A recent article by San Francisco Chronicle wine editor, Jon Bonné, struck a chord with me. In it, Bonné explores the virtue and diversity of light-bodied reds. As I read it, I felt my neck begin to ache as my head bobbed up and down in agreement with the points made in the article. Afterwards it dawned on me that without any conscious effort on our part to promote light reds, we have been stocking more of these types of reds than ever before. It could be we’re carrying more light reds because customers are asking for them; this is true and a very positive trend. I get excited when asked for a recommendation on a lighter-style red. Selecting a quality bottle of a light red takes the pressure off a bit. It seems to me that it can be easier to agree on what is considered or perceived as light then what is perhaps “the biggest red in the house”. Changing trends in what people want to drink comes hand in hand with what it going on in restaurants and in our food culture in general. With the emphasis on eating what is fresh and local, it makes a lot of sense that wine drinkers would want a red that does not overwhelm Farmer’s Market produce. My point is not that people are forgoing heavy reds, but that there is a growing awareness that there is a need and desire for OPTIONS. Without any further proselytizing, here are my three picks for a lighter shade of red:
Ah, Bardolino…I probably shouldn’t reveal this about myself,but I have been known to dance around the store singing “Bardolino, Bardolino” over and over. I love the way the word rolls off the tongue. Bardolino is a DOC within the Veneto region near the southeastern shores of Lake Garda in north east Italy. A more picturesque wine country you could not imagine! A blend of Corvina, Rondinella and Sangiovese, it is truly light bodied and zippy. Under 13% alcohol, this wine exhibits fruit notes of light plum, floral violets and a dried herb backnote. I’d love to serve this alongside braised tripe in a light tomato sauce. If you want acidity and low tannins, this is it. Valetti is a family run operation that dates back to the beginning of the 20th century. The Valetti Bardolino can also be purchased as part of the Dirty Dozen this month.
This unoaked Tempranillo from Spain’s Rioja region is fresh, lively and fruit-driven. The age of the vines range from 15-20 years. Owned by the Llorens family, Arbanta, though not certified, takes an organic approach to farming and wine making. With its inky ruby red color and dark fruit aromas, this juicy Rioja has a firm-structured palate feel. Youthful and bright, this would be ideally suited for Paella. Dust off that gargantuan Paella pan and throw it on the grill. Chicken, saffron-laden rice, Chorizo, these ingredients will play nicely with Arbanta.
| DOMAINE DES CORBILLIERES
We were out of the Touraine rouge for a few months after selling out of the ’06 and awaiting the arrival of the ’07. It was a tough wait. This Loire Valley red has a loyal following and when it’s out, nothing else will do. What I enjoy most about this Touraine rouge is that is does not lack in the fruit department, yet it maintains the vibrancy typical of Cabernet Franc. There are violets and rose on the nose, mineral snap on the finish and a gentle touch of dried herbs. So pretty and such a pleasure to drink. Usually I suggest this with a roast chicken, but seeing how its summer, a chickie on the barbie marinated in white wine with lots of fresh herbs would be perfect.
Something to keep in mind when serving these wines – don’t be afraid to put a chill on them. It doesn’t have to be as cold as a white, but a nice chill will add freshness and punch. If you’re taking it outdoors, remember the wine will warm up quickly if it’s hot. Put the wine in a bucket of ice if you need to.
Another trick to this light red wine thing is to open a heavy red at the end of the meal, if you are still craving one. Serve that high octane red while folks are still seated and chatting while the dishes are being cleared away. If it’s summer, by this time the temperatures will have probably dropped and conversations can go late into the night under the starry skies. How I relish these times! – Anya Balistreri