Light Summer Reds

Light summer red wines
Demand for wines lighter in body and alcohol steps up in summer

From the Irish Times, Sat, Jun 20, 2015

In recent years, there has been a slow but perceptible trend towards wines that are lighter in alcohol and in body. The two are different, although they often go hand in hand. For many it means drinking more without ill effects and once the sun comes out, it becomes an imperative. I might drink a glass or two of a full-bodied red with barbecued red meat, but otherwise I head straight for a more refreshing wine that will feel less heavy in the mouth.Thankfully these are becoming more common; there was a time when every red wine seemed to be 14 per cent or more, and packed full of rich fruit and ripe tannins.This style of wine often won medals and trophies at competitions, but were a little too powerful to actually drink. Over the past five years, producers in the New World have realised the consumer is turning away from these wines and have tried to lower alcohol levels – not always an easy thing to achieve. It may actually lead to increased sales, as it can be hard to drink more than a glass of a 14.5 per cent monster, whereas a wine tipping 13 per cent slips down all too easily. A number of companies have released lower alcohol wines and I want to like them, but barring German Riesling, most taste incomplete. White wines at 12-13.5 per cent or lower are relatively easy to come across. Reds are more difficult.

The two best-known light red wines are Gamay and Pinot Noir. Gamay generally means Beaujolais although you will find some good versions elsewhere; the Loire Valley is one place to look (see below). The 10 “crus” of Beaujolais are variations on a theme, markedly different in taste, but almost always light in alcohol and sometimes the nearest thing a red wine can get to white with its delicate fruit and elegance.These wines are often best served cool – chilled is too much, but left in a cool unheated room or in the shade outside (in Ireland) those mouth-watering succulent fruits comes alive.

Further north of Beaujolais lies Pinot Noir country – the great red wines of Burgundy. These are light in body, but often 14-14.5 per cent in alcohol. I would include most of the red wines from the Loire valley in this category, Cabernet Franc in particular. These tend to be light in alcohol with crunchy redcurrant, blackberry fruits and an attractive sappiness. Some wine lovers find them a little too herbaceous but I love them. They are a brilliant foil for cold meats, charcuterie as well as oily fish such as salmon or tuna. Beyond France, Austria is now producing some very good light red wines from the Blaufränkisch and Zweigelt grapes, and the north-west of Spain offers some very good light sweet-savoury reds that are generally low in alcohol. The Italians are very fond of lighter wines generally and the north of Italy produces a huge range of fragrant fruity reds, often made from obscure local grape varieties. Look out for Teroldigo from Trentino (Mitchell & Sons and Supervalu both stock one) as well as Bardolino, some Valpolicella and the fascinating wines of Emilia-Romagna, such as the Sangiovese.

New World reds tend to be bigger and higher in alcohol, although several countries, including Chile, New Zealand and Australia produce very good Pinot Noir. Chile and New Zealand can also make very good Cabernet Sauvignon, a grape that can ripen properly at 12.5 per cent alcohol.If you like red wine, but suffer from headaches after just one glass, it might be worth trying lighter, less tannic wines. The causes of red wine headache are still unclear; some believe they are caused by the high levels of histamines in red wine, others by the tannins. Wines that have been macerated for shorter periods and are less extracted seem less likely to cause headaches.

Image 14Frappato 2013 IGT Terre Siciliane

Juicy light easy summery strawberry fruits – a great seasonal quaffing wine.

Stockists: Marks & Spencer

DSCF5304Sangoiovese Rubicone Medici Ermete

Charming, dangerously moreish wine with light ripe cherry and raspberry fruits. Amazing value for money.

Stockists: Sheridans Cheesemongers

Image 13Gamay Le Bois Jacou 2014, Jean-Francois Gamay Mérieau

Free-flowing fresh cherry fruits with a nice earthy edge.

Stockists: Terroirs, Donnybrook

Posted in: Irish Times

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