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Your guide to drinking red wines in summer

July 14, 2017

By Erin Henderson

It’s summer time and the drinking is easy. Cocktails, craft beer and crisp white wines flood every patio and barbecue around, but what happens when the hankering for red takes over?

Do not fear. Even in the overheated and humid dog days of summer, there is a red wine to quench your thirst.

On a personal note, no matter if it’s January or July, I typically serve my reds somewhere around the 55-57°F mark (13-15°C). Once reds start warming, they lose structure and taste flabby, and the alcohol becomes more apparent. (The often-recommended 18°C for big reds like cabs and shiraz flies dangerously close to the border.)

But don’t take this as carte blanche to throw your closest cab in the freezer. Reds served too cold — particularly those with heavier tannin — are stripped of any flavour, leaving only aggressive oak, acidity and tannin on the palate.

Simpler and gulp-able reds like Beaujolais or Cotes du Rhone can be served chilled. Assuming your bottle is at room temperature, put it in the fridge for 30 minutes or in a bucket filled with ice and water for 10 minutes.

Here are a few reds that are cool to drink in the summertime:

Beaujolais
After years on the naughty list, Beaujolais is swinging back into favour now that wine lovers are discovering that Beaujolais goes beyond the simple and juicy Nouveau. With the main grape of gamay, Beaujolais is the perfect picnic fare: full of ripe red berries and dark fruits, a touch of spice and delicious when served cool. Louis Jadot Beaujolais-Villages, Beaujolais, France. $17.95


Barbera
Barbera is the everyday wine of the northern Italians living in and around Piedmont. Juicy and fresh with lively acidity and notes of red fruits and floral, this is an easy drinking red that’s goes with everything from charcuterie to pizza. Fontanafredda “Raimonda” Barbera d’Alba, Piedmont, Italy. $16.95


Chianti
Another Italian classic red, easygoing Chiantis are perfectly casual. Serve in tumblers while sitting in the backyard grazing on salty cheese, olives and grilled sausage. Borgo Scopeto Chianti Classico, Tuscany, Italy. $18.95


Rioja
Spain’s most famous wine growing region specializes in the tempranillo grape. Depending on the aging, the grape can create deep, rich and seductive age-worthy wines for the Gran Reservas. Simpler (and less expensive) Riojas like this stunner from Campo Viejo are delicious and lip-smacking reds for everyday, with juicy notes of red berries and baking spice. Campo Viejo Rioja Tempranillo, Rioja, Spain. $14.95


Cabernet Franc
Perfect for barbecue season, cab franc can be just the ticket for anything grilled, from burgers to lamb chops to bell peppers and veggie brochettes. Place on ice for 10 minutes to bring on a slight chill. Chateau des Charmes Cabernet Franc VQA, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. $15.95