Granted, it's officially rosé season, but that shouldn't mean you have to forgo red wine altogether. Although heavy reds are typically associated to sipping a glass next to a roaring fire on a snowy winter night or chomping on a 32-ounce rib eye at a New York City steakhouse, there are beautiful light red wines that pair perfectly with even the warmest summer day. The trick is to know the different types of red wine and when to drink them.
Lighter varietals, like Gamay or pinot noir, for instance, are great when served chilled—making them a delightful choice for a warm summer evening. Other, heavier reds, like syrah or Barbera, can pair really well with a summer BBQ, especially if steak or burgers are on the menu. To shed light on the different types of red wine, we tapped New York City–based sommeliers Ian Morrison and Percy Rodriguez. Ready to break from summer rosé tradition? Here are the best types of red wines to drink this summer, from light to full-bodied (along with the sommeliers' best bottle recommendations).
"The light-bodied cousin of pinot noir is a favorite among wine industry folks, both for its incredibly diverse expressions and its value," says Ian Morrison, beverage manager at Left Bank restaurant in New York City. "Most famously grown in the Beaujolais region of Burgundy, France, it is often enjoyed young, when it is playful and fruity, and pairs well with cheeses and vegetable dishes. It also has, in the hands of the right producers, the potential to be quite complex and age-worthy; these styles pair amazingly well with roast chicken. I highly recommend a Cote de Brouilly from the upstart wunderkind Pierre Cotton."
"I like my pinot with a bit of dirt on it, figuratively speaking," says Percy Rodriguez, beverage director at Second in New York City. "It can be so pretty and elegant that, at times, I feel like it's almost too perfect. The pinot 'ceras' from Antica Terra 2013 is the perfect combination of beautiful, lush fruit, but with an edgy rock-star backbone."
"Also known as Cannonau or Alicante in Italy, grenache has grippy tannins," says Rodriguez. "It's not quite as funky as the cabernet franc can get, but it's a workhorse none the less. I like these wines for a cool evening, sitting outside around a campfire. One of my favorites is the Cannonau di Sardegna from Antonella Corda 2016."
"Cabernet franc is funkier than the cabernet sauvignon," says Rodriguez. "Think mushrooms and wet forest floor. Depending on the winemaker and region, it can have fresher fruit flavors. It can go from medium-light in the glass, or it can be quite dense, big, and bold. I'm really digging the former these days, especially the 2016 Cab Franc from a new winery, Wild Arc Farm, in Hudson Valley, New York. It's perfect for late spring or early summer BBQs. Serve it slightly chilled."
"As someone whose career has been spent focusing on all things Italian, where do I begin with Sangiovese? Entire books can be written about this grape and its subsequent regions (Chianti, Montalcino, Morellino, Vino Nobile)," explains Rodriguez. "Carlo Ferrini of Podere Giodo makes stunning wines in Montalcino. Anything of his, regardless of vintage, needs to be purchased, stored, and revisited each year to watch his fantastic wines age and develop over the years."
"If you want to talk Barbera, you have to talk Braida, specifically the 'Bricco dell'Uccellone' out of magnums," says Rodriguez. "In a lot of ways, it's comparable to Napa cabernets, but with boundless energy and well-balanced acidity. Their wines are sustainably produced, so drinking this will allow your conscience to rest easy at night."
"Unfairly, merlot has a bad reputation (blame Paul Giamatti and the movie Sideways), but I'm a huge fan," says Rodriguez. "It's a grape that shows tremendous depth in the right hands. Plush and supple are great descriptors. Matthiasson 'Red Hen' Merlot 2011 is a gem."
"The great expressions of Syrah from the Northern Rhône Valley of France are deep and smoky gems full of dark brambly fruit, with spicy notes of pepper and herbs," explains Morrisson. "While I typically avoid the jammy, boisterous bottlings coming from Australia, there are producers throughout California who are releasing some incredible examples of this grape's New World potential. This is a great wine to drink with any barbecued meats or heavy lamb dishes. If you aren't looking to break the bank on a Hermitage, try looking for Chateau Maris 'Natural Selection' from the Languedoc in Southern France."
"Cabernet sauvignon is a medium plus to full-bodied with dark red fruit flavors or an earthy undertone (depending on the terroir," explains Rodriguez. "Firm tannins give the wines a slightly chewy texture on the palate. My fave right now is from Heitz Cellars in Napa, the Trailside Vineyard. The older, the better!"
Next up: spilled red wine? Do this to save your clothes.