and flattens out those glorious flavours the winemaker worked so hard on. In fact, some red wines are even tastier when lightly chilled. Pop any of the above in the fridge 20-30 minutes or so before pouring and you’ll be set.
Want to find the best summer red wines online? We’ve got you all year round.