Special Issues » Summer Guide

Summer red

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So, OK, it’s summer: Rush right out and buy red wine.

I’m not kidding. There are plenty of light-bodied reds on the market, and with just a little chilling, you’ll be happy to have them with burgers from the grill, fish such as tuna and salmon, even cold chicken on the patio or alongside a Hill Country river. Just stick the bottles in the water for a while and you’re good to go. And in case you’re not convinced that reds and Texas summers are a match made in heaven, we’re going to start with “the only white wine that happens to be red.”

In The Wine Bible, Karen MacNeil talks of Beaujolais in just this way, adding that in villages around the region, jugs of the light and fruity wine are often stuck in tubs of cold water and put in the shade to slake the inevitable thirst of petanque players. Louis Latour’s 2004 Beaujolais-Village Chameroy is a couple of substantial steps above the stuff in jugs, but the family resemblance is apparent. Pale garnet in color, the wine is all about bright acid and lively cherry aromas and flavors.

Equally zingy, but with red raspberry and currant replacing the cherry, is the 2005 Allegrini Valpolicella Classico, a wine from a region that is coming back into play after a long period of underperformance.

Another unpretentious Northern Italian red aided by a little chill (we’re talking 30 minutes in the refrigerator) is the barbera, and Michele Chiarlo’s 2004 Barbera d’Asti Superiore stands out for its slightly meaty nose but a palate that boogies on to an elegant end with both raspberry and cherry.

Beaujolais is not the only region in France capable of producing elegant, lightweight reds; the Loire Valley can also come up with quaffable rouge with character, and though it’s not well-known here, Bourgeuil is worth seeking out. The 2005 vintage from Domaine de la Chanteleuserie opens with a spicy-herbal nose suggesting green peppercorn, then goes on to offer chewy cherry flavors that are big but far from ponderous.

From the Languedoc-Roussillon, France’s — and perhaps the world’s — largest wine-producing region, come wines from several sub-regions, among them Corbieres. The 2004 Val d’Orbieu Les Deux Rives Corbieres even suggests chilling on the back label. Tasted straight out of an ice tub — just a little too cold — it still had plenty of ripe fruit and a touch of earthiness. That same super-chill probably helped a 2004 Reserve St. Martin Vin de Pays d’Oc Merlot; the nose was a little shy, but its blackberry sorbet flavors weren’t unwelcome on the palate.

Heftier wines can sometime simply lose their appeal when chilled, but almost an hour in the refrigerator didn’t diminish a 2004 Falesco Vitiano with an Umbria IGT. This wine consistently gets ratings in the high 80s and low 90s from the big boys, and it’s easy to see why: Deep ruby in color, deep berry on the nose, black plum, earth, and even bitter chocolate on the palate all provide a terrific package for the value price.

Cono Sur’s 2005 Central Valley Cabernet Sauvignon strives for this kind of restrained power and almost gets there at an even lower price. It’s a little green and herbal on the nose but delivers blackberry, black currant, even a little tar and vanilla, all in beautiful balance. Both of these wines are worth experimenting with to find the temperature you like best; they can work at a range of them.

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