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Top summer wine picks: The best bottles under $25 plus perfect easy recipes to pair with

Full disclosure: Monsters & Critics received free samples of the products mentioned in this article for review. However, the opinions expressed are independent and our own.

With summer in full swing, Monsters and Critics has winnowed down a worthy under-$25 list of wines to go swimmingly with sunny-weather foods — saltier appetizers, grilled dishes and all sorts of epicurean scenarios.

The easy part of summer wine pairing is the prep of dinner — just keep it light, simple in ingredients and know that grilled dishes are relatively easy.

Even vegans and vegetarians can experience those primal flavors that make us forget the sweltering part of the day.

Selecting a good solid wine to pair with your meal means you must ascertain how hearty the food is.

Most all of us know lighter foods — fish, chicken, and vegetables — love a lighter wine.

Richer heavier grilled meats love a more robust red. Note that all wines, whether reds or whites, come in light, medium, or full-bodied varietals, an example being the hotter weather pal Pinot Grigio versus an oaky Chardonnay.

If you are a sauce hound and love that intense marinade-driven garlicky explosion in meat, you can also adjust the wine selection to either quench the fire or rise to the occasion with an equal punch. Personal preferences always win here.

What follows is a tight summer selection of great wines, all available for $25 or less, to go with grilled foods or easy to prepare appetizers.

We found brilliant recipes that are fun and easy to do, and fantastic to boot.

Remember that wine has fat-cutting tannins and is high in acidity, giving the palate a chance to savor all the flavors going on in the meal.

We tried and recommend:

1 Baron Herzog Pinot Noir 2015 (California *Kosher)

A light to medium red that is not too cloying for the heat. Baron Herzog has been doing their thing for nine generations, and they are very good at creating easy-to-drink reds that are perfect for a hot night when a cabernet or merlot is too much.

Stone fruits, a bit of black cherry and hint of oak are underscored with a spiced sandalwood kiss netting a nice finish.

Honestly, it is not the best red wine ever, but its damned good for the price, a worthy pour for a spicy meaty or flavor filled meal by the grill.

We recommend this recipe:

RECIPE: Grilled Bacon Wrapped Mushrooms

2 Gonzalez Byass Palo Cortado 12 Anos Leonor (Spain)

(Wine Spectator 91 points Wine Enthusiast 91 points)

Holy crap this is an amazing wine. Sherry is so TOTALLY misunderstood by so many Americans, people think it is a grandma drink, but this Jerez Spanish sherry is brilliant served chilled or on ice and a salty as heck delicious appetizer too, believe it or not!

Palo Cortado is a complex and intense fortified wine with refined subtle notes of dried fruits, orange peel, vanilla and mature wood.

You can even serve this will grilled ham, red meat or game. This particular Spanish sherry is aged 12 years and it is so delicious.

We recommend two recipes, an addictive beginner, and a burger main course:

APPETIZER: Grilled Halloumi Cheese with lemon (easy!)

MAIN: Barcelona Burger with Serrano Ham, Shaved Manchego and Quince BBQ Sauce

3 Elvi Vina Encina Rose (Spain)

Another low cost lovely! Calling a rose food-friendly is a bit of a standard fall back, but it bridges the gap between the red haters and the white whiners who want something with more flavor but not too cloying.

This is a delicious structured, complex fruity and dry rosé and one of the best values in the category.

This wine is made from 100% Syrah grapes grown in fertile highlands of central Spain. The color is a clear, pale strawberry pop of color.

The wine has hints of cherry and other red fruits and floral hints. Please serve this chilled!

We recommend serving it with:

RECIPE: Shrimp-Avocado Tostadas

4 Santa Margherita Chianti Classico Riserva 2011 – Sangiovese from Chianti, Tuscany, Italy

A bawdy rocking red, Santa Margherita Chianti Classico Riserva is a dense clingy ruby meant for a good bloody streak or grilled hearty meat.

The notes are typical for the category, stone fruits like black cherries and plums, but with a complex underscore of spice and herbaceous flavors.

Lovely lovely wine, the Italians do these very well. Perfect with grilled meats, and any Tuscan food of course.

We recommend:

RECIPE: Lamb with Rosemary and Garlic

5 Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio Alto Adige, Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy

We close with a brilliant light white wine. Made in Italy, this lean and mean flavorful vino is meant to be served chilled.

It’s a triple threat, perfect as a “before” aperitif, or served with the meal as the wine selection and even served as the “afterward” wine.

Don’t be lulled by the super pale straw yellow color, the intense aromas, and dry flavor are enhanced with citrus and deliver a modern, crisp and clean finish on the palate.

Crafted in the Northern Italian region of Alto Adige, this wine was brought to America 36 years ago, and we have sucked it down like fiends ever since.

Santa Margherita is the best Pinot Grigio around for the money. Truly!

We recommend:

RECIPE: Grilled Scallops served on a bed of angel hair

DISCLOSURE: Monsters and Critics received free samples of the wines mentioned in this article.


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