Welcome to Ask a Somm, a column in which experts from across the country answer questions about wine. Today’s installment: What kind of red should I be drinking this summer?
Master sommelier Brett Davis was one of the first two oenophiles in Kentucky to receive the M.S. title back in 2009. Since then, he’s gone on to co-own several eateries, including Louisville barbecue hunt Doc Crow’s Southern Smokehouse and Raw Bar and Union Common, a steakhouse in Nashville, Tennessee. So it’s safe to say that Davis knows a thing or two about pairing red wine in warm temperatures.
Below, he offers advice on wine red consumption during hot summer months, when folks tend toward white wine and rosé:
“For warm weather al fresco dining, I turn to the group of red wines made from what is often referred to as thin-skinned varietals. The ‘Big Five’ are pinot noir, grenache (garnacha), sangiovese, nebbiolo, and tempranillo.
Nebbiolo, the grape behind the great Barolos and Barbarescos from the Piedmont region of Italy, produces wines that tend to have too many tannins to fit the bill for most tastes, but light and fruity examples of the other four grapes are easily found in decent wine shops.
1. Pinot noir
Look first to the Burgundy region of France from where this grape hails. Simple Bourgogne Rouges or the value wines from Mercurey and Givry are excellent choices with most grilled meats and even seafood. Pinot Noir from Oregon, New Zealand or California for $20 or less tend to be less structured and very fruit forward, thus great choices for patio drinking. Try Grochau Cellars Commuter Cuvée Pinot Noir from Oregon In Italy, pinot noir is referred to as pinot nero and tends to be made in a lighter fruitier style that works great when eating al fresco.
2. Garnacha (grenache)
This Spanish native grape is actually more known for the wines it produces in the Southern Rhône Valley in France with Châteauneuf-du-Papes being the most famous. Châteauneuf-du-Pape tend to be big wines, but the simple Côtes du Rhônes from the same area are perfect summer quaffers that you can find for a quarter of the price. The garnacha wines from Spain are the best bang for the buck from this grape. They are usually cleaner and brighter than their French counterparts. At a cost of around $10 bottle it can often rival $30 wines from around the world. These wines from both countries can be enjoyed on their own or with most outdoor grilled foods.
This is the primary grape of Chianti from the Tuscan region of Italy and Chianti wines are the wines you should look for first. There are too many other sangiovese-based wines from this region to list here, but your favorite wine shop staff should be able to help you explore this category of vino that will help make your cookout a success.
Two words: Crianza Rioja. Perfect choice for the veranda. Great as a cocktail wine with its juicy red fruit profile, but enough structure to stand up to the items coming off you charcoal grill. Like sangiovese wines from Tuscany, there are endless wines made from this grape in Spain. Once again, get direction from your local wine shop for their top selections.
All of the above wines will be more refreshing with a slight chill. Speaking of chilling wines, do not hesitate to turn any simple low-priced red wine into your own sangria concoction. When it comes to red wine, nothing is more refreshing and the internet is full of excellent sangria recipes to inspire you.”