This week was officially midsummer, so whatever the weather is doing, it’s high time to consider some height-of-the-summer drinking. I wrote last June about the somewhat controversial practice of chilling red wines down a little for summer drinking.
hilling helps to accentuate the structure (including its acidity but also its tannins) and to reframe the fruit and rein in sweetness, the result being a more refreshing drinking experience that works particularly well with fruit-forward reds that are lighter in both body and tannins. We’re not talking Bud-style levels of ice cold here, but more like the 12C or so achieved by lightly chilling for an hour or less in a fridge, or by fully chilling (overnight perhaps) but then taking it out for 30 to 45 minutes before drinking. If the bottle is a little cool to the touch, the wine will be fresh to the palate.
I attended my first festival of the summer a couple of weeks ago at Beyond the Pale at Glendalough House to take part in the brilliant Beyond The Plate food and drinks talks programme curated by Ali Dunworth. I was there for a chat with chefs Kevin Burke and Audrey Cahatol from Library Street and Rory Craig of Station to Station Wines about the emergence of a casual dining culture that focuses on plates of food that are designed to be shared, and a modern wine culture that sees a far greater choice of wines now sold by the glass or perhaps by the carafe. We are increasingly reflecting a shift in consumers’ palates toward a more modern style of red wine that is lighter and fresher, less about big, bold tannins or heavy-handed oak ageing and more about refreshing styles with fruit-forward approachability. These wines are very versatile for pairing with lots of different foods thanks to their palate-cleansing freshness, and make lovely midsummer drinking, whether lightly chilled or otherwise.
I’ve rounded up several of these lighter-touch red wines for this week’s selection. Some featured have limited availability in independent off-licences or online wine retailers, but the Brancott Estate Pinot Noir can be picked up easily in several of the multiple retailers and makes a good introduction to a lighter style that can handle light chilling. My wine of the week is an exclusive import from Whelehans Wines in Loughlinstown, but really worth seeking out for its balance of light body with depth of expression — a brilliant value summer pour that will keep you coming back for more. All of these reds are sufficiently low in tannin and light in body to be fish-friendly, and high enough in acidity to cut through fattier barbecued meats.
Wines of the week
Caruso & Minini Terre di Giumara Frappato Nerello Mascalese 2020, Sicily, 13.5pc, €17
Versatile eastern Sicilian that can be played two ways thanks to its unusual pairing of indigenous red grapes. Lightly chill to accentuate Frappato’s varietal character of tangy, juicy fruits, or go room temperature to highlight the spice-laced exuberance of Nerello Mascalese (the star of Etna Rosso in Sicily’s north-east). Those baking spice notes have been gently accentuated with four months’ barrique ageing. Think fattier barbecued fare or tomato-based sauces. Whelehans Wines; whelehanswines.ie
Celler del Roure Safra, Valencia, Spain, 12.5pc,€21
From a relatively young, family-run winery comes this disarming experiment with Mando, a near-extinct grape local to Valencia, aged in subterranean amphorae (large earthenware vessels). Think nervy juicy fruits, balsamic oomph and earthy saffron spice. Baggot Street Wines, stationtostationwine.ie, thenudewineco.ie
Dorli Muhr Zweigelt Nouveau 2021, Carnuntum, Austria, 12pc, €27
Vibrant and crunchy with a soft, juicy heart, with notes of crushed cherries, redcurrant and a twist of wild herbs, this lunchtime treat is all about fruit first, pure and unadulterated. Consider pairing with herb-roast fish. Sweeney’s D3, Lilith Stoneybatter, Ely Store
Brancott Estate Pinot Noir, Marlborough, New Zealand, 13pc, €14-16
From early pioneers of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc comes this accessibly priced introduction to Kiwi Pinot’s signature cherry-berry fruit. A distinctive whiff of smoky oak suggests barbecue pairings of wood-fired lamb or chargrilled tuna and Med veg. Chill lightly to fine tune the fresh finish. Molloys, Tesco; tesco.ie
Olim Bauda Isolavilla Grignolino d’Asti DOC, Piedmont, Italy, 13.5pc, €19.95
Very pale and delicate with strawberry shortcake and dried herb aromas, light in body with delicate tannins and a crisp finish that balances refreshing acidity with generous red fruits. Gorgeous summer drinking for a long lunch featuring seafood, charcuterie and salads, and a bargain for lovers of Piemonte wines. Mitchell & Son