The best red wines to drink this summer, whatever the weather
Can we still trust a blue sky? Even after the week we’ve had I’m not sure I can, with the long period of rainy, wet and dreary weather over the past month. A paler glass of rosé feels like a slap in the face on days you’ve been drenched three times in sudden downpours and there are dark clouds above.
So, while I have plenty of rosé wines from Provence in the fridge and I have been able to enjoy the more summer evenings that we have had lately, I also open more round, slightly fuller, smooth rosés, like the pretty Domaine de Mourchon Loubié 2020 Séguret, Côtes du Rhône Villages (the Wine Society, £ 10.95).
I’m also letting go of the expectation that every night will be a rosé night, and come back to red: basically two types of reds. First off, the lightest type you might normally expect to pour in a sunny summer, ideally lightly chilled after half an hour in the fridge. Wines like this aren’t as upset as a pale rosé on those long evenings when the skies are shining and you don’t turn on the central heating. Yet they have enough of a summer rustle to make me feel like he’s here. And if the sun is out, so much the better.
Cabernet Franc is the grape of choice for fresh summer reds. He produces the red wines of Saumur, Saumur-Champigny, Bourgueil, St Nicolas de Bourgueil and Chinon in the Loire in France: at their best, reds that taste like summer blood sausage in a green garden in June, and they lift you up even though you had to put on a fleece to be able to open the window.
Francis and Françoise Desbourdes L’Arpenty Chinon 2020 (France; Yapp, £ 14.75) is precisely one of those wines – silky and slightly fresh with a scent of currant and blossoming currant leaves. The wines of Yannick Amirault, who works in Bourgueil and St Nicolas de Bourgeuil, are also always worth a detour: they are imported by Léa & Sandeman. Food side? A piece of pink lamb and spring vegetables, or tuna and peas and new potatoes go wonderfully with Cabernet Franc.
Pinot Noir is the other wine that tastes good either at a cool room temperature (18C) or after half an hour in the refrigerator. Aldi has a really nice crisp pinot noir from Central Otago on the South Island – it’s called Pinot Vigilante Central Otago Pinot Noir 2019 (New Zealand; Aldi, £ 9.99 online only). It’s the kind of juicy pinot noir that goes well with burgers. In fact, if you are having a barbecue (come on, a British barbecue at any temperature) that would be great.
There is a myth that if you burn food over charcoal in the garden, you must have a big, gruff, smoky and spicy red to go with it. These reds work well. But a lighter red like this looks fantastic with, for example, sausages and salads, blackened chicken kebabs, lamb burgers or, better yet, spatchcocked chicken drizzled with olive oil and marinated. in thyme before cooking on the grill. Its bright fruit acts as a sauce for the meat. If you eat plant-based foods then with a pinot noir like this I’d probably look at roasted sweet potatoes with black beans or a potato and mushroom salad or bake.
These are therefore the lighter reds. During the cold days in May, I also found myself opening bigger, cozier, and more cozy reds that would also work well for barbecues on a warmer day. I return here to Cabernet Franc and suggest one from Argentina, a country rightly famous for its Malbec but which also does Cabernet Franc incredibly well.
Argentinian Cabernet Franc is very different from Loire Cabernet Franc (or even Bordeaux): it is bigger and smoother; denser, plump like a well-padded duvet and even, almost, soft. I loved Taste the difference Morador Cabernet Franc Argentin 2019 (Argentina; Sainsbury’s, £ 9). Tesco has another even richer and even more sumptuously plump version: DV Catena Cabernet Franc Historico 2018 (Argentina; Tesco, £ 12) is a really good red that is fermented with wild yeasts and has quite a bit of spicy and strong oak (it spends a year in cask).
If these aren’t big enough, how about a Malbec? Susana Balbo Tradición Malbec 2020 (Argentina; M&S, £ 12) is a fine wine, slightly oaky, with just under half of the blend being passed through older French barrels.
Want even richer? Then, it’s time for Australian shiraz, reds saturated with the heat of the sun that made the fruits ripen. The wine anorak in me often tends towards the cooler climate Australian shiraz, often labeled as syrah, from areas like Heathcote, where the wines tend to be more finely demarcated and taste like black pepper and Earth. But that’s not what I’m looking for now, so Barossa is my destination: I want a wine that warms my bones. I want intense flavors of beef broth and sweet black licorice and saturating dark fruit and it’s here in South Australia, among the gum trees, that I’ll find it. New in Tesco, St Hallett Faith Barossa Shiraz 2018 (Australia; Tesco, 300 branches, £ 14) delivers it all, plus the aromatic licorice root and cedar root scent, and a wide, open palate that has the dark flavors of licorice and pepper.
It’s a red that I also like to drink under a scorching sun, ideally with a big chunk of beef marinated in a sauce made with teriyaki, soy, ginger root, garlic and fresh cilantro – the proportions are in my Wine Dinner Dictionary (Granta, £ 20), if you have it – before being cooked on a barbecue. Here’s hoping.