Many of you here (such as myself) developed a taste for red wines long before your taste for whites – I still prefer the complexity of a red, even if it is 90 degrees outside. Here are a few wines I recommend that are low in acidity, making them smoother and the perfect match to the warmer weather. Any of them can be served with a little chill on them (after all, accurate temp for red wines is “cellar temp” and not the misconceived “room temp” – between 55-60 degrees) and would be ideal to use in your sangria (simple recipe to follow). Some of them are fairly common and some are a bit more unusual, but all can be found for a reasonable price and offer a great value to go with your next cookout or summer outing.
- Pinot Noir
- Zinfandel (slightly fuller bodied, but the perfect complement to the grilled rib- eye)
Bonarda – Originally from Italy, but also reaching popularity in Argentina. This somewhat uncommon grape has a similar fruit-forward nose of the Malbec, but with a lighter body and less tannins. Common nose is that of ripe strawberries with a slight floral undertone, medium alcohol content with a creamy feel to the mouth and a slight (pleasant) bitterness on the finish of the palate.
Carmenere – Originally a French wine, now the virtual exclusive property of Chile. It combines the soft palate and gentle tannins of a Merlot, with the herbal qualities of a Cab Franc. Many of them are very forgettable, and best that way. There are a few good producers out there. Casa Lapostolle is one of the best with their Clos Apalta 2001 listed as the number #2 wine in their top 100 list. An accurate description would be to consider it as a less tannic version of a Cabernet Sauvignon.
Pinot Noir – one of the most versatile of food wines, it pairs equally well with creamy or spicy sauces and almost any animal or seafood. Typically it has a ripe berry flavor with an often woody terrior (depending on where it is grown). This wine was made popular by the movie “Sideways,” leaving many with a bad taste in their mouth due to its over-popularity. But it is a nice neutral wine that has many great tasting varieties both domestic and abroad.
Tempranillo – Spain is becoming famous for its food (thanks to innovative chefs such as Ferran Adrià) and their wine is no less spectacular. This is one of key winemaking regions of Spain. There are four classifications of wines from the Tempranillo grape (determined by their age):
- Joven – also called Tinto. The youngest is a fresh wine (not aged in oak) with a nose of strawberry and cherry – with a lush mouthfeel and high tannins. If of a current vintage (less than three years old) it will easily stand up to being served chilled. This wine is rare to find in the States, however – but if you like a lighter red and want to do VERY authentic sangria, it may be worth the hunt.
- Rioja – spends less than a year in white oak (traditionally French, but more and more American due to availability issues). The oak aging gives a hint of vanilla to it.
- Crianza – aged at least two years (one of which is in oak), giving it a vanilla hint to the nose and a slight oakiness. One of the best examples for a reasonable price is Bodegas Lan Rioja Crianza 2006, available for well under $15 and rated as #44 in Wine Spectator’s top 100 of 2010.
- Rioja Reserva – aged a minimum of three years, one of which is in oak. This further aging makes it earthier and less fruity. Leaning towards chocolate on the palate.
- Rioja Gran Reserva – is the “old man” of the family, ages two years in oak and three years bottle aging. Blackberries, cherries and cinnamon come to the nose with this further aging. Much more of a leathery feel in the mouth and more reminiscent of tobacco.
Malbec – A very hearty, full-bodied red with a nice spice on the finish. A great wine with steaks and grilled red meat (as you would expect, being that most of it comes from Argentina, which is known for its grilled steak). An aged wine is far too heavy for the summer, but a younger variety (given a little chill before serving) is a nice smooth and full red that is easy enough drinking that it will not weight you down in the heat. For something different (though more expensive, usually) try a French Malbec (where this wine is originally from, before being VERY successfully transported and integrated into the Argentine community). Expect a rich fruity body with peppercorn accents and fairly heavy tannins. This is a true red wine in all its glory. There are many young Malbecs from Argentina for under $10. Buy them in bulk – drink a few bottles this summer, and cellar the rest for more pronounced flavors when the weather is cool.
Merlot – Common California wine full of summer fruit flavors and a lighter body. If you are entertaining people that have varied tastes in wine, Merlot is the approachable wine that everyone can agree on. Think of it as the popular girl at school. Some of the better ones come from Washington State, Napa Valley and Chile. These areas have many available for less than $15 a bottle, a great value by any standards. Spicy foods, when
paired with it, make the wine taste more tannic and bitter – so it is a match best avoided. Shellfish is a much more natural pairing.
Syrah/Shiraz – Another smooth red from France traditionally, but Australia and California (not to mention Washington and the surrounding region) is doing some very interesting things with it and well worth checking out (at a very good price). Blackberry, chocolate, and cinnamon are among the typical palate notes. This is a full-bodied wine that is still light enough for the warm weather – a very common dry table wine in France. One good thing about the Syrah for a picnic is the recommended temp for serving is around 64 degrees (warmer than most other wines), so you will still get all the flavor and nuances, even if it is a bit warm (from being in the sun). This is a great wine to take with you to the beach – or anywhere in full sun for this very reason. For a great value and nice flavors, give an Australian Syrah a try.
As you can see, there are many types of red wines that are crisp and refreshing enough for summer consumption. Any of these wines will work for sangria. Here is a simple recipe for it from Spain that will work great as a punch for your next party:
- 1 bottle of red wine
- 1 glass jar
- 1 sliced orange
- 1 can lemon soda
- ice to taste