Best Summer Wines: Delicious Bottles for Under $20, $15, and $10

Summer WinesThirsty? Summer is the perfect time to explore new wines, even if you are an absolute beginner. Whether your are packing a picnic for an outdoor concert or hosting a beach barbecue, flavorful, casual food pairs well easy-drinking, less expensive bottles and even—gasp!—boxes.

Related: 20 Wonderful Wines Under $20

Shine spoke with two experts, Brad Nugent, Sommelier and Beverage Director at Porter House New York and Center Bar, and Emilia Valencia, who co-owns Thirst Wine Merchants in Brooklyn, New York with her husband Michael Yarmark, about their favorite warm weather wines and how to find a delicious bottle within a budget.

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Summer wines should be recent vintage, fresh tasting, and versatile. They are typically less boozy, which is important in hotter weather when you might naturally be drinking more from thirst and overindulge or become dehydrated. Food-friendly, perfumed dry Rieslings range from 7-11% alcohol compared to a big, brawny California Zinfandel or Syrah, which can clock in at more than 14%. All wines are required to display their alcohol content on the label.

Nugent is a fan of shopping at smaller mom-and-pop stores. "You may spend a dollar or two more per bottle," says Nugent, "but the added service is worth it." He suggests describing the wines or flavors you have liked in the past and keeping an open mind. "You might be introduced to something off-the-beaten path that wine geeks love."

Valencia, whose store specializes in discovering small, more obscure producers who make wines naturally without chemicals, encourages shoppers to speak up about their price range. "Of course there are wines we keep for aging that are for special occasions, but it's the every day wines that sustain us," she says. Once you find a bottle you like, she recommends buying a case because most stores offer a 10-20% discount.

If you don't have a small wine store nearby, Nugent recommends sticking with grapes you are familiar with. "And stay away from the pallet stacks. These are wines that have been bought in bulk-they might be good, but you are taking a chance."

We've located some readily available wines to get you started, but don't hesitate to branch out once you discover the characteristics that make your palate sing.

Rosé Wine
If you think rosés are limited to baby-pink, sweet, white Zinfadels, then you are in for a lip-smacking, crisp, juicy treat. That sugary, cloying style of wine went out with acid wash jeans and mullet haircuts. Today's lovely rosés from France, California, Tuscany, or beyond are great for sipping (preferably with a beach view) and pair well with barbecued and grilled foods. "It tastes like white and smells like red, that's what makes rosé so versatile," says Nugent.

Both of our experts love classic roses from Provence. Nugent suggests looking for Grenache, Syrah, and Cinsault.

Rosés under $20

Jaboulet Parallele 45 Rose, 2011, France, $16.99

Copain Saisons des Vins Le Printemps Rose, Mendocino County, USA $17.99

Clos Clementine Cotes de Provence Rose 2011, France, $16.99

Rosés under $15
Essential Rosé, 2012 France $14.95

Pourcieux Rosé de Provence, France, 2012, $14.99

Coeur Esterelle, France, 2011, $12.00

White Wine
White wines are the classic summer quaff and pair well with lighter food and fish. Valencia says to avoid whites that are "mucked up with fake oak" and to look for wines with a "mouth-watering acidity."

Whites under $20
Domaine Sigalas Santorini, Aegean Island, Greece, $19.99

Ravines Dry Riesling White Springs Vineyard 2011, U.S.A, $19.99

Karanika Assyrtiko 2011, Greece, $15.00

Whites under $15
Massone Gavi 2011, Italy, $13.99

Berger, Gruner Veltliner, 2011, Austria (1 Liter) $12.95

Steinmetz, Riesling Günther 2011 Mosel, Germany (1 Liter) $14.95

Red Wine
Nugent likes to chill red wine slightly in the summer. Lighter, crisper styles work well with picnic food. "Bring them down to about 50 degrees by icing for 5-10 minutes."

Reds under $20
Azienda Agricola Arianna Occhipinti Tami Frappato, Sicilia IGT $15.99

Maison Loron & Fils Domaine des Billards Saint-Amour, Beaujolais, France $19.99

Domaine De Vissoux Beaujolais Pierre Chermette 2009, France, $19.99

Brundlmayer Zweigelt 2009, Germany, $19.99

Reds under $15
Louis Jadot Beaujolais-Village 2011, France, $12.99

Zemmer Schiava Gentile 2011 Alto Adige $12.99

Wines under $10
Although Nugent thinks your chances of getting an excellent bottle of wine are much higher when you spend $12-$15, it is possible it find delicious wine under $10. "Box wine is a category that's coming into its own," he says. "The wine doesn't oxidize and it has a lower carbon footprint." For now, he says the options are limited, but believes the quality is improving.

Boxes are usually three liters, or the equivalent of four bottles. His recommendations: From the Tank Vin Rouge ($40), Maipe Malbec, 2012 ($30), Bota Box Pinot Grigio, 2012, ($20) La Petite Frog Coteaux du Languedoc, 2012 ($33). "They can be really quaffable and a remarkable deal."

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