When the mercury goes up, wine typically goes white. Lean, no-oak chardonnays, racy sauvignon blancs and lively pinot grigios all served well-chilled are de rigueur during the dog days of summer. These wines tend to work well with the season's lighter meals. But what if the food on the grill is a thick, juicy steak or a succulent burger? Then, think light, fruit-forward reds, with little or no tannins and little or no oak--well-balanced wines that do well with a half hour or so in the fridge. Here are the panel's top three picks for summer reds:
Chateau de Segries Cotes du Rhone, $14.50
A blend of old-vine grenache (50 percent), syrah, cinsault and carignan, this wine sees only the barest minimum of wood. It pours a dark red with heady fruit aromas. A bit more complex than the other two wines, this pick offers richly textured blueberry, plum and raspberry fruit, backed by white pepper, anise and spice, finishing with very soft tannins. This wine is a great choice for barbecues.
2009 Heitz Cellar Grignolino, $22
Best known for its Martha's Vineyard cabernet, Heitz' first purchase in 1961 was eight acres planted with the Italian variety grignolino (green-o-lean-o). On the nose, it's a mix of red berry and bing cherry. On the palate, this wine is filled with bright blueberry and sweet plum, balanced by tart cherry. This wine is a lot of fun and does well served lightly chilled.
2007 Marrenon Merlot, $9.99
Merlot doesn't typically enter a conversation about summer reds, but this one definitely works. The spicy berry aromas are colored by a faint touch of cedar. This is an easy drinking, fruit-forward red, with ripe raspberry and cassis flavors playing against soft cranberry undertones. Serve it at cool room temp (60 degrees) for a refreshing summer sipper. This pick is a definite bargain.