Midsummer Wines – the red wines of the Loire Valley
First published in the Irish Times, Saturday 25th June, 2016
As I write, it is a beautiful bright morning, with sun streaming through the window. This being Ireland, all may have changed by the time you read this, but the last week has been dry and sunny most of the time. These days I tend to drink lighter, lower-alcohol red wines throughout the year. But once the sun comes out, I find it difficult to think about big, beefy red wines.
Once the temperature starts to rise, the red wines of the Loire valley come into their own. Usually low in alcohol, with a mouth-wateringly refreshing bite, they have a lightness and vibrancy that seems to epitomise summer. In fact, virtually all of the Loire wines, white and rosé too, fit the sunny category.
I serve the reds cool, or even lightly chilled, to big up the refreshing acidity. This week, three of four wines hail from the Loire, one from the obscure appellation of Cheverny in Touraine. Here pinot noir is blended with gamay (a Loire version of the rarely seen burgundian “passetoutgrains”) and sometimes cabernet franc too. Gamay and pinot noir from the Loire can be very good, and the region is also home to most of the world’s great cabernet franc, one of my favourite grapes. Even the best wines, from Chinon, Bourgueil and St Nicolas de Bourgueil, are low in alcohol and perfect for summer. Touraine and other areas can also be good, and less expensive too. The key is to buy from a ripe vintage – 2014 was good and 2015 excellent.
Other names to look out for include all forms of Beaujolais, or Mencía-based wines from northwest Spain. From Italy, barbera, dolcetto and valpolicella can fit the bill, but check the alcohol levels before buying. Ideally you want a wine at 12-13 per cent. Cerasuolo di Vittoria is expensive but light and delicious.
Australian pinot noir fits into the same category, as does German spätburgunder. From Austria blaufränkisch and zweigelt are light and tasty. For value options, Chile is now producing some very good pinot noir. Some are a little high in alcohol but should be light in body.
The mere mention of the word lambrusco is enough to bring on a hangover with some wine drinkers. Memories linger. The good guys have always produced delicious wines, none more so than that featured today. Their website suggests you drink this delicious sparkling red at about 14-15 degrees with all manner of charcuterie as well as ravioli and risottos.
The other wines featured today would also be perfect with all forms of cold pork, from ham to salami to patés, chicken dishes, tarts and pies, as well as more full-flavoured fish such as tuna and salmon.
Domaine Bellier 2014, Cheverny
A delicious delicate blend of Pinot Noir and Gamay with seductive light red cherry fruits.
Les Granges 2014, Domaine Baudry, Chinon
Delicious lightly peppery crunchy redcurrants and cherries. Yum!
Stockists: Grapevine, Dalkey (onthegrapevine.ie); Red Island, Skerries; Cabot and Co, Westport (cabotandco.com); No.1 Pery Square, Limerick; McCambridges, Galway.
Concerto 2014 Lambrusco Reggiano, Medici Ermete
Effervescent raspberries and other juicy red fruits. Summer in a glass.
Stockists: Sheridan’s; Mitchell & Son; Green Man Wines.
Pinot Noir La Roncière 2014, Val de Loire
Light, floral and refreshing, with earthy dark cherry fruits. Serve cool.
Stockists: Whelehan’s Wines, Loughlinstown.
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