You’re outside. It’s hot. You have a grill, some meat and a bunch of empty glasses—what do you pour in them? Frozen margaritas would not be incorrect. In fact, frozen margaritas are never incorrect. But this is a wine column. So, for us, the wine-based answer would be: juicy, chillable red wine, the kind of BBQ companion that made waves a few summers ago but has since been washed out by the pink squall.
The combination of a slightly chilled, light red with anything charred on a grill is one of the great gifts of summer. A pairing so beloved that even Franzia has added a “Chillable Red” to its line of House Wine Favorites. You can get that one at Walgreens, but we suggest you don’t. Instead, look to any number of good quality, affordable red wines with low alcohol, bright, round fruit and low tannins—all musts for chilling.
Gamay is the archetypal chillable grape because of its low tannins and juicy fruit, whether it’s grown in Beaujolais or California. While the Loire Valley has become the most varied hotbed for vin de soif reds begging to be chilled, from producers like Olivier Lemasson to Clos Roche Blanche to Herve Villemade. Further off the beaten path, Austrian reds, particularly those made from zweigelt, or Germany’s trollinger (or schiava, as it’s known in Italy), are solid bets, as are the wines of Cerasuolo di Vittoria in Sicily, where the combination of frappato and nero d’avola was practically made for summer. (Solo bottlings of frappato from producers like Valle dell’Acate and Arianna Occhipinti’s Tami label are also perfect grill companions.) Further north, both barbera and dolcetto, the second and third grape of the Barolo region, have plenty of ripe fruit coupled with moderate alcohol and low tannin, while, in the north of Spain, the reds of Rias Biaxas (look to Pedralonga) and the more ebullient takes on mencia in Ribeira Sacra (D. Ventura is a go-to) are all built to chill.
For our latest tasting, we selected a mix of classic chillable reds and those that met the basic qualifications but were more untested. We brought in 12 bottles under $25 to taste blind, all chosen because they represented well on paper (more about our process over at our inaugural column), and ended up with four we loved, from a floral, red-fruited trollinger from Weingut Knauss to a spicy, light Côtes-du-Rhône from Terre Forte to a lively baufränkisch from Wachter-Wiesler.
For this tasting we were joined by Jon Bonné, PUNCH’s senior contributing editor and the author of The New California Wine; Jeff Kellogg, wine director at Maialino; Alice Feiring, wine writer and author of Naked Wine and natural wine digest The Feiring Line; Ashley Santoro, wine director at Narcissa; and PUNCH’s New York wine columnist, Zachary Sussman.
Without further ado, our favorites from tasting, plus a few bonus selections from the group:
Weingut Knauss Wurttemberg Trollinger 2013 | $19 (1L)
Our favorite wine in the group, the young Andi Knauss’s fruit-forward, floral trollinger is about the next best thing since gamay. An important grape in southwest Germany but little-known outside of it, Kanuss’s trollinger is a benchmark example of the perfect balance of drinkability and finesse the grape can produce. A liter bottle has never been more necessary. [Buy] Importer: Selection Massale
Wachter-Wiesler Blaufränkisch “Béla-Jóska” 2012 | $20
Christoph Wachter is in his early 20s and already a bona fide star in Austria’s Burgenland. Sourced from one of the finest sites for blaufränkisch in the region, the Béla-Jóska is as serious as it is slammable: earthy and dark-fruited with soft tannins that are all about that chill. [Buy] Importer: David Bowler
Château Terre Forte Côtes-du-Rhône “Rouge!” 2013 | $15
Grenache’s multiple personality disorder (a good thing) is in full-effect here, where it trades the density and power it so often achieves in the Rhône for a light, spicy poolside persona. [Buy]
Fontezoppa Lacrima Nera “Dirosaetdiviola” 2012 | $24
The most full-bodied and aromatic of the bunch, this is the only wine to come with a caveat: don’t chill it too much. One of the classic grapes of the Marche, Lacrima is famous for its floral aromatics, dense, purple fruit and soft tannins. Think of this as a second-course BBQ wine (take it out and let it warm up just a bit) or just heed Zach Sussman’s advice: “Pizza.” [Buy] Importer: Solair
Franz Saumon Gamay “La Boutanche” 2013 | $18 [Buy] – Jon
Ariana Occhipinti Frappato “Tami” 2013 | $17 [Buy] – Talia
Matthiasson Tendu California Red Wine 2014 | $20 (1L) [Buy] – Ashley
Domaine Rimbert “Cousin Oscar” | $14 [Buy] – Alice
Castello di Verduno Pelaverga 2013 | $25 [Buy] – Jon
D. Ventura Ribeira Sacra “Viña do Burato” 2012 | $17 [Buy] – Zach
Punta Crena Rossese Riviera Ligure di Ponente 2013 | $20 [Buy] – Jeff
Ampeleia Costa Toscana IGT “Un Litro” | $18 (1L) [Buy] – Talia
Julien Sunier Régnié 2013 | $24 [Buy] – Jeff
Josep Foraster Trepat 2013 | $23 [Buy] – Ashley