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Saturday, July 7, 2012 - Page updated at 10:30 a.m.
Red wines that chill out for summer
By Paul Gregutt
Special to the Seattle Times
STYLES AND fashions in the world of wines and spirits constantly change, and with each new trend, it seems, some old notion of unbendable truth gets tossed out the window.
Reading about a new wine from Gallo — Summer Red — it struck me that a number of ongoing changes in consumer tastes have coalesced, and in so doing, have challenged the notion that red wines should be served only at cellar temperature.
Summer Red, which is sold only in the U.K., is a light, fruity red wine specifically made for chilling. It was recently named "Best Launch" (as in new product launch) at the prestigious, London-based Drinks Business awards. It is a blend of zinfandel and pinot noir — unusual blends being in fashion. It is low in alcohol, just 10.5 percent, another growing trend, which it achieves in part by retaining some residual sugar. Slightly sweet wines are also back in vogue. And much like rosé, Summer Red is meant to be drunk at refrigerator temperature.
For reasons unknown, there is no comparable offering from Gallo here in the U.S. But I do believe that drinking dry (or off-dry), fruit-forward red wines as hot-weather refreshment is certainly a good idea, and such wines can be chilled without doing them irreparable harm.
Look for red wines priced less than $15, preferably with screwcaps. The alcohol will be listed on the label. If it's down in the 10 or 11 percent range, the odds are pretty good it will have some sweetness. But get up into 12 or 13 percent and you are probably drinking dry red.
In Washington, the 2010 and 2011 vintages allowed grapes to ripen with lower-than-average sugars, which translates into moderately lower alcohol. You are most likely to find chillable reds among the Italian varieties, such as Dolcetto, barbera and sangiovese; or some of the Rhône grapes and blends.
The Magnificent Wine Company 2010 House Wine Red (about $12) is listed as 13.2 percent alcohol, and offers black fruits accented with scents of smoke, earth and cola. Fine for sipping cold while waiting for your burgers to grill.
Unfortified red wines from Portugal, inexpensive malbecs from Argentina, garnachas (grenache) from Spain, Bourgeuil from the Loire, Montepulciano d'Abruzzos from Italy and even the occasional Nero d'Avola are also good candidates, as long as they are inexpensive.
Why? Because if you pay more, you are entering the world of wines that have been aged in new oak barrels, and those flavors don't show all that well when chilled.
Experiment a bit, and I am confident you'll find your own summer reds just right for hot weather.
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