Last of the summer wine
Before the nights close in, try some light, fresh and fruity reds
The Irish Times, Sat, Aug 29, 2015, 01:00
It is not quite yet time to stow away the garden furniture for another year, but summer is drawing inexorably to a close. Whether you are heading down to Electric Picnic (see you there at the chocolate and wine matching session in the Theatre of Food?) or (hopefully) just taking in the last few rays, this might be the final opportunity to enjoy summer wines before the dark nights close in. Or is it? If truth be told, I enjoy fresh and fruity wines the whole year round. I love red wine with tuna and salmon, and also with cold meats, charcuterie, chicken and pork. The best red wines for this kind of food are lower in alcohol and lighter in style.
Beaujolais is the first wine that comes to mind, but a glass of cool Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley, chilled if the weather is really hot, is thirst-quenching and satisfying. A few months ago, a wine importer called me up in a state of excitement, boasting that he had sourced a Loire Cabernet with 14.5 per cent alcohol and really ripe fruit. I wondered why he had bothered; the whole raison d’être of these wines are those distinctive just-ripe crunchy redcurrant fruits and that tangy fresh acidity.
A decade ago, many were a little too herbaceous with stalky green flavours, and lacked any fruit on the centre-palate. But the overall quality has improved greatly, while prices have remained amazingly cheap. The very best wines can have austere drying tannins and will evolve wonderfully for a decade or more. But most are primed for drinking the summer following harvest. Fresh and fruity, they would be my ideal bistro wines, thirst-quenching and moreish. Either way, they will be naturally low in alcohol.
Cabernet Franc does not have the sweet succulence of a Pinot Noir; it is more austere and reserved, with higher acidity. Chinon is the best-known region for Cabernet Franc, but Bourgeuil, Saint Nicolas de Bourgeuil, Saumur and Saumur-Champigny, as well as the catch-all region of Touraine all produce very good versions. Saumur-Champigny tends to be the lightest and freshest, Chinon the smoothest and silkiest, while Bourgeuil tends to be earthier and more structured.
Moving across Europe, an alternative source for light red wines is Blaufrankisch. Light in alcohol and tannin, with crunchy blue fruits, they make for brilliant summery drinking. Austria is the best-known producer, but Blaufrankisch is grown all across eastern and central Europe under various names, usually with the word ‘french’ incorporated; Franconia in Italy, Frankovka in Slovakia, Modra Frankinja in Slovenia and Limberger in Germany.
One enterprising Irish couple, Sinéad and Liam Cabot play tag-team winemaking, flitting between Slovenia and Westport. Their 2013 Roka is delicious, and their Reserve (€ 20.99) even more so. I have also tasted some very good Austrian Blaufrankisch from Claus Preisinger (€ 16.50, 64wine) and J Heinrich (€ 18.99, Wines on the Green). I also tried two very good light fruity wines made from Zweigelt, a step-child of Blaurfankisch, from Waltner (€ 16, On the Grapevine) and Preisinger again.
Lidl’s annual French wine sale starts on Monday September 7th. The emphasis is on Bordeaux. My picks would include the following: the light, balanced Ch Vieux Ligat 2010 (€ 9.99), the impressive Ch Maugresin de Clotte 2010 (€ 11.99), and the delightfully spicy Ch Grand Abord 2010 (€ 12.99). Moving up in price, I enjoyed the Ch La Cardonne 2010 (€ 19.99) a classic firm Médoc, the lush spicy Fugue de Nenin 2006 (€ 30) the mature, soft leafy Ch Phélan Ségur 2007 (€ 24.99), and the sweet ripe Virginie de Valandraud 2012 (€ 30). At the top end, the delicious elegant Reserve de la Comtesse 2010 (€ 35) and the nicely mature Ch Poujeaux 2005 (€ 40) were all very tempting as was the luscious marmalade-scented Sauternes, Ch Muras at € 14.99 per bottle.
Chinon Les Graviers, Domaine des Clos Godeaux 2014
A subtle herbiness that goes perfectly with the juicy light red cherry fruits and a tannin-free finish.
Stockists: Searsons, Monkstown.
Bernard Baudry Chinon Les Granges 2014
From one of the best producers in Chinon, a delicious light wine with crunchy redcurrant fruits and a piquant edge.
Stockists: On the Grapevine, Dalkey (onthegrapevine.ie); Red Island Wines, Skerries; Cabot and Co, Westport (cabotandco.com); No.1 Pery Square, Limerick; McCambridges, Galway.
Roka Blaufränkisch 2013, Slovenia
Light and fragrant with free-flowing refreshing dark cherry fruits.
Stockists: On the Grapevine, Dalkey (onthegrapevine.ie); Cabot and Co, Westport (cabotandco.com); No.1 Pery Square, Limerick; McCambridges, Galway.