Sunshine, barbecues, and fireworks fill the Fourth of July holiday. Here are a few red wine selections perfect for the holiday. (Some selections were sent for editorial consideration, all available at Spec’s unless otherwise noted.)
Though most of what you’re grilling this holiday may be hearty cuts of meat, begging for powerful, robust wines, consider instead a red wine that is somewhat lighter and fresher, with well-integrated tannins, and great taste. Alto Adige wines do this. Perhaps best known for their white wines, the Northeastern Italian region also produces beautiful light red wines from Schiava, Lagrein, and Pinot Nero. Schiava (or Vernatch) is similar to well made Gamay from Beaujolais, and red-fruit-filled Pinot Nero has the earthiness you hope for in Pinot Noir, with wild berry and spice notes. Favorite producers include Nals Margreid, Abbazia di Novacella, and Tieffenbrunner, available at Jimmy’s for $20-$40.
South of Alto Adige, in the Veneto, varieties like Rondinella, Corvinone and Corvina Veronese shine in Valpolicella and Amarone. Dried fruit, herb, and spice filled Amarone sends me to the moon, but for pairing with barbecue festivities consider Valpolicella instead.
Tenuta Sant Antonio hand harvests fruit from 20+-year-old vines and slowly ages the wine for one year developing a red currant, toasted spice and savory herb filled Monti Garbi Valpolicella Ripasso. $20, at Jimmy’s.
From Allegrini, Palazzo della Torre IGT ($23) blends a touch of Sangiovese into their Rondinella and Corvina, each averaging 40+ years, for a concentrated yet fresh wine, thanks to slow ripening seasons with warm days and cool nights.
Go-to barbecue favorite Zinfandel is juicy, fruit-forward, often affordable and easy to pair. For around $10 a bottle Ravenswood is a palatable offering filled with pepper, blackberry jam, and spice. For more refined structure, try Ravenswood’s single-vineyard Zinfandel wines, like the Teldeschi Old Vine Zinfandel ($70).
Quivira adds a touch of dense Petit Sirah, co-fermented with Zinfandel creating rusticity in the juicy, brambly fruit filled Quivira Zinfandel ($25). Their Black Boar Zinfandel ($35) elevates wine with additional richness, depth, and concentration, making it perfect for smoked pork belly or ribs.
Frank Family also includes Petit Sirah in their Napa Valley Zinfandel ($37 at Pogo’s), blending about 14% in with their Zin, a significant amount of the tannin-filled variety. The resulting wine is one that leans towards earthiness instead of fruitiness, melding woody herbal notes, dried flowers, and savory pepper.
The history of wine in Greece dates back over 3000 years, and today the country is making some of the world’s most exciting wines from indigenous varieties. I have been a fan of Xinomavro from Naoussa for years, appreciating the savory, dried fruit and sun-dried tomato qualities in the tannic wine from producers like Boutari, Alpha Estate, and Kir-Yianni. From the Nemea region, Agiorgitiko shines with layers of cherry, sweet spice, and bold tannin showcasing the character of the country, from producers like Gaia and Palivou. Selections are available at Central Market and Spec’s ranging from $15-$30.
If entertaining a few go barbecue-friendly, affordable crowd-pleasers include Argentina’s Bodegas Argento, like their cherry filled Malbec and violet and spice filled Bonarda, both $14. Crushed stone filled Garnacha highlights the rustic, dry, rocky Spanish terroir in Las Rocas ($14). Texas favorite, Pedernales Tempranillo ($17) shines with minerality, red-fruit, and hints of vanilla. Leese-Fitch melds many varieties, including Petit Sirah, Syrah, Zinfandel, Merlot, Tempranillo and Mourvedre for a Red Blend ($12) that effortlessly works. Widely available.