Summertime drinking shouldn’t mean a fridge full of nothing but white wine, writes Christine Austin
When the sun is shining it is so easy to reach for a bottle of white wine, but with food on the table, or just the aromas of it wafting over the garden, I often prefer a glass of red. Just because the sun is shining, it doesn’t mean that red wines have to stay indoors. Reds can be just as much part of summer drinking as whites, but on hot days, like whites, they respond well to an hour or so in the fridge. It means that once the cork is pulled the aromas don’t leap out and evaporate, but sit there in the wine, gently releasing their magic. Once out of the fridge many reds will be quite happy in a cooling ice bucket just to keep them the right side of temperate, and I never let a red wine stand in sunshine as it turns into the vinous equivalent of pea soup.
Not all reds are suitable for chilling. Tannin becomes more aggressive at lower temperatures so avoid most Cabernet Sauvignons, especially from Bordeaux where tannin is a virtue. Instead head for lighter, fruitier grape varieties such as Pinot Noir, Cabernet France and some of those northern Italian varieties such as Corvina and Marzemino that appreciate a few beads of condensation on the glass to bring out their light, juicy fruit.
Many Loire reds made from Cabernet Franc grapes are perfect with a few degrees of chill on them. Here are my favourite summer reds – some for drinking chilled in sunshine and some for evening when the sun goes down.
While your top-flight Burgundies should go nowhere near the fridge, the soft, strawberry fruit of simple Bourgognes Rouges or straightforward New World Pinots seem to enjoy a few degrees of chill.
For sheer value, Aldi’s Roussellet Pinot Noir (£4.39) is hard to beat. It is a blend of Pinot Noir and 15 per cent Merlot, and because it hails from both the Loire and the Languedoc it is classed as a humble Vin de France. Its soft, easy-drinking strawberry and raspberry fruit responds well to an hour in the fridge and in return it will keep a garden-full of neighbours happy for an hour or so.
With clearer, more precise red cherry and raspberry fruit, Asda’s Extra Special Pinot Noir 2015 (£5) from the Aconcagua Valley in Chile is fairly light in style, but that is a plus if you plan to serve it alongside a buffet lunch. These juicy flavours will complement a plateful of baked salmon, rare roast beef and chicken without missing a beat. This wine comes from the cooler, seaward end of Casablanca where mist settles around the vines each morning, keeping flavours fresh and vibrant.
For more formal sunshine lunches, head for Waitrose and Domaine Paul Blanck Pinot Noir 2014 (£14.99), from Alsace. This wine captures the purity of Pinot Noir with dark raspberry fruit and the scent of hedgerows underpinned by clear, fresh acidity. While it goes well with a summer buffet it can also stand up to lightly spiced chicken and vegetarian dishes.
As afternoon turns into evening switch to the slightly deeper flavours of Nicolas Potel’s Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2013 (Majestic, £11.99, or £9.99 on a mix-six deal) which is quite happy to be served chilled alongside all the lunchtime food flavours but can also cope with an evening dinner party.
Across the heartland of Chile’s vineyards there are thousands of hectares of old vines, the remnants of vineyards planted centuries ago by Spanish invaders. The grape variety is País and traditionally it has gone into local wines to be sold for a few pesos. Now there is renewed interest in these vines, not least because they can survive without expensive irrigation. The flavours are light and juicy with floral and raspberry notes – similar in style to Gamay – with an earthy, herbal, savoury backnote. Try the cherry and raspberry fruit of One to One Morande País 2015 from the Maule Valley, in Chile (Majestic £8.99 or £6.99 on a mix-six deal) or head to Marks & Spencer for the lightly spiced, deeper style of Monasterio del Maule País 2015 (£8). You can pour País alongside anything you might serve with Beaujolais, such as grilled fish, quiches, quinoa salads and chicken.
There are a handful of northern Italian grapes that just love being chilled and served alongside food. One of my most memorable lunches was in the town of Bardolino, where the wine came in an earthenware jug still chilled from the cellar and it went perfectly with a plate of pasta. The grapes in this region include Corvina, Corvinone, Marzemino, Barbera and handfuls of other, less well-known varieties.
Head to Waitrose for Recchia Bardolino 2015, Veneto (£7.99) for its redcurrant and cherry fruit or the lively, juicy flavours of Marks & Spencer’s Bardolino 2015 (£9) – both can withstand an hour in the fridge.
Alternatively, Asda’s Wine Atlas Marzemino 2014 (£5.97) has a touch of herbs with soft red-berry fruit and a juicy finish.
The Loire is home to Cabernet Franc and there is something about the green pepper and ripe redcurrant flavours of this grape that make it perfect for chilling. Head to Waitrose for Saumur Champigny Domaine de la Croix de Chaintres 2015 (£12.79). This warm, tiny enclave of Saumur ripens the fruit perfectly and so achieves the most delicate and precise flavours, like that first bite into a Scottish raspberry. At Chinon the grape achieves its silkiest texture and Marks & Spencer has the delicious Domaine de Rosette Chinon 2014 (£9.49) which is made to capture the juiciest of the summer pudding fruit with just an edge of baking spice. It is too good to chill right down, but its structure will still appreciate half an hour in the fridge.