07/08/08 – summertime, and the reds are light-bodied

By Jesse on July 7, 2008

Fellow Gershwin fans,

Nothing goes with a snowball fight like a big Cabernet.  No wine compliments a “polar bear plunge” like a beefy Brunello.  And I don’t know about you, but whenever I’m participating in competitive Alpine skiing, I always end my day with a massive Shiraz.  Now that we’re in summer, though, the last thing we need to do is be drinking like it’s still winter… we need some warm-weather wines up in here.  However, contrary to popular belief, that doesn’t mean we’re stuck drinking only whites and rosés. 

There are a whole lot of light-bodied reds out there that are perfect for refreshing summer consumption.  I’ve listed some recommendations below, but basically you can feel safe bringing any light-bodied wine that’s on the lower end of the tannic scale.  That definitely 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, bleeding well into the “medium-bodied” range, 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 — I suppose that a few of the Italians I’ve met have been big, menacing individuals, but most of them are on the smaller and more unassuming side.  So it is with the wines of Piedmont.  Although it’s always suffered under the shadows of its prestigious region-mates 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 — this grape is grown in California and in the Finger Lakes district of New York, where it does well alongside cool-weather grapes like Riesling and Gewurztraminer.  It’s most famous, however, 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.  Even these premier Beaujolais can still be found for well 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 Sara’s place in Valley Village.  The RSVP situation is as follows: new members have eight spots reserved for them at each and every meeting, with preference within those spots given to newbies who were denied admittance due to space constraints in recent weeks.  Please do not RSVP in the positive if you’re not sure you can make it, as this will deny someone else the opportunity of attending the meeting.  If you do RSVP and then need to cancel, please inform me as soon as possible.

Once you’re confirmed, go out in search of a fun little summer red — or simply play it cool and bring one of those delicious $10 bills!  We’ll see you sweaty kids on Tuesday night at 9:00.