This is what I omitted from the summer white wine report: When in doubt, buy Italian. While there are some heavier Italian whites, most are charming light refreshers perfect for the season.
We have had a couple of tastings here recently that featured some wonderful summer reds. Two weeks ago we tasted the "Young" Cabernet and Malbec from Testimento of Argentina. Last night we tasted Senda 66 Spanish Tempranillo, Masciarelli Italian Montepulciano, and Santa Julia's Organic Malbec and Cabernet from Argentina. The Europeans were lighter versions of what each could have been, while the Argentines seemed fruitier along with being lighter. All could have been labelled "cafe" or "bistro" wine or for that matter "picnic" wine. The Europeans, which really needed food to show their best, did alright in sales but the Argentines were very popular.
So what made the Argentines so popular? It had to be the fresh forward fruit style that made them such a nice cocktail. (Wine tastings are cocktail parties, aren't they?) While California pioneered this style, many examples we have tasted here recently have been heavier Zinfandel-based blends, which may or may not be the current California style but don't seem to be hot weather wines in any event unless they could be used as a base for Sangria.
Here are some varietals to try now: Gamay, Pinot Noir, Tempranillo, and Sangiovese. As with white wines, the European red style is lighter and more food friendly. Gamay and Pinot Noir find their best examples in Burgundy, France; Tempranillo, in Spain; and Sangiovese, in Italy. For lighter Tempranillo look for the word, "Crianza" on the label; for lighter Sangiovese, look for "Rosso".
All of these types, while light, would still work well with meats on the grill. Because we have become so enamored with our reds in this country, we sometimes forget that most all reds are intended to be paired with foods. If your grilled meat is actually charred with smoky flavor, crunchy texture, and a carmelized crust, go with either a light structured Cabernet-like red or balance the char with a fruit-driven light red like Sangiovese. Pinots work best with meals with a sauce, and spicy meals require spicy wines, and as always, Italian red wine with Italian cuisine.
Here is my last summer red wine consideration: Chill your bottle of red wine for an hour before dinner to ensure it is below 60 degrees in temperature and if you are dining outside bring the ice bucket. Who wants warm wine?
Tuesday July 20th between 5 and 7pm, importer Bob Durand and distributor Gail Avera will be pouring the new Chilean line called Dogma. Bob actually had a hand in the design of these wines so those who want to learn about such things are encouraged to be here.