Low alcohol red wines perfect for summer evenings

John Wilson: If you find the idea of chilling red wine strange, I urge you to try it out

As I write, the sun has returned and I can begin to think about summer wines again. Sales of white and rosé increase at this time of year, but much of the time I still want to drink red wine, just a different kind of red. I look for wines that are lower in alcohol and lighter in tannins too. I also chill them for half an hour in the fridge.

If you find the idea of chilling red wine strange, I urge you to try it out. Once it goes over 20 degrees, most wine starts to taste a little soupy and the flavours become muddy. I find most restaurants and wine bars serve their red wines too warm, and I have caused consternation among staff by calling for an ice bucket for my red wine.

Tannic reds such as young Bordeaux and Barolo should be served a little warmer, at about 18-20 degrees, but most other reds are best served at 16 degrees, and light wines at 12-14 degrees.

Rising temperatures in the world’s vineyards have led to increased alcohol levels for many wines, but there are still plenty of options. Pinot noir is low in tannin and usually lowish in alcohol. Look out for Beaujolais, Valpolicella, young Rioja, mencía from north west Spain, or blaufränkisch from central Europe. Many low-intervention wines are low in alcohol. If you haven’t done so already, this might be a good time to try out a few.


Wildflower Pinot Noir 2021, Romania

12.5%, €8.95 (down from €14.25)

Featured before, this is a well-priced light and juicy Pinot with dark cherry fruits. Perfect for summer drinking on a budget.

From: O’Briens

La Nave 2021, Bierzo Alta, Casa Aurora, Germán Blanco

12.5%, €19-€19.50

Light, juicy, slightly earthy with piquant red cherry fruits. Drink it with charcuterie and firm cheeses.

From: MacCurtain Wine Cellar, Co Cork; Mitchell & Son, Sandycove and IFSC, Co Dublin; A Taste of Spain, Dublin 1 and Dublin 2; Green Man Wines, Dublin 6; Baggot Street; Manning’s Emporium, Ballylickey; Lilliput, Dublin 7.

Pinot Noir Le Cerisier 2022 Domaine Begude

13%, €17.95

This is one of my favourite summer reds. Delicious, lively, juicy, thirst-quenching cherry fruits. Perfect on its own, or with salmon, tuna or white meats.

From: O’Briens

De Martino Ungrafted Old Vines Itata 2022, Chile

13%, €23

Quite delicious with elegant and juicy red cherry fruits, light tannins and a beguiling freshness.

From: Worldwide Wines, Waterford; Matson’s Wine Store, Grange, Co Cork; Myles Creek, Kilkee, Co Clare; Barnhill Stores, Dalkey, Co Dublin; Kelly’s Off-Licence, Clontarf, Co Dublin.