A group of people toasting glasses of red wine outside

On sunny days, red wine is often overshadowed by whites and rosés. While reds are typically associated with colder climates—a robust merlot by a cozy fireplace is divine—we highly recommend that you get familiar with the best red wine varieties in summer.

While full-bodied, velvety reds like malbecs, merlots, and cabs are better suited for chillier seasons, there are some light and refreshing reds that pair beautifully with summertime entertaining experiences, alone time on the patio, park picnics, and all sorts of other sunny adventures and leisure time.

We’re here to shine a spotlight on familiar red wine varieties that you may not have considered for summer entertaining, as well as some of the more obscure summer red wine varieties for you to uncork this year. Let’s dive in!

1. Lambrusco

The Helyx ice bucket and a glass of sparkling red wine

Lambrusco is a lovely summertime red particularly because of its sparkling effervescence. Hailing from the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, Lambrusco is available in a variety of distinctive flavors, ranging from sweet and fruity to dry and earthy.

Beyond its tantalizing flavor and mouthfeel, Lambrusco is an ideal summertime staple because of its relatively low alcohol content. Although there are Lambrusco varieties that reach the traditional 13% or so, you can find 8% varieties that are perfect for all-day sipping sessions.

Flavor Profile

As noted, Lambrusco’s flavor notes vary widely. Sweet varieties often have notes of raspberry, cranberry, cherry, strawberry, and watermelon—perfect if you prefer fruity summer red wine or plan to add fresh fruit to make a pitcher of sangria.

On the other end of the spectrum, a dry Lambrusco may have complex, earthy notes of mushroom, roasted beets, and mineral, as well as red berries and violet. A dry Lambrusco could be the best red wine in summer to pair with an authentic Italian dinner, preferably under the moon and stars.

2. Sangiovese

The Helyx bottle coaster holding a bottle of red wine

Sangiovese has a medium-full body and assertive tannins, so it’s not as light as other varieties on this list. However, its relative heaviness is offset by its lively acidity that gives it an invigorating brightness and bite that really works as a summer red wine.

Sangiovese grapes are believed to have originated in Tuscany, Italy. Today, they’re grown throughout the world, although central Italy is the region most closely associated with the varietal.

Flavor Profile

If you’re seeking a rich, robust wine for a hearty summertime meal, sangiovese is sure to please. 

Here are typical notes found in sangiovese wine:

  • Primary Notes: Red berries, roasted tomato, oregano, sweet balsamic, and espresso.
  • Other notes: Tobacco, smoke, leather, clay, roasted pepper, blood orange, dark stone fruits, bay leaves, orange rind, sage, thyme, rosemary, and black tea.

3. Pinot Noir

 A bottle of red wine on the Butterfly bottle coaster and Durango black leather tray

Pinot noir is a beloved red that makes a wonderful summer red wine, as well as a year-round staple. Some consider it the best of the best red wine in summer because it provides a classic red experience, only with a lighter body and mild, silky tannins.

The beauty of pinot noir is that you really can’t go wrong with it! Whether you’re enjoying a backyard cookout or hosting an elegant soirée, pinot noir pairs with virtually any dish on the menu. And, you’d be hard-pressed to find a guest who would turn down a glass.

Flavor Profile

Pinot noir has a complex flavor that’s not overwhelming to most palates. It makes an excellent introduction to summer red wine for those who don’t usually typically drink wine, but oenophiles with a refined palate can appreciate its complexity as well.

Here are typical notes found in pinot noir wine:

  • Primary Notes: Cherry, raspberry, hibiscus, vanilla, clove, and mushroom.
  • Other notes: Forest floor, baking spice, caramel, cola, wood, truffle, liquorice, violet, rose petals, cherry blossoms, and wet leaves.

4. Grenache (Garnacha)

Barware from the Helyx collection with a bottle of red wine chilling on ice

Clean, bright, refreshing, and fruity, grenache—or garnacha as it’s known in its homeland of Spain—has a light body and high acidity that makes this ruby red the perfect complement to summertime festivities.

Grenache is a refreshing summer red wine, but it does bring its own unique characteristics to the table. Notably, its aromatic and spice characteristics set it apart from other lighter reds. 

You may find grenache is the best red wine in summer because it goes down easily while still tantalizing the palate. Serve your grenache alongside a platter (or two or three) of tapas, and enjoy a leisurely summer evening with good company. 

Flavor Profile

Grenache’s flavor profile is often compared to an elevated fruit roll-up! Of course, there’s much more to it than that.

