Summer Wine
July 7, 2004 10:02 AM   Subscribe

So let's say I'm looking for a wine to drink on a warm summer day, perhaps on a picnic. I know there's plenty of whites that fit the bill, but I'm in the mood for a red. I want something fairly light, dry, fruit-forward, and not too tannic. Beaujolais and Bardolino come to mind (in fact, I had a nice Bardolino last weekend which fit the bill, which is what prompts the question)--what else do you recommend, either types of wine or specific wines? I'm hard-pressed to come up with a comparable New World wine--anything from the US or Australia?
posted by DevilsAdvocate to Food & Drink (24 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Well, they're quickly on their way to becoming the "new Merlot", but some of the better Syrahs/Shirazes might fit the bill. They've generally got more body than a Beaujolais, and so might not be best for a summer afternoon under the sun, but they're great for an evening BBQ type of thing, and they definitely hold up well to grilled meats. To your last point, a lot of these come from the US and Australia--Bogle actually makes a "Petite Syrah" that's just great, and only $10 or so a bottle.

(The WSJ made a good point a few months ago about how Syrah is going through the same curve went Merlot went through--in a few years, anyone's going to be able to put a crappy, watery bottle on the shelf, and it'll sell, but for now, it's like the early days of Merlot...the people who are trying to establish the market for it are generally putting out solid wines at good prices.)
posted by LairBob at 10:28 AM on July 7, 2004

Try Yellowtail, from Australia.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:03 AM on July 7, 2004

A French Grenache is always good with a brie/bread/apple/grapes picnic. Most California Grenache is either white, or grown specifically to be a blending grape...but the French Red Grenaches are usually lovely.

Argentina is producing some amazing Malbec vintages...but most other countries are phasing them out...they're very hard to grow and require much more sun and water than other varieties. But the wine is marvelous day or night. :)

Of course there's always a nice Chianti...hold the fava beans, and if you're in the mood for something sweet, you can make a pitcher of Sangria. :)
posted by dejah420 at 11:09 AM on July 7, 2004

And don't knock a *good* Merlot for any reason!

mmmmm, Sangria
posted by WolfDaddy at 11:12 AM on July 7, 2004

Wow...can't believe I forgot Sangria. What a great idea for having red wine on a picnic. (And I would never disparage a good Merlot, but there are a ton of crappy ones out there now.)

Here's a question, though--what wine is Sangria traditionally made with? Is it just made with red Spanish table wine, or is there a traditional red that's used as the base?
posted by LairBob at 11:19 AM on July 7, 2004

If you can find it, a Dolcetto would fit the bill. A light Italian varietal. More body than a Beaujolais, but then my tap water has more body than a Beaujolais (sorry).
posted by falconred at 11:24 AM on July 7, 2004

I like Valpolicella on a picnic, and Chianti in my sangria.
posted by MrMoonPie at 11:32 AM on July 7, 2004

How about a Lambrusco secco?
posted by nicwolff at 12:00 PM on July 7, 2004

Bogle actually makes a "Petite Syrah" that's just great

Very true, but petite syrah has nothing to do with syrah, it's a completely different grape (known outside the US as "durif"). It's also usually a fairly heavy red, so perhaps not what's wanted. I'd go for one of the lighter pinot noirs, myself, but then I'm a huge pinot noir fan.

You realize, people, that DevilsAdvocate asked about New World wines, right?
posted by languagehat at 12:20 PM on July 7, 2004

the nytimes actually ran an article on this very topic today. (login: burbia, pword: psychoburbia).

i particularly liked the sound of this one, a spanish grenache: Artazuri Navarra (Importer: European Cellars, New York) $12 *** Pale red, dry and refreshing, with light berry aromas and slight effervescence; leaves you wanting more.
posted by crush-onastick at 1:03 PM on July 7, 2004

Slightly more tannic than a Beaujolais, I love Chinon, Saumur-Champigny and St-Nicholas-de-Bourgueiul from the Loire Valley. They have lots of raspberry-blackberry-type fruit flavor, go great with grilled meat, and you can serve them slightly chilled. Also try out cheap French Gamays; you can get lucky and some of them have all the joy of a good Beaujolais in summer for a lot less money.

You might know them already, but if you're willing to spend a bit more then it's worth checking out the different appellations of the Beaujolais region. A lot of them are much better than your generic Beaujolais or Beaujolais Villages, and there are some occasions when it's worth opening a bottle of Saint-Amour just for the name.
posted by fuzz at 1:08 PM on July 7, 2004

And I would never disparage a good Merlot, but there are a ton of crappy ones out there now.

Well, I've never yet steered anyone wrong with a Merlot from this place. The buzz is nice too.

Also, don't all syrahs kinda coat your glass verrrrry sloooowly? I've never really thought of them as "light", I've always experienced them as really runny jams. And the buzz is nice too.
posted by WolfDaddy at 1:10 PM on July 7, 2004

You realize, people, that DevilsAdvocate asked about New World wines, right?

