05/06/09 – light-bodied reds for the warming climate

By Jesse on May 4, 2009

In case you haven’t heard, the world is pretty screwed. Global warming is irreversible, and humanity is going to pay a high price for the indulgences of the past hundred-or-so years.

Last July, we held a tasting of light-bodied reds for summertime. No one wants to drink any big, heavy red wines in warm weather, but that doesn’t mean we have to switch to whites only for three months — there are plenty of light-bodied, refreshing reds that are perfect for summertime consumption. (Although it’s not quite summer yet, I figure it’s time for us all to become familiar with our favorite light-bodied reds, as it’s apparently going to be perpetual summer from this point on.)

Just because a red is on the lighter side doesn’t mean it has to be lacking in flavor, structure, or character; even light-bodied wines that are meant to be consumed young can offer plenty of dynamism and complexity. What’s more, they’re sometimes a lot less expensive than their built-to-age counterparts.

Pinot Noir — often playing the role of the default “light-bodied” red on wine lists, Pinot actually comes in all shapes and sizes. Bottles from the warmer parts of California can be pretty massive, while the Pinots of Burgundy are definitely much more austere than “quaffy.” If buying a New World bottle, ask your salesperson to direct you to one that’s made in a light, fruit-forward, red-berry style (rather than the dark and brooding Pinots that we’ve tasted at previous meetings). If you decide to go Europe, you might consider a Pinot from Germany or Austria, or from France’s cool-weather Alsace region, rather than a Burgundy.

Dolcetto — Although this Italian grape from the Piedmont region might not have the cache of its neighbors Barolo and Barbaresco, plucky little Dolcetto can be a serious contender and a great value. We’ve never given this grape the attention it deserves, so I hope to see one or more of them at the tasting. Learn more about Dolcetto here.

Gamay — grown both in California and in the Finger Lakes district of New York (where it does well alongside cool-weather grapes like Riesling and Gewurztraminer), this varietal appears most famously in the wines of Beaujolais, the Burgundy-adjacent region from which it hails. If you plan to buy a Beaujolais, why not drop an extra couple dollars for the first-class version, Beaujolais-Villages, made from grapes in 39 selected villages within the region? Or better yet, take it a step even further up the totem pole and spring for a bottle from one of the ten Beaujolais Crus, the best of the best, which include villages such as Saint-Amour, Fleurie, Morgon, and Moulin-a-Vent, and which can still be found for south of $20.

Use Your Imagination — grab something distinctive like a Valdiguie or a light-styled Tempranillo, or get some more ideas from this sweet LA Times article which describes how certain reds are just dying to be chilled for a few minutes and served slightly cool on a hot summer’s day.

We’ll be meeting at Jason’s nautical apartment in Brentwood. The RSVP system functions like this: if you want in, you click on this link and tell me so (don’t forget your full name, e-mail address, and a cute message conveying to me your intentions). Once you’ve gotten your confirmation e-mail, go out and find yourself a bottle of light-bodied red — or just bring a $10 donation, if you prefer. We’ll see you on Wednesday night!