Summer Reds

In August, Hilton Head Island reaches peak heat with tropical humidity—making it the perfect time for red wines! While a red wine on a steamy summer day may not seem as enticing as an icy piña colada, the “dog days” of late summer are ideal for experiencing red wines.

Summer heat enhances subtle flavor profiles of silky fruits and sweet floral notes. Reds have the ideal taste profile for lazy afternoons on a Lowcountry verandah, late lunches after 18 holes of golf or a prelude to a nap on your favorite hammock. And, if you’re planning a more active summer vacation, remember an entire 750 ml. bottle of red wine usually has fewer calories than an 8 oz. sweet frozen cocktail.

Here are some tips for picking out the perfect red for a hot summer day:

Lighter is Better
Lighter-bodied wines are easier on the palate and much more refreshing than heavier reds. Wines made from thin-skinned red grapes tend to produce light-bodied wines. They also flourish in cool climates or at high altitudes and develop surprising complex flavor profiles with higher acid levels, creating a refreshing zing.

Lower Tannins
Tannins are compounds found in grape skins and what produces the classic astringency found in all red wines. So, it makes sense that thinner-skinned grapes contain less tannins, while thick-skinned grapes are loaded with them. High-tannin wines tend to be big, bold and heavy—characteristics unsuitable for hot, humid days.

Less or No Oak
Oak-aging brings out the heaviness in a wine for several reasons, one being that oak also contains tannins, which are released into the wine during the aging process. So, when choosing a red wine to sip in the heat, choose one that is slightly oaked or not aged in oak barrels at all. These wines are generally lighter and fruitier and therefore more refreshing.

Lower Alcohol
Higher alcohol wines are heavier-bodied. Stick to a wine that is 13% or lower.

This is probably one of the most important tips. Pop your bottle of red wine in the refrigerator for about 20 to 30 minutes before serving. You will be amazed at how bright and refreshing it will taste.

Based on these guidelines, here are some warm-weather red wines I recommend. A Nebbiolo or Barbera from the northern hills of Italy provides light mineral flavors. Loire Valley reds, such as Cabernet Franc and Gamay, are some of the lightest, freshest and lowest-alcohol wines out there. If you are looking for a fruitier wine, choose a Pinot Noir from Oregon or coastal Northern California. The cool fog from the Pacific Ocean allows for world-class Pinot Noirs which, unlike their warmer weather counterparts, are light and burst with the flavors of tart cherries.

You’re sure to find an amazing red wine experience within any budget on Hilton Head Island. There are hundreds of great red wines to explore here, and thousands of beautiful locations to get lost in them.

Article by Georgene Mortimer, Island Winery

The perfect bottle of handcrafted artisan wine awaits at Island Winery on Cardinal Road. Complimentary tastings, wine by the glass and cheese platters are available Monday-Saturday from 12:30-5:30 p.m. and Sunday, 12-4 p.m. (843) 842-3141 or