Red wine, we won't forsake you until fall.
Light-bodied reds, made from thin-skinned grapes like Gamay, Barbera and Pinot Noir, are a great choice for summer. They're fresher and less tannic than a big, bold Shiraz, and lower in alcohol, too.
And they benefit from a light chill, which is good news for grilling on a hot night.
2009 Giuseppe Mascarello e Figlio Toetto Freisa Langhe ($20)
Laura Maniec of NYC's Corkbuzz Wine Studio likes wines made from the lesser-known Freisa grape, like this floral and red fruit-packed number from the Langhe region of Piedmont.
2012 Tenuta delle Terre Nere Etna ($15)
Sicily's Mt. Etna, where the grapes are grown in rocky soil on the slopes of the island's active volcano, is a frightening place to produce wine, but the resulting reds are some of the most exciting around. Refreshing, elegant and perfect for outdoor drinking, they're also a bargain.
2012 Jean Foillard Côte du Py Morgon ($33)
When we asked Carlin Karr of Frasca Food and Wine in Boulder, CO, about her favorite wines for the grill, she zeroed in on this offering from one of the top producers in Beaujolais. Its earthy flavors are a match for char.
2012 Cave des Vignerons de Saumur Saumur-Champigny Réserve des Vignerons ($13)
Located in the Loire Valley, the Saumur region is famous for its Chenin Blanc-based sparklers, but it also produces some excellent (and affordable) red wines made from Cabernet Franc in the Saumur-Champigny appellation. Expect lots of freshness, velvety tannins and just a hint of spice.
2011 Opawa Pinot Noir ($19)
Dane Campbell of NYC's The Musket Room likes New Zealand Pinot Noirs for summer. Compared to other Pinots, these wines tend to have darker tones and wild herb flavors, says Campbell, and they're great with food.
2012 Evening Land Gamay Noir Eola-Amity Hills Seven Springs Vineyard ($25)
Pinot Noir might be the leading grape in Oregon's Willamette Valley, but winemakers are also working with Gamay, the same summer-friendly red grape used to make Beaujolais. It's marked by notes of strawberry and cherry, and often a hint of black pepper.