Enjoy some of these refreshing reds for summer

Here’s what I like in a red wine for summertime: A little bit of fruit, complexity, a little smack of tannin and chill-ability.

Good value is another hallmark of summertime reds. While wine destined for award-winning complexity requires cost-intensive techniques, including barrel aging, easy summer reds are crafted for early sales and enjoyment. After all, how much complexity do you need while swinging in a hammock? Serve cool to the palate, with a range of summer favorites from hot dogs (all-beef with the works, please) to steak on the grill and — especially in the case of Bordeaux — lamb. To aid your shopping, provide your wine merchant with distributor names (below).

Chicago Style

Cotes du Rhone “Artésis,” Ogier, 2022 France: Antoine Ogier established his cooperage and winery in 1859, today holding vineyards in Northern and Southern Rhone Valley. The Chicago-like climate demands the insurance of 27 permitted grapes to withstand extremes in winter cold, summer heat and a wind so famous it has a name — Le Mistral. To preserve freshness and minimize tannin, this blend of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre and Cinsault is hand-harvested, destemmed but not crushed, with minimal winemaking intervention. Just arriving in Chicago, ask your merchant for availability, which is about $14.99. (Louis Glunz Wines, Lincolnshire)

Owned by the Frescobaldi family, winemakers for 700 years, Tenuta Ornellaia (or-nell-AY-ya) introduced the world to Tuscany’s Bolgheri region.

A Super Italian

“Le Volte dell’Ornellaia,” Tenuta dell’Ornellaia, 2022, Italy: Like Phil Spector’s “Wall of Sound,” this Cabernet Sauvignon-based blend saturates the palate with round and muscle-y weight, massive flavors combining ripe fruit, earth and green tobacco, entering the palate with a satin texture that expands to pleasing tannin. Owned by the Frescobaldi family, winemakers for 700 years, Tenuta Ornellaia (or-nell-AY-ya) introduced the world to Tuscany’s Bolgheri region. They helped create the Super Tuscan movement. “Le Volte” is an excellent opportunity to experience one of Italy’s finest properties. (The primary wine runs upward of $200 per bottle.) Available at chains and fine wine shops, about $27. (Republic National, Niles)

Modern Classics

France’s Bordeaux region is arguably the planet’s most important wine region, with vineyard notes dated 71 A.D., gaining world distribution under British rule in the 12th century. and today, leading in innovation, including experimental vineyards to respond to climate change. Bordeaux taught the world to love its noble Cabernet Sauvignon grape and — along with Merlot, Cabernet Franc and other grapes — its Bordeaux Blend. While top-ranked Grand Cru Classès of 1855 can cost $1,000 per bottle and up (way up), Bordeaux’s size (about 275,000 acres compared to Napa Valley’s 45,000 acres) and diversity in vineyard conditions allow for great quality values. Your merchant can make recommendations; here’s one of mine:

Chateau Blaignan, 2018, France: Rich on the palate but without ponderous weight, the juicy fruit, delicate brown spice accents and plump tannin make this Merlot-Cabernet blend an excellent alternative to New World red. About $22 at Sal’s Beverage World and other fine wine outlets. (Republic National, Niles)

Sugar and Spice

The irony of U.S. wine drinking is that as our dishes became sweeter, our perception of sweet wine plummeted. True, sugar can be used to hide wine flaws. But unless your wine is at least a bit sweeter than your dish, the wine will taste of nothing but acid and any oak contact. A sweeter wine also balances the heat of spice, just as brown sugar balances chili pepper in barbecue sauce. Here’s a well-made red value that happens to be a little sweet.

“Sweet Red,” Castello Del Poggio, multivintage, Italy: The name nearly says it all, with the wine’s juicy, sweet berry-cherry flavor, but leaves easy-to-enjoy complexity and low-low alcohol of 7%, perfect for cocktails, as a base for sangria and to pair with all your favorite three-alarm cuisine. Widely available, under $12. (Republic National, Niles.)

Be Cool with Wine Cocktails

Since alcohol lowers body temperature, join me on Friday, July 5, to enjoy the best sangria you’ve ever tasted, along with the French 7 5 (a la the Ritz Paris, made with true Champagne and artisanal gin!) and three other libations during Summer Wine Cocktails from 6:30-8 p.m. at The Chopping Block, 4747 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago. While we’ll discuss each cocktail’s history and recipe, this class is a little more about drinkin’ than thinkin’. For information and to register, visit Summer Wine Cocktails Demonstration (

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