Vino rojo that’s as light and refreshing as springtime
We’re in that weird period now in New York City weather; it isn’t cold, but it isn’t hot. In most areas of the country, the weather professionals would refer to this as “spring.” That season, however, does not exist in New York City. Instead, we have an odd handful of weeks that swing wildly from the upper 80s to the lower 60s, sometimes within the same 24-hour period.
This is the time when I start seeing white wines fly off the shelf with a little more regularity. I, however, hold off on drinking whites for a bit longer. It isn’t that I have some kind of “no white after Labor Day”-type rule for my booze—I just want to hold onto my red wine as long as I can.
The reds I drink at this time of year do tend to be a bit lighter, though. I have some friends who have a sensitivity to tartrates (a chemical that is present in a higher concentration in white wine than in red wine), so they drink these lighter reds throughout the summer.
So for those of you out there who aren’t ready to make the full transition to white wine yet, like myself, or for those who may have an adverse reaction to white wine, I would like to offer a selection of red wines on the lighter side. They are just as refreshing poolside as any New Zealand sauvignon blanc or Northern Italian pinot grigio.
Many light reds benefit from being served under room temperature, or slightly chilled, and the one I’m starting with is no exception. I can’t recommend the Gelsomina Lambrusco 2010 ($10.49 at Red, White and Bubbly, 211 5th Ave., at Union St., Brooklyn, 718-636-9463) enough. In the ’70s and early ’80s, lambrusco became synonymous with the brand Riunite and the bubbly, sweet garbage they peddled. In truth, most really good lambrusco is actually fermented to near, if not complete, dryness. It is slightly fizzy, and is drunk in the Emilia-Romagna area of Italy like Coca-Cola.
As I mentioned before, it is best when served slightly chilled. The Gelsomina bursts with ripe, black cherry aromas and more sour cherry and blackberry jam flavors on the palate. You won’t need anything to pair this with to enjoy it to its fullest extent…but if you must eat, it’s the perfect pairing for a roasted veggie panini.
Moving slightly closer to room temp, the Domaine Chassagne Morgon Cotes de Ruillieres Beaujolais 2011 ($17.00 at Park Avenue Liquor, 292 Madison Ave., betw. 40th & 41st Sts., 212-685-2442) is a go-to summer sipper. Another area for wine that has been marred by cheaply made product, Beaujolais has suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous winemaking for decades.
The swill that washes ashore each November for “Nouveau Week” is almost always terrible, tasting like barely fermented grape juice. Because of this, Beaujolais is one of the most underappreciated regions of French winemaking. Situated at the southern tip of Burgundy, its wine is made exclusively from the super-fruity Gamay grape. The Chassagne is an excellent example of how this underdog can soar, with ripe strawberry and raspberry notes that make this a great red to match with salads and other light summer fare. Be sure to serve it under room temperature, but not cold.
Proving that not all summer reds need time in the icebox, the Zaccagnini Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Riserva 2010 ($15.99 at 67 Wine and Spirits, 179 Columbus Ave., at 68th St., 212-724-6767) does just fine right at room temperature. From the middle of Italy’s East Coast, the Montepulciano is and always will be my No. 1 wine pick for margherita pizza. Its slight acidity balances the acidity of the tomato sauce, and the fruity flavors of blackcurrant and cherry preserves cut right through the fresh mozzarella of any pie.
So the next time you arrive at your friend’s rooftop soiree, bring a bottle of red instead. You never know who might be in the mood for red, or who may not be able to drink white wine. You’ll probably make a friend or two in the process, as well!
Follow Josh on Twitter: @joshperilo.
Tags: black cherry aromas, blackberry jam flavors, Domaine Chassagne Morgon Cotes de Ruillieres Beaujolais 2011, Emilia-Romagna, fizzy, Gelsomina Lambrusco 2010, go-to summer sipper, pairing roasted veggie panini, palate, Penniless Epicure, white wines, Zaccagnini Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Riserva 2010
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