It’s time for spring to officially move on and let summer reign. For hearty red-wine drinkers, the extension of what seemed like an endless winter and wet spring suited their glasses.
However, the long-awaited spring blooms to summer, and soon we will be kept warm with temperatures into the 90s and not need to rely on those big reds to keep our souls cozy.
Ironically, drinkers of red wine will continue to bathe their gullet with thick, red juice while others will be searching for something a bit more refreshing.
If you are still favoring red wine but are open to trying something a bit lighter and better suited to summer, there are several options available.
The most common option would be a wine from Beaujolais, France. Beaujolais is in southern Burgundy and is made from the grape gamay. It is a cousin to pinot noir and offers similar characteristics with bright fruits, juicy acids and silky tannins. These characteristics also make for a great opportunity to slightly chill the wine for, say, 30 minutes in your refrigerator. These vibrant gems offer endless food-pairing options that include fish dishes.
There are a few tiers of quality, but for summer, it’s best to stick to the basic Beaujolais or Beaujolais-Villages designations.
For the more adventurous, grignolino is a unique and delicious wine that comes from Piedmont in northwestern Italy. Few have heard of this quaffer because of its minuscule plantings and the lack of producers willing to plant this lost varietal over the more popular barbera, dolcetto and nebbiolo. Grignolino, albeit obscure, produces very light colored wines that are meant to be consumed young.
Depending on the producer, this varietal is capable of producing wines that are liquid silk to wines that have firm tannins. This varietal makes very pretty wines with notes of strawberry, raspberry and lilac. Refreshing, fruity, dry (not sweet) and versatile, these, too, make for great afternoon porch wines.
Similarly, Austrian reds also make great summer wines. The cool climate of Austria produces red wines that are both lower in alcohol and lighter. Austrian reds are slightly richer than the other wines I’ve mentioned, but still considerably lighter than the great wines of California, for example. Not many of them are imported to Colorado.
The main varietals are Zweigelt, St. Laurent and Blaufrankisch. Uniquely, Zweigelt is a cross between the other two varietals. While there are certainly varietal differences between the three, the common thread is the country’s climate. The cool environment ultimately results in crisp white wines and light- to medium-body red wines. The reds are beaming with ripe fruit, vibrant acidity and relatively lower tannins.
Alan Cuenca is an accredited oenophile and owner of Put a Cork in It, a Durango wine store. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.