Ray Isle recommends five light red wines perfect for summer drinking. 

By Ray Isle
Updated May 23, 2017

Summertime, you know, it’s all about the white wines. Well, and the rosé wines. And the sparkling wines. But what is there for people who get the heebie-jeebies when they’re presented with a nice glass of Sauvignon Blanc? Who think pink wine is for poltroons and pikers? Who feel that the sadly departed English wine merchant Harry Waugh’s reputed comment—“the first duty of wine is to be red”—is gospel, and not just a nice idea? What about their wine? Huh?

Well, because this is an equal opportunity column, I feel it’s incumbent on me to provide some recommendations for great summer reds. What makes a red wine ideal for summer? Not too much alcohol, for one—skip the 16.5 percent Amarones, and put the port away till wintertime. A good summer red should also have a certain crispness of character, an acid-driven zip that perks up your taste buds rather than sending them to sleep. Finally, and ideally, it should taste good when slightly chilled. With all that in mind, here are some great options.

2012 Coltibuono Cetamura Chianti ($10) This pale ruby–hued, floral wine is a delicate take on traditional Chianti, and ends on a peppery note that adds depth. You could drink it all night long and still feel light on your feet.

2012 Gnarly Head Pinot Noir ($10) Though a bit on the rich side, with a flavor recalling ripe black cherries, this inexpensive Pinot is still very true to the character of that grape: a rare thing at the price.

2012 Librandi Cirò Rosso ($12) Puglia, in southern Italy, is the source of this crisp, pale red, lightly grippy wine, a good one for grilled sausages. Or grilled anything, really.

2012 Shadow Chaser Red Wine ($14) Not all Australian reds are massive and dark—this Grenache-based blend from the McLaren Vale south of Adelaide is surprisingly graceful, with fresh strawberry and white pepper notes.

2012 Bon Marché Red ($15) Generally speaking, California Zinfandel blends tend to be bruisers. But this raspberry-scented red from the Buehler winery checks in at a (fairly) modest 13.4 percent alcohol; plus, it’s got lots of lively Zin-driven fruit, and doesn’t come off heavy or dense at all.