Reaching for a glass of red wine is something often associated with a chilly fall evening or a brisk winter night in front of a roaring fire in the hearth. But don’t rule out red when it comes to choosing a refreshing beverage while having fun in the sun.
“Oftentimes people think that red wine is too heavy for the palate when it’s warm and sunny outside,” says Vincent Havard, operating partner of Mercy Wine Bar in Dallas, Texas, which was named Best Wine Bar in the U.S. by Nightclub & Bar magazine. “But if you’re a red wine drinker, there are a few wines that will work well with the warmer weather.”
The secret, Havard says, is to find a light-bodied wine that will sit on the tongue rather than feeling intrusive: “We usually like everything lighter in warmer weather, so it makes perfect sense to drink lighter beverages.”
A safe bet to start with is a pinot noir, a light- to medium-bodied red. Its fruit-forward taste, which hints at strawberry, cherry, raspberry, and blackberry flavors, makes it a wonderful choice whether enjoying it alone as a drink or when pairing it with foods traditionally considered to complement white wines. Thanks to its subtle, silky tannins and lighter body, a pinot noir can play well with both creamy sauces and spicy seasonings, and it makes a great sun-worthy substitute for heavier reds like cabernets or Syrahs.
Rosés also provide an excellent complement to warm weather. Offering the balance and acidity of a white wine, but with the structure and sophistication of a lighter red, these “pink” wines have become increasingly popular lately. While the rosés of a few years ago were sweeter and had a certain reputation as a substandard product, today most are made in the European style so they offer a drier and decidedly more adult tasting profile.
Although the best rosé wines historically have come from the Provence region of France, recent years have seen U.S. wine-producing regions like Oregon, Washington, and California contributing some excellent new rosés to the shelves. Rosés from Southern France and Spain are the most dry, while California rosés still lean toward a sweeter style.
Coming in colors ranging from a pale pink to a vivid fuchsia, rosés get their hue from the skins of the grapes they are made from. The wines aren’t truly red because the skins are removed before the fermentation process begins, so the red coloring doesn’t have the chance to infuse itself into the final product.
Break out the Bubbly
Champagne lovers can find many reasons to investigate rosé bubbly, which is also known as pink champagne. Aside from its pink hue, there’s virtually no difference between pink champagne and standard sparkling wine. The pink tint comes from the small amount of red grapes added to the effervescent beverage during production.
This makes the wine a great addition to romantic occasions, as its pink hue hints at a bit of sexiness, and it is suitable for any meal or event where champagne could be served.
Light reds and rosés pair well with a variety of foods and flavors; rosés and rosé champagne, in particular, go extremely well with spicy Asian foods, which can be a challenge for beverage pairings. Likewise, the lighter nature of the pinot noir means it can complement a versatile menu, from white fish and shellfish to steaks to heavy pastas and risotto.
Don’t be afraid to play with your food—these lighter reds are up for the challenge without carrying the danger of overpowering what’s on your plate. Try different varieties from different regions, and you’ll discover a delicious range of flavors, even within their individual taste profile. Sample them in various combinations to discover what suits you best.