This article was first published in The Irish Times, 16th July, 2022
This week we return to lighter red wines to enjoy over the summer. Lower alcohol is always welcome, but so too is the lighter, brighter fruit found in wines with good acidity. We are approaching peak holiday season, so if you are planning a staycation, remember to include some summer reds alongside your rosés and white wines. I believe in buying local so if you have a decent wine shop close to your holiday destination, make sure to give them your business. If not, there are plenty of online specialists, and remember that most wine shops will deliver to your rental home.
The red wines of the Loire Valley are enjoying a revival; warmer temperatures mean the grapes ripen more reliably and wines are far more consistent than in the past. The two black grapes to remember are Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc.
I have always had a weakness for Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley. Typically low in alcohol, with light, refreshing fruits and good acidity, they make great summer wines and (like Beaujolais) go really well with cold meats, cheeses and other picnic and al fresco meals. Less expensive Cabernet Franc can be served lightly chilled to bring out the fresh fruits and acidity. They have been very fashionable in Paris wine bars for years. More serious, expensive wines will happily mature for up to 20 years and take on the most gorgeous soft, leafy flavours.
Pinot Noir has always been grown in Sancerre and a few other regions of the Loire. Plantings have expanded but are still dwarfed by Cabernet Franc and Gamay. At one stage, most Sancerre rouge was a bit weedy and austere, but this has changed due to global warming. There are now some seriously good wines, often at prices that compare favourably with Burgundy. Sancerre rosé is well worth trying, too; the better ones are superior to most Provence rosé.
I also feature two more Austrian reds, both light and summery. I wrote about Zweigelt a few weeks ago, just before Aldi introduced the limited-edition version featured here. It is unusual to see Austrian wine sell for less than €10 in this country (although Lidl also has a Grüner Veltliner for €7.69, while stocks last), so this is well worth trying. Pinot Noir makes up 1.3% of Austrian vineyards but there are a few great examples available, including the Rabl Pinot featured here.
Whelehan’s Wines obviously shares my taste for the red wines of the Loire; the Dublin shop has a great selection. I feature two today. In addition, Le Caveau in Kilkenny, Terroirs in Donnybrook, and O’Briens all have a good selection of Loire reds.
Aldi Specially Selected Austrian Zweigelt 2021 Limited Edition
Nicely perfumed with juicy sweet ripe raspberry and strawberry fruits and a rounded finish. Try it with chicken kebabs, gourmet herby sausages, or stir-fried tofu.
From Aldi stores, while stocks last
Lena Filliatreau Saumur-Champigny 2018, Domaine Filliatreau Organic
Mouth-watering crunchy fresh redcurrant and dark cherry fruits with a lovely lightly tannic bite. Enjoy with all sorts of charcuterie, mild cheeses, grilled lamb chops or summer vegetables such as asparagus, broccoli, and courgettes.
From Whelehan’s, Loughlinstown, Dublin
Rabl Pinot Noir 2017, Vinum Optimum, Langenlois, Austria
13.5%, €26.95, reduced from €29.95
Light and juicy with concentrated dark cherry and plum fruits. Serve lightly chilled with grilled salmon, chicken dishes or dishes featuring goat’s cheese, mushrooms, and root vegetables such as beetroot and carrots.