When we hear “summer wines,” rosé and crisp white wines undoubtedly come to mind. But this misses summer staples of a different hue: The right red wines can pair perfectly with warm-weather, outdoor parties, and long summer days.
Whether chilled, sparkling, or fruity and fresh, there are plenty of summer reds worth trying out. We’ve put together this list of 10 reds reviewed by our tastings director Keith Beavers that are well-priced, crowd-pleasing, and ideal for pairing with barbecue, a.k.a., the summer-drinking trifecta. Pick a favorite and pull out a red for your next picnic or pizza night.
This is the definition of a crowd pleaser. It has Pinot Noir and Merlot feels with Cab-like tannin. It has a soft fruit core, showing aromas that will remind you of cherries, a leather bag store in the mall, and a tobacco shop. The mouthfeel is soft, with some edgy tannins framing the wine. It’s ready to drink right now, and calls for a wine and cheese night. Price: $25.
This excellent and affordable Sicilian red is ready for a weeknight burger, pizza, or pasta night. It will please all palates with a little bit of spice and a little bit of fruit along with great acidity that prevents the wine from weighing down the palate. It’s under $20, under a screw cap, and you might regret not grabbing this one if you pass it up. So just grab it. Life’s too short for regrets. Price: $14.
The price is right, and the wine is right. There is a lot of affordable Malbec out there, so when you see this bottle, just grab it. This feels like the correct way to make entry-level Malbec. It has all of the deep mocha and vanilla smells you know, but there is something different here. From the core of the dark fruit you get a slight note of pepper. And that pepper is what sets it apart. It’s deep, and balanced, and ready for a steak night, so grab a few bottles and have a time! Price: $21.
It’s not often that we get a badass label with a badass wine inside, but hell, yeah, here we are. The tagger/writer/full-sleeve tat vibe the bottle conveys comes through in the wine. Soft and fruit forward with a juicy palate, it’s easy to sip and share. This wine is straight-up chill (actually you could chill it #feelme). You’ll dig this wine and keep looking at the bottle like, damn, this is good. Pair this with designing your next tag or tat (just get the tat) or open it for a straight-up pizza party. What a crowd-pleaser. Price: $21.
It’s not easy finding a good Pinot Noir for a weeknight under $20, so this is a nice go-to. It’s juicy and grippy, and smells like cherries and cinnamon along with the fresh soil from your garden. It’s buoyant on the palate with a tart fruit core. This is a great bottle to share with friends or have a few glasses with just you and Netflix. Price: $15.
Big, juicy, fresh, and fruity. Not the words you would often associate with Cab, but in Paso, that’s the way. This is one of the best deals on the shelf; if you see it, grab it. It has great balance with a big personality. The juicy core of the wine is quenching, while the tannins are just grippy enough to harmonize the fruit. It’s also a crowd- pleaser, so go ahead and bring it to the dinner party. It’ll pair. Price: $22.
This classic, deeply colored Lambrusco uses the Grasparossa clone to create a juicy sparkling red with undertones of earth. A mix of tangy cranberry and ripe blackberry dominate the palate, along with dark, potting soil-like earth and a dry finish.
When I think about Valpolicella, this is what I think about. Bright, buoyant cherry fruit with a light touch of vanilla on a broad, tangy palate tinged with notes of plowed earth and flecked with black pepper. The acidity is high, and the mouthfeel is round. This is a great wine to share multiple bottles of with friends for any occasion and affordable enough to have a few bottles at the ready. You’ll be the life of the party. Price: $16.
Deep, with punchy aromas of sour cherries and blackberries. There is a hint of black pepper, but it is quiet, along with some balsamic. The palate is soft, with low acidity, but enough to make the weight on the palate comfy and chewy. Price: $17.
In Cali, if it says Merlot on the bottle and it’s not from an estate, it only has to have 75 percent of Merlot in the wine. I am not exactly sure what else is in this second label of Duckhorn, but it’s doing the job of keeping everything in check. With only 13.9 percent alcohol it sits right where wines from “Merlot” should sit to have good balance. This bottle, with soft blueberry fruit, a hint of well-integrated vanilla and quiet tannins to maintain a good structure, won’t win any awards for complexity but is a great crowd-pleaser in a pinch. Price: $20.