All You Need to Know: Red Wines for Summer
Whilst it’s wonderful to see the sun again after what feels like months of grey, its warm rays are chilled by the realisation that the next four months will be spent with a glass of white wine in hand. Obviously, if white is your preference, what could be better? A chilled glass of Albariño in the company of a plate of huge prawns and a view of the Galician coast is hard to beat. Problem is, if your preference is red, you know that every BBQ, alfresco lunch, picnic and candle-lit garden soirée from now until October will be paired with a ‘summery’ white or rosé.
It isn’t exactly that red wine is seasonal, it’s just that when you think of summer foods, you tend to opt for lighter dishes, salads, fish or Mediterranean vegetable dishes, all flavours usually associated with white wine. The temperature also plays a part, as, although it may be hard to believe, some people actually drink wine just as a thirst quencher and reds are generally thought to be heavy and less refreshing.
As the heat rises, even the staunchest red wine enthusiast might concede their bottle of dark, oaky, incredibly complex Ribera del Duero isn’t best suited, but contrary to common belief, there are plenty of other red wines that will pair beautifully with the most summery of occasions. There are just a couple of things to bear in mind when choosing.
Firstly, you need to look for something that is lighter bodied. By that I mean something that is not oaked or heavy with dark fruits, nor should it have an alcohol content of more than 13%. Also, and yes, I realise to some this is heresy, it would be wise to stick it in the fridge for 30 minutes before you want to drink it. Best bet would be to leave your cellar alone until September and stock up on a few bottles for summer invitations and impromptu picnics.
Now all that’s been said, the world is at your disposal. As you would expect from the inventors of ‘al fresco’, Italy has some wonderful inexpensive reds that hit the mark. For your next backyard wood-fired pizza party, why not try Torre del Falasco Corvina 2016; unoaked but with plenty of rich cherry flavours. Look for a Grenache from the Rhône or Languedoc-Roussillon or even a Beaujolais. A plate of thinly sliced smoked duck, wild rocket and warm grilled peach with torn basil and walnut oil screams for the Jean Loron Château de la Pierre Beaujolais-Villages 2015 whilst the Domaine Labry Bourgogne Hautes Côtes de Beaune Rouge 2013 would complement grilled chicken wrapped in mountain ham with sautéed runner beans and steamed baby potatoes.
When it comes to barbequed sausages, burgers and meaty kebabs you’d expect reds to be ideal, but standing over the hot coals on a blistering summer’s afternoon is often associated with beer. Couple that with more veg-led BBQ dishes and yet again it might be wise to bring your own bottle of red. Not wishing to stereotype, but Australian ‘Wire Walker’ Pinot Noir 2015, Orange would be perfect not only with the classic meat feast but also dishes such as fired chilli potatoes, seared artichokes and peppered halloumi kebabs.
What about shellfish, I hear you cry. Ok, so apparently, pairing oysters with anything other than white wine is actually against the law; the tannin in red wine actually reacts with the oyster making it taste incredibly salty and just downright weird. That said, I heard that oddball sommeliers suggest (in very hushed tones) grape varieties such as the Argentinian Charbono, Italian Dolcetto and Barbera and French Gamay.
Not wishing to completely upset the purists, perhaps it would be better to serve something classic like a salad of fresh crab and finely sliced celeriac strewn with minute, creamy white new season cobnuts paired with a young Pinot Noir. If anyone objects mention that a recent study suggests Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris are actually all the same variety, then find a deck chair, retire under a knotted hankie and drink your red wine in peace.
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