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Last of the Summer Wines – or Not?

Traditionally, last weekend’s “Glorious Twelfth” stirs those fuller reds out of hibernation to put in a shift accompanying the harvest from the game shooting season.

Need that be the end of those “lighter summer reds” though?

Certainly not!

There are good reasons why lighter reds can be sound year-round choices.

Lower alcohol levels can often make lighter wines good choices for social gatherings and for health reasons.

Equally, it is serious deprivation to deny ourselves access to a range of tasty grape varieties – like young barbera – for up to nine months.

Anyway, wines like a red Loire are just as suitable for sunny September and October days are they are for many days in June or July.     

And, possibly more importantly, light reds are often particularly versatile as food wines – being less likely to overpower the more delicate of our favourite dishes.

On that note, food matchers should never be afraid of serving selected red wines with the first course followed by an appropriate white with the main course.

Wine has more connection with the food partnering it than with the wine from the preceding course.

So, here is a selection of “summer” reds that – for me – merit a longer season.

For completeness, pinot noir is included even though many versions are already year-round wines.  

My choices are spread across the price points starting, currently, at £7.

In the usual way, hyperlinks and pictures are used where possible to help you locate the bottle in question.

Beginning with that (at present) inexpensive option

2022 Errazuriz Estate Pinot Noir (£6.99 – instead of £9.49 until 22 August – at Waitrose and 13.5% abv):

Despite Chile’s Aconcagua wine region being reasonably warm, cool mountain air and coastal breezes mean that pinot noir can do well there.

This is a good illustration of the inexpensive, straight forward versions that can result – and it’s currently at a great price.

Clear and bright, the wine has rounded cherry, red plum and pomegranate flavours.

These are partnered by good acidity, firm tannin and a liquorice background also containing milk chocolate and cinnamon elements. 

Do decant this wine though to allow any pinot style rustic aromas to dispel.

And then to Europe

2021 M&S Found Zweigelt (£9 at Ocado or £8.50 at M&S stores and 13%):

While Austria is primarily a white wine producing country, its red wines can also impress.

The high yielding zweigelt grape is frequently used for basic “jug wines” but, here, shows its capacity for juicy and intense versions too.

Light in colour with vibrant acidity and gentle tannin, this example has soft cherry, raspberry and red currant flavours as its foundation.

That base is nicely supplemented by hints of allspice, pepper and caramel.

Next is an even less familiar wine region.

2021 Co-op Irresistible La Courbe (£11 at the Co-op and 12.5%):

Switzerland’s Valais region is the first wine producing area the infant Rhone meets when it starts its journey.

Lots of enterprising winemakers here and this blend of the local gamaret cross with pinot noir is a good (and well-priced for Swiss wine) illustration.

Smoky with minty aromas, it delivers medium bodied cranberry, plum and blackberry flavours.

Joining the party though are sharp acidity, balanced tannin and touches of chocolate and star anise.

Back to a better-known region.

2022 Les Terrasses St Nicolas Cabernet Franc (£11 at Tesco and 12.5%):

Chinon, Bourgueil and St Nicolas de Bourgueil are three red wine superstars in that part of the Loire between Angers and Tours

All three of them produce beautifully perfumed flavours of soft fruit and – because of its northerly latitude – attractively light cabernet franc that is seriously underestimated by the wine drinking public.

Dark and aromatic, this version brings us ripe loganberry, and red cherry flavours supercharged by a lively freshness.

All this is combined with savoury edged liquorice, mocha and green pepper traces and quite firm tannin.

Can’t keep away from South America though.

2021 Domaine Bousquet Reserve Pinot Noir (£14.50 at Vintage Roots and 13.5%):

Tupungato in Argentina’s up and coming Uco Valley region has some of that country’s highest vineyards and is acquiring a reputation for chardonnay.

Here, though, an acclaimed organic operation brings us not white wine but pinot noir – however, as you might expect, it is in a far from standard format.

Surprisingly dark but with the clarity organic wines so often present, it exhibits fragrant raspberry and plum flavours embellished by lively acidity and well measured tannin.

Lovers of pinot noir with a savoury foundation will relish this wine and the nutty, cola and clove elements it also contains.

NB:- The retailer's web site takes time to load if you use the hyperlink provided here.

Finally to a long forbidden option.

2021 Louis Jadot Bourgogne Gamay (£14 – instead of £16 until 5 September – at Sainsbury’s and 13%):

From an edict by Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, in 1395 and reinforced by a French Government decree in 1937, gamay vines have been banned in parts of Burgundy.