Here are typical notes found in grenache wine:

  • Primary Notes: Grilled plum, stewed strawberry, blood orange, leather, and dried herbs.
  • Other Notes: Red berries, anise, cinnamon, orange ring, tobacco, and plum.

5. Nebbiolo

The Paloma bottle coaster holding a bottle of red wine

If you’re intrigued by the idea of a summer red wine that’s reminiscent of a lighter cabernet sauvignon, nebbiolo should be at the top of your list. This variety from Italy’s Piedmont region offers the intense tannins of a cab, but with a lighter body and brighter acidity.

Nebbiolo would make a delightful pairing with a classic summer dinner, such as herb-infused chicken or citrusy salmon, ideally cooked over an open flame on the grill. It also pairs very well with heartier meats, such as lamb, beef, and game.

Flavor Profile

Although nebbiolo is light, the flavors have a great deal of depth. The fruity brightness of this summer red wine is contrasted with an earthiness that’s sure to delight those who are fond of complex wines.

Here are typical notes found in nebbiolo wine:

Primary Notes: Cherry, clay, rose, leather, tar, anise, and liquorice.

Other notes: Red berries, plum, truffle, dried leaves, and herbs.

6. Tempranillo

The Gingko wood bottle coaster holding a bottle of tempranillo

Tempranillo could be the best red wine in summer for those seeking a balance between light and heavy varieties. Its medium body and low tannins make it very sippable, yet it gushes with rich, exciting flavors that make it decadent without being overpowering.

Tempranillo grapes are famously grown in Spain’s premier wine region, Rioja, but Texas has become quite a prominent producer in recent times. 

If you’re choosing a summer red wine, we recommend an unoaked tempranillo for a milder experience, but that’s a matter of preference, of course. Tempranillos aged in oak barrels tend to have stronger wintery notes, such as spice, cedar, leather, and tobacco.

Flavor Profile

While tempranillos typically have a red fruit-forward flavor profile, there’s a great deal of depth hiding under those fruity, juicy notes.

Here are typical notes found in tempranillo wine:

Primary Notes: Red fruits, dried fig, tobacco, cedar, and dill.

Other Notes: Leather, smoke, vanilla, clove, citrus, and plum.

7. Red Zinfandel

The Versa olive spoon with accouterments and a bottle of red wine

You might already be familiar with the popular, semi-sweet rosé that has become known as white zinfandel—which is a wonderful choice this time of year—but we’re talking about summer red wine here!

Red zin is a very sweet and juicy wine that’s robust yet light-bodied. Some sommeliers believe that it’s the best red wine in summer because the heat actually helps to flesh out the plump, jammy notes and aromas.

Flavor Profile

Red zins tend to be very fruit-forward and can be very sweet, almost cloyingly in some varieties. If you prefer milder flavors, you may want to reach for your ice scoop to tame your zin!

Here are typical notes found in red zinfandel wine:

  • Primary Notes: Red berries, plum, peach preserves, sweet tobacco, and cinnamon.
  • Other Notes: Star anise, black liquorice, blueberry, pepper, coconut, floral, baked pie crust, and chocolate.

Shop High-End Entertaining Essentials

The Durango black leather wine tote holding a bottle of wine on a table

Now that your summer red wine shopping list is ready, it’s time to prepare for the season’s serveware. We proudly offer a wide variety of handcrafted barwarebowlsutensils, pitchers, trays and platters, ice buckets and scoops, coasters, and plenty of other must-have items for hosting.

For summertime entertaining, consider nature-inspired pieces from our GingkoButterflyAnimal, and Blossom collections. Our Durango collection includes leather wine totes to give your presentation a boost. Take the time to explore all our collections—each one brings something unique and special to the table.

Whether you’re planning for a Fourth of July or Memorial Day celebration or simply looking to beat the heat in style, using luxury tableware—preferably with a glass of summer red wine in hand—really enhances your day-to-day lifestyle, as well as your get-togethers.

Choosing the best red wine in summer is fun and rewarding, and so is selecting serveware that will provide a lifetime of enjoyment. Shop around, and be sure to check our hosting blog for more tips, ideas, and guides to make this summer the best one yet.

Author Mary Jurek

Mary Jurek is the founder of Mary Jurek Design, a luxury serveware brand. She started her career in the jewelry industry, designing for notable brands such as Piaget Watch, Tiffany & Co., and Cartier. After receiving four international awards for her work, she was inspired to step out on her own. Her experience working with luxury jewelry firms led her to establish Mary Jurek Design Inc in 1997. She lives in Los Angeles and loves the arts, entertaining friends and family, gardening, and all things that make a home comfortable and inviting.