It’s been a while since robust red wines have been on my radar. Heat and humidity isn’t kind to mouth-coating, full-bodied reds no matter how much their rich and complex character might complement what’s sizzling on the grill. Lighter and brighter styles of red wine, with juicy fruity flavours and low levels of tannin, make more sense than heavier, oak-aged ones.
On a hot summer’s evening, Beaujolais would make more sense than Barolo. A vibrant and easy drinking South African cinsault may offer more charm than Napa cabernet. Chilling a bottle of red wine emphasizes tannin and oak, so those famously age-worthy and structured reds don’t show their best. After Thanksgiving, it’s a different scenario.
But for those who gravitate toward savoury, layered and complex red wines no matter the weather or simply want a break from rosé, here’s a selection of new and recent releases to seek out. (There are also recommendations for a quality chardonnay from Australia and a stylish rosé from Provence, France, that just appeared on shelves.) The red wines singled out are mostly made in a crowd-pleasing style and are ideal for pairing with barbecues or outdoor parties on cooler summer nights. Whether you looking to finish summer on a high note or seamlessly transition into fall, these are some bottles to open and enjoy.
Bollato di Guarini Negroamaro/Primitivo 2020 (Italy), $17.95
Bollato’s distinctive jug shaped bottle offers a simple and solid red wine from Puglia, with intense and complex aromas and flavours. Its mix of dried cherry, plums and balsamic notes gain interest from tobacco and leather notes. The ripe and robust character makes this a nice partner to antipasti platters or meaty entrees. Drink now to 2026. Available in Ontario.
Château Mont-Redon Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2018 (France), $54.95
The family-owned Château Mont-Redon farms nearly 100 hectares of vineyards, which makes its one of the largest producers in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The wines are always ones to watch, offering the rich and fragrant reds that the Châteauneuf-du-Pape region built its reputation. A classic blend of grenache, syrah and mourvèdre rounded out by other local grape varieties makes for a rich and powerful wine, with fruit-cake, savoury and cedar notes. Drink now to 2040. Available in Ontario.
El Petit Bonhomme Tinto Monastrell Garnacha Syrah 2020 (Spain), $17.99
This pleasant red wine is made from a blend of grapes grown on older bush vines in southwestern Spain. It’s aged in oak barrels for six months for more complexity and character, but the oak doesn’t get in the way of the juicy fruit flavours that make this so enjoyable. Drink now. Available in British Columbia and Manitoba at the above price, various prices in Alberta, $16.15 in Quebec.
Fantini Numero Uno Primitivo IGP 2020 (Italy), $9.95
Fantini has updated the label of this reliable primitivo from Puglia, which makes the most of its smooth texture and expressive flavours. There’s a mix of dark berries and plums with herbal and floral notes that are nice and complex. The holdback is the sweet character (from a reported 11 g/L r.s.) that makes this usually rustic grape variety a little too glossy and modern for my taste. Drink now. Available in Ontario at the above price, $14.99 in British Columbia ($13.49 until Sept. 3), various prices in Alberta, $15.99 in Saskatchewan.
Ghost Pines Winemaker’s Blend Pinot Noir 2018 (United States), $29.95
Despite its fame and acclaim, the pinot noir grape isn’t for everyone. It’s often too delicate and fragrant in nature for consumers who enjoy ripe and robust red wines. With bold dark fruit, vanilla and pepper notes, Ghost Pines offers a SUV class of pinot noir that lends it mass appeal without losing freshness or focus. Drink now. Available at the above price in Ontario, various prices in Alberta, $25.95 in Quebec.
M de Minuty Rosé 2021 (France), $27.95
Minuty has helped propel the growing popularity of the rosé wines made in Provence, France. The winery’s M label is a successful blend of grenache, cinsault, syrah and tibouren, which contribute to the floral and berry character of this refreshing and restrained pink wine. A slight herbal note adds to the fragrance, while the weight and silky texture made this a rewarding style of rosé to bring to the dinner table. Drink now to 2024. Available in Ontario at the above price, various prices in Alberta, $26.95 in Quebec.
Mountadam Five-Fifty Chardonnay 2019 (Australia), $17.95
This rich and refreshing style of chardonnay comes from an family estate in the Eden Valley in the Barossa Ranges of South Australia. Five-Fifty refers to the elevation of the vineyards, 550 metres above sea level, which helps to preserve freshness and intensity in the grapes. A blend of tank and barrel fermented batches makes for a white wine with pleasing complexity and a crisp finish. A truly enjoyable chardonnay, especially at this price. Drink now to 2025. Available in Ontario.
Sandhill Merlot 2020 (Canada), $20.99
Made with grapes grown at estate vineyards in the Okanagan, B.C., this ripe and spicy red wine shows layers of plum, cherry, and currants, with spice, cedar and vanilla notes. There’s solid structure and youthful tannins that suggest this would be best enjoyed with a meal. Drink now to 2026. Available in British Columbia at the above price ($19.99 until Sept. 3 at BC Liquor stores), various prices in Alberta, $21.99 in Manitoba.
Thornbury Pinot Noir 2020 (New Zealand), $21.95
Thornbury made its name producing pinot noir in Central Otago, but has moved its focus to Marlborough where this affordable bottle hails from. Its style embraces the berry and beet character of pinot noir, with a core of berry fruit that gains complexity from earth and spice notes. Supple tannins and vibrant acidity make this an approachable style that will please pinot lovers. Drink now to 2026. Available in Ontario.
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