But, by 2011, the potential high quality of modern gamay was recognised and restrictions were relaxed enough to create the Bourgogne Gamay appellation – under which this wine appears.

Soft with a suspicion of sweetness, it features bright blackcurrant and black cherry flavours.

These are ably supported by vivid acidity and a clove centred depth that also contains floral influences.

Once again, decanting is advised, but doing so will repay any such cosseting and grace your glass with an excellent wine.

Tune in again on Monday when value at budget price points is, once more, the theme of my latest Top Tips post.

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Keith Evans

I’m a big fan of these lighter red wines, Zeigelt in particular being my new discovery in recent years. Have always rated the Cab Framc Loire reds and agree the Tesco example here is a nice bottle. Although not Chinon, Bourgueil, or St N de Bourgueil appellation I’m also partial to Waitrose Loire: Les Nivières Saumur Rouge (£8.99 but on offer at £7.49 until next Tues, 22 August)

Brian Elliott

You are right, Keith, Saumur also has tasty cabernet franc – although I have not tried that particular one (but at that price it is well worth trying some on spec.).

Dave Cronin

Nice selection as always Brian, I particularly enjoyed the M&S Zweigelt, lovely light red, although still packing a punch, lots of summer berries, I chilled mine slightly, very enjoyable. Being a Gamay sceptic I must say I also enjoyed the Louis Jadot (did I really say that!) but you can’t go wrong with most of the LJ range, always reliable. Errazuriz again, through the range, normally good. I like the sound of the ‘La Courbe’ I’m very rarely disappointed with anything from the Co-op, ( great selection of wines, but very often there’s a slight problem with store-to-store stock, but the online checker helps).

Brian Elliott

Yes, the Co-op structure with semi-autonomous localised Societies can cause availability problems. As for that Jadot red – I think you can be reclassified from Gamay sceptic to becoming Gamay tolerant. Next stop Gamay enthusiast?

Richard Wyndham

That’s a great selection, Brian!
I haven’t tried the current vintage of the Errazuriz, but like Dave, I have found previous years’ bottlings reliable lightish style PN.
The M&S Zweigelt is a favourite of mine, and I have also had marvellous Zweigelts at higher price points that were really classy and elegant. Who would have imagined 5 years ago that Zweigelt and Assyrtiko would be our goto wines!
I have drunk the La Courbe, and would definitely recommend it – to me, an interesting nose, and a “lean” and characterful style which was very much to my liking.
Haven’t tried the Jadot Bourgogne Gamay, but I have very recently enjoyed the Louis Latour version, from Waitrose at a similar price point. I don’t think I have ever had a disappointing wine from either Jadot or Latour.

Brian Elliott

As you say, Richard, it is astonishing how much has changed in five years with sought after grape varieties. Perhaps by 2028, those suggestions will themselves have been replaced by Swiss red wine and gamay from Burgundy Central. I fancy, too, that the new alcohol duty will give a boost to 11% wines – like Vinho Verde and whites from SW France

Eddie Walker

Oh to be in the Loire … the leafy lanes, forests and those wide, dreamy rivers! But so pleased that very occasionally there’s something on supermarket shelves that offers the Loire and Cabernet Franc together, except the Waitrose bottle that Keith mentions I can’t easily get hold of.

As ever TheWineSociety comes to the rescue without having to spend any money going out to shop anywhere, for free delivery and not a lot of time spent on making selections when I just work my way through the card choosing a weekend bottle. Except nothing is really cheap!

These are the two from last weekend and this.

The Saint Nicolas de Bourgueil ‘Les Cailloux’, Famille Bougrier 2021 from last year, no longer available, was very good, as was the Touraine Rouge ‘La Croix Angier’, Alpha Loire 2019 that was only 20% ‘franc the main grape being malbec, or côt as it is called in the Loire. Sad this latter one is no longer available because it was a bit of a revelation.

Brian Elliott

I, too, have fond memories of the Loire – particularly Amboise. Perhaps, climate change will lead to a revival of Loire reds as it has with chenin blanc.

Steve Gray

Brian I’m afraid we found the Tesco Les Terrasses a little too light and there are others from Waitrose and the Co-Op that are cheaper and better. We are both big Loire red fans. Cheers Steve

Brian Elliott

Good to hear from you Steve and thanks for your constructive suggestion. For me, the red currant and raspberry flavours in Les Terrasses worked really well but I understand your point about lightness. That feedback may help to steer MidWeekers with similar preferences towards wine they may well enjoy more. That’s exactly what the comments section of the site is for – and I am grateful to you for using it that way.

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