Now in the midst of summer, it comes as no surprised that our patrons generally gravitate towards whites and rosé. After all, what can be more ideal than enjoying a crisp glass of rosé outside, while the warm weather lingers into the late afternoon. However, this summer, I would like to challendge that old adage. Personally, I also find myself inclined to drink certain red wine
varieties (served with a slight chill) as we progress through this warm season, as a direct result of their ability to be more multifaceted.
When choosing a summer red, I naturally look at grape varieties grown primarily in cooler climates, as they generally reflect a lighter overall style, with typically lower alcohol content. My ideal summer red wine is refreshing and quaffable, yet complex, satisfying, and also versatile with foods (especially ubiquitous grilled meats and vegetables). Pinot Noir is one of the first varieties that comes to mind, and as such, I encourage you to explore those from Burgundy and the Loire
Valley. Somewhat further afield, other excellent, albeit lesser-known grape varietals invite, namely Zweigelt, Lambrusco, Pineau d'Aunis, Gamay, Pais, and Carignan!
The region of Sancerre in the Loire Valley is unquestionably one of the best places to find Sauvignon Blanc bar none. Flinty minerality and nervy acidity are associated trademarks thanks to the chalky limestone and clay soil profile, but what about one of the most popular red grape varieties? Vincent Gaudry's 2014 Sancerre Vincengetroix Rouge a.k.a. Pinot Noir ($30) is an excellent example of a Pinot Noir with structure, elegance, seamless texture, and vibrant red fruit.
Another red variety in the Loire Valley that is coming to the forefront is Pineau d'Aunis. Emile Heredia's 2014 Montrieux Vin de France ($23) can be characterized as a lighter style with lift and leanness. It reminds us of Beaujolais with its crunchy fresh fruit, but it is unique for its slightly funky and spicy aromas. The 2014 Nathalie Gaubicher 'Patapon' Pineau d'Aunis is excellent as well, offering up more richness of fruit and body then the previous.
Denny Bini's Lambrusco ($16) is from the region of Emilia-Romagna in Italy and has a charming rustic style with fizziness on the palate. This often under-appreciated grape seamlessly blends fruit, earthiness, and a tinge of bitterness, while finishing in a clean, refreshing, dryer style. A must-try with cured meats.
Mathieu Paquet's 2014 Chiroubles "Les Crozets" ($15) consists of Gamay coming from the southern end of Burgundy in the area of Beaujolais. Beaujolais and Beaujolais Nouveau may be fitting for Thanksgiving, but this grape should also be a summer staple. Light tannins and fresh fruit make them incredibly approachable. Chiroubles is one of ten Beaujolais Cru and is uniquely situated at the highest point in elevation, resulting in the coolest climate in the appellation. Delicious Beaujolais Cru for this price is becoming harder and harder to find. Another superb and more serious Gamay not to be missed is the 2014 Ludovic Mathon Morgon ($21). This is also an outstanding deal for a Beaujolais Cru with darker and richer red and black fruits followed by a soft, velvety texture on the palate.
Over in Austria, Berger's 2014 Zweigelt ($15), pronounced "tsvye-gelt", is bottled in liter format, perhaps by necessity since it is so easy to drink! Its fresh acidity is the perfect compliment to richer grilled meats. The variety is uniquely known for its aromas of pepper, baking spices, and delicate floral notes.
Lastly, leaving Europe, let's direct our attention down to Chile. Pais and Carignan are the grapes included in Maitia's 2015 Pipeno Aupa ($12). This rustic and slightly funky light red is simply refreshing and fun. It combines red fruit, spice, and dusty earth notes. I confess, I have had a bottle or two in the fridge at all times during this past month! It really boosts morale around the house on weeknights.