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In the Spirit: Red Hot Summer Reds. by Ginger LaSalle.

During the heat of August many reach for a well-chilled glass of white wine or rosé, however always reaching for the same wines can be tiresome.  In your cellar or on the shelves at your local wine shop you can find wonderful reds to be enjoyed during the warm summer as well to give your palate some variety. (Pictured above: @verownikaVacaciones y mucho ?? #Love #BCNLovers #lambruscowine)

Light bodied red wines can be served slightly chilled while still maintaining the balance of acidity and fruit.  If you attempt to chill a hearty red wine it will become somewhat restrained and lose much of its power, diminishing the flavors and structure the wine was meant to showcase.  Lighter bodied wines with minimal amounts of tannins and prevalent acidity are able to stand up to and often times be enhanced by dropping the temperature of the bottle to 60 º to 65 ºF. Pinot noir is the bottle of red most often reached for during the summer.  Pinot noir wears several different styles depending on place and genetic composition.  The grape vines of pinot noir are broken down into hundreds of clones which can enhance specific flavors when bottled into wine however in regards to this article we will talk about the newest trending summer-friendly region to look for.  New Zealand, once known solely for its sauvignon blanc, is now asserting her presence in the pinot noir market. Marlborough is the wine epicenter in New Zealand where a connoisseur can find an aromatic pinot noir in the lighter style from Greywacke, a producer whose products can be found in our local market.  The other wine regions in New Zealand where bright, fruit forward pinot noirs can be found are Waipara and Martinborough to the north and Central Otago to the south; known less for their whites these regions are making a name in the red wine market with vineyard plantings increasing by 300% in the last 15 years making them easier to find for enjoying on your patio.

Beaujolais wines of France have a well-known short release of what is called Beaujolais Nouveau where the wine fermentation is sped up by a process known as carbonic maceration which imparts vibrant strawberry and bubble gum flavors.  This style is found in November with brightly colored labels and end cap displays in all your grocery stores and wine shops.  The true wines of Beaujolais are made out of the same grape, gamay, but with a little more of a gentle hand behind them.  This is to preserve the flavors of the grape without imparting these production-based flavors into it.  There are four levels of Beaujolais wines, the Nouveau described above, Beaujolais AOC and Beaujolias-Village, both of which can be made with or without the carbonic maceration and Cru Beaujolias.  The Cru wines can be from one of 10 cru locations all with their own personalities.  The easiest to find and enjoy are Brouilly and Morgon.  Morgon wines taste similar to Burgundian pinot noirs with earthier flavors.  The Brouilly versions are light and fruity with a nice backbone of acidity and ripe strawberry and raspberry flavors.  Most of the wines found in our area from Beaujolais are from negociants like Joseph Drouhin and Georges DeBoeuf.  These sellers purchase grapes or grape juice from local winegrowers and bottle and sell them to represent the flavors of the region.

You can’t talk about summer without mentioning something bubbly; and while on the topic of red wine there are two very fun options.  Sparkling shiraz is a chilled sparkling wine native to Australia.  It’s dry yet juicy and fruity with some tannic structure and a little lower acidity.  It is not easily found but is worth seeking out to break up the wine and rose bubbles which are more often consumed.  The Chook and Bleasdale are two producers which can be found in the North American market.  This style is best classified as a cute summer wine.

Lambrusco is another sparkling red on the market.  They are grown and produced in Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, north of Tuscany, south of Veneto.  Ranging from dry to sweet, the wines of Lambrusco have about half the amount of atmospheres of champagne (a measure in units for amount of carbonation in wine) and a fruity mouth-feel with dark, ripe berry flavors.  While at the grocery store you can find inexpensive bulk produced versions of lambrusco; make your way to a specialty wine shop to spend the extra $10 or so and you will be pleasantly surprised by how smaller production can equal a gentler hand and higher complexity.  Like pinot noir, lambrusco grapes also have a number of clones however the most common on the market and also the most versatile is the lambrusco grasparossa.  Albinea Canali is a producer known for making premium versions of lambrusco all frizzante (semi-sparkling) making them a great wine to sip while you watch the sun go down.  Both of these sparking options can be enjoyed for grilling and barbecue occasions.

In another month we can move back into our full-bodied dark reds but in the meantime enjoy some of these lighter red wines while you soak up the full force of the summer sun.  

– Ginger LaSalle, HashtagWV #104.

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