THE 5 BEST RED WINES FOR SUMMER – AND WHY When the weather turns warmer, many wine drinkers turn to white or rosé wines but what about those who prefer to stick to red wine whatever the weather? Which red wines are better suited to summer? As you might imagine, most heavily oaked big-bodied red wines can seem just a little too oppressive in hot summer weather so below are the features you should look for in your summer red wines, how to serve them and my suggestions for the 5 best summer red wines in 2024 whether served chilled or at room temperature. FEATURES OF THE BEST SUMMER RED WINES As in any season, you should always be looking for wines in the summer that have balance, that is those where the alcohol or ABV level sits harmoniously with the acidity, tannins and level of sweetness in the wine. When none of these items sticks out like a sore thumb, then you know you are onto a good wine but of particular interest for summer-friendly red wines specifically are those that have: a light body low tannins soft texture relatively high acidity and fruit flavours in abundance. Why some red wines are better for summer than others Here are the reasons why the features mentioned above are better in summer red wines. Heavier red wines have usually acquired their body or structure from one or more of the following: oak ageing, extended lees ageing and / or high alcohol levels although certain grape varieties are also more likely to produce fuller-bodied wines than others. Wines with more extract (what gives the wine more body, colour and flavour) and / or with high alcohol have a heavier sensation in the mouth from the dissolved solids and the viscosity of the alcohol so will appear to be less refreshing in warmer weather. Heavily tannic wines which can seem a little “rustic” if the tannins have not yet softened are similarly more likely to have been aged in oak or undergone a long maceration. The tannins can make the wine seem heavier and harsher; although it may have started to develop more complex, spicy and savoury flavours, the wine may not seem as light and summery as a wine with lower tannins. Wines with low acidity generally feel rounder which again makes a wine feel more full-bodied. Higher acidity will make the mouth water and will also counterbalance any excess sweetness in the wine, therefore making the wine feel more refreshing. Another reason why unoaked or lightly oaked red wines are a good choice in the warmer weather is that wines fermented and / or aged in stainless steel have less interaction with the air and so retain their primary fruit flavours like fresh red and black berries and fruits, flavours that we associate more with the summer and which complement summer foods in general. Wines that have developed vanilla, toast or coconut for example from oak or dried fruit and meaty flavours from prolonged oxidation or ageing seem better suited to colder weather. In addition savoury flavours in red wines can taste rather metallic if the wine is served below room temperature. Fruit flavours are often also enhanced in lighter red wines by a process called carbonic maceration which also minimises the exposure to oxygen. Whole bunches of grapes are sealed in a tank or vat with CO2 to get rid of oxygen (rather than pressing the grapes first) and fermentation starts automatically after a few days with the result that more colour, soft texture, fresh fruit aromas and flavours are produced in the wine with lower tannins extracted. So, for summer reds, look for light, soft, fruity wines with low tannins, low or no oak influence and high acidity, like the following… THE 5 PERFECT RED WINES FOR HOT WEATHER Here are my suggestions for the 5 best summer red wines in 2024, wines that will suit the warmer weather we (hope for and) have during the UK summers and that won’t clash with the lighter foods that we tend to eat in the warmer months. BEAUJOLAIS Gamay is the archetypical fruity red wine and it is essentially the grape used for Beaujolais red wines which are some of the lightest, fruitiest red wines you can find. Gamay wines taste of raspberries and red cherries with a hint of black pepper and are generally very refreshing. The Beaujolais Cru wines are the high end of Beaujolais wines, with slightly more intense fruit flavours and they can usually be kept for longer. This sustainably produced Fleurie from Domaine des Fonds for example has a beautiful perfume with aromas of red berries and roses. It tastes of sweet cherries, strawberries, plums and red berry compote with hints of some savoury notes giving it a bit of oomph. It’s mouth-wateringly good.  Or look at other Beaujolais wines like Brouilly or Morgon. PRIMITIVO In fact, whilst it was proved in the 1990s that Primitivo and Zinfandel are in fact the same grape variety, it is more the fruity southern Italian Primitivo wine that I am thinking about here rather than the (usually) heavier US Zinfandels as the former are generally lighter and fruitier. This Fatalone Primitivo Riserva from the Gioia del Colle DOC appellation in Puglia smells delightful – ripe blackberries, mulberries and cherries. These fruits are also evident on the palate along with a fresh minerality and almonds. And despite what I wrote about US Zinfandels above, Precedent Zinfandel “Evangelho” Contra Costa County 2018 is really elegant and light enough to enjoy on a warm evening. NERO D’AVOLA Nero d’Avola is grown extensively in Sicily and Puglia in southern Italy as it is well suited to the heat of those regions. Whilst occasionally you will find heavier versions, most are soft, fruity wines like this organic Nero d’Avola from family-run winery, Caruso & Minini. Its mouth-watering fruitiness is dominated by black fruits and blueberries with a hint of violets; just 50% of this wine was aged in oak and