You may assume that you have to retire your red wine bottles once the weather reaches a certain temperature in the summer, but that’s far from true. Although it may be too sweltering for a full-bodied Cabernet, that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of lovely, light-bodied reds for you to indulge in. And if you’re looking for a red that’s perfect for the hotter months of the year, there’s no reason to look further than a Pinot Noir.
As one of the lightest-bodied red grapes, Pinot Noir is known for its notes of mushroom, bubblegum and candy. Might sound like a strange combo, but I promise, Pinots are delicious. The only problem? Pinot Noir is notoriously difficult to grow, meaning it tends to have a higher price point than other common grapes on the market.
But no worries. Even though the average bottle of Pinot may set you back more than you want to spend, that doesn’t mean you can’t get an excellent Pinot Noir without dropping the big bucks. We’ve created a list of some fantastic, more-accessible Pinots that are sure to make a welcome addition to any backyard barbecue you throw this summer. Let’s take a closer look.
Marlborough, New Zealand, is known for its Sauvignon Blanc above all else, but in the past several years, Pinot Noir has been growing in popularity in the region. The result is lovely fruity, spicy and affordable Pinots that are approachable for anyone who’s new to the grape. Dashwood Pinot Noir is a great example. It’s fresh and super cherry-forward, which gives you that juiciness you’re looking for during the hot summer months. The soft tannins won’t overwhelm those who prefer a wine that’s lighter-bodied. It’s a simple but solid choice for those looking to expand their red wine preferences.
Bread and Butter Wines are all about opting for simplicity and mass appeal, and their Pinot Noir is no exception. This California Pinot features notes of raspberry, blackberry and clove. It’s nice and dry with a refreshing acidity that makes it perfect for sipping on the porch (I prefer popping my bottle into the fridge a few minutes before I head out). Although this wine is certainly heavy on the fruitiness, it has a surprising complexity to it that I didn’t expect from such an affordable bottle. Plus, since this brand is widely available, it shouldn’t be too difficult to find at your nearest liquor store or wine shop.
I know, I know, not everyone loves an oaky wine, especially when that oak is used with a grape like Pinot. But hey, some people are into it, and I’m not going to leave you hanging if you fall into that camp. Cline Family Cellars Sonoma County Pinot Noir is a fantastic choice for those looking for an uncomplicated medium-bodied California red. On the nose, strawberry and cherry announce their arrival, and on the palate, there’s a lovely undertone of chocolate beneath all the fruitiness. It’s probably something I’d eat with a chocolate mousse kind of situation.
One of the best-selling widely available wines on the market, Meiomi Pinot Noir is a no-brainer if you’re looking for a delicious, affordable bottle of the stuff. It’s not too out there—you’re not going to make any enemies serving this at a party—but it’s interesting enough to keep you sipping. This isn’t one of the lightest Pinot Noirs I’ve ever had, which makes it a good option if you’re trying to appeal to the bold red wine lovers in the room. However, high acidity and black cherry flavors balance the oaky, chocolate qualities of the wine. I wouldn’t mind opening a bottle of this stuff to enjoy with a burger.
For all the earthy Pinot-loving drinkers out there, Aniello 006 Riverside Pinot Noir is a fun find. It has some lovely mushroom notes to balance out the fresh, fun juiciness. It’s not a super-complex wine, but it has just enough going on to keep it interesting. This pick from Argentina is a departure from what you may assume you’d find from the country—Malbec is definitely the star in this South American country. But Pinot Noir is also on the rise in Argentina, so it’s worth keeping an eye out for the stuff coming out of the region in the next few years.
Samantha Maxwell is a food writer and editor based in Boston. Follow her on Twitter at @samseating.