I didn't mean to ask only about New World wines, I was just particularly interested in those because I couldn't think of any myself that were directly comparable to the Beaujolais or Bardolino I had mentioned. Of the New World wines mentioned here, Pinot Noir probably comes the closest due to its low tannins, but it still tends to be more on the full-bodied side, at least in my experience. I love Syrahs, but as LairBob notes they're not my first choice when out in the summer sun. Several of the Old World wines mentioned in the thread sound like what I was looking for, so I'm eager to try those. I appreciate all the suggestions, New World and Old.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 1:25 PM on July 7, 2004

Well, see--I did not even know that about "Syrah" vs. "Petite Syrah". I just assumed that it was just an attempt to get fancy-schmancy with the name.
posted by LairBob at 1:34 PM on July 7, 2004

And I love the self-defeating snotty dig at New York magazine right in the first paragraph of the NYT article. "They wrote about it first, which means it's already passe, but here's a nice long article on the topic anyway, which somehow isn't. Because we're the NY Times."
posted by LairBob at 1:40 PM on July 7, 2004

Let me second the Shiraz comment. I went to a lakehouse several months ago that belonged to my friends grandparents. I brought two Yellow Tail Chardonnays and two Black Swan Shirazes. I highly, highly recommend Black Swan Shiraz. Everyone was very impressed and the grandparents begged us to bring more of it for when we next came (over this 4th of the July). Everyone just drank up the Black Swan and the Yellow Tail, but the Black Swan made me popular.

I take it that it was good if these grandparents who are avid drinkers (not in an alcoholic way, but in a "we've tried everything now we drink the best of the best") loved it. I'm not a big wine drinker, as I'm still shy of the big 21 and I find it hard to buy at the stores that stock a good wine selection.

The only problem with the Black Swan is it gave me a slight headache after drinking a glass and being in the hot, humid sun for several hours. I don't think a picnic is as intense as being out on a lake fishing so you may not have to worry.

If you can get a Belgian witbier in addition to or instead of wine, a great summer beer. It tasted so good I almost felt guilty until one of the girls that went along who, according to her, never drinks beer found it heavy. I'm used to heavy wheat beers and ales so I didn't think so (and I only had two as the rest were quickly consumed by those who enjoy a good brew). It was a really nice suprise as I bought it just on a whim (it was a seasonal brew called "Zon" by Boulevard Brewing if you can get it) thinking it would go great with 4th of July food.

Anyway there you go. There's no better way to impress people than to pick good alcohol.
posted by geoff. at 1:58 PM on July 7, 2004

Oh yes one more thing. You seem knowledgable about wines, so I don't know how much good this will do you, but if you have the time and resources try to find the edition of Wall Street Journal from when Kill Bill 2 came out. I don't know when they do their big wine write ups, I'm guessing the weekend as I saw it fairly soon after it came out, if not opening day. They had a large article on Australian wines that was quite informative and makes me seem smart at parties.
posted by geoff. at 2:09 PM on July 7, 2004

Zinfindel isn't the lightest red, but it seems it would fit the bill. Great picnic and Summer wine, IMHO.
posted by sixdifferentways at 3:08 PM on July 7, 2004

Call me crazy, I know this is a hard sell to the average American (I don't mean that as a knock, really) but maybe you should try a rose. Specifically Domain Tempier Bandol. It's crisp, refreshing and well structured. While there is a nice berry fruit the acids bring everything to a balance and it can be matched to a very wide variety of foods. Rose has a bad reputation due to Californian boxed wines, but the Spanish and French have been drinking it for eons and really know how to make a good summer wine.
posted by elwoodwiles at 3:30 PM on July 7, 2004

Wow, people are really recommending some heavy reds -- I love zin, but even I don't feel like drinking it in July. Tastes vary, obviously. But I agree with elwoodwiles: rose is an excellent choice. I used to turn up my nose at them, but then I discovered the good ones. For an excellent California one, you can't go wrong with the Best Buy recommendation in the Asimov article: Saintsbury Vin Gris of Pinot Noir. (You can lambast the Times all you want, and I frequently do, but Eric Asimov is a fine food and wine writer who knows what he's talking about and writes with enthusiasm. Just avoid anything by the egregious R.W. "Johnny" Apple.)
posted by languagehat at 4:46 PM on July 7, 2004

Peter Lehmann Barossa Grenache: fantastic!
posted by misteraitch at 11:10 PM on July 7, 2004

I'm going to pile on the Pinot Noir bandwagon (Parducci is one of my favorites). Oregon is fast becoming known as a great climate for Pinot Noir grapes. If you have a Trader Joes nearby, you can usually get a couple different Pinots for $5-9 that are great.

There are also some chiantis which are lighter, but I'm not equipped to reccomend which ones.
posted by jonah at 8:16 AM on July 8, 2004

Yes, Shiraz can win me over any day, but I have tried the Yellowtail, which does NOT live up to its nifty label. If you are going to try a Shiraz (or a Merlot, for that matter), Stonehaven is a definite win on the less expensive side. Tastewise, the lines are drawn very cleanly. The WSJ leisure column has noted that in this area some very tasty affordable wines are available, hence this was my pick of them.
posted by Quixoticlife at 5:40 PM on July 8, 2004

I have a confession to make (so it's a good thing this thread has fallen out of sight and no one will read it). After announcing "I love zin, but even I don't feel like drinking it in July," I went out for a belated birthday dinner last night and ordered... a bottle of zin. It went great with both my wife's steak and my pork (perhaps the best I've ever had -- we sought out the chef afterwards and boozily thanked her). Man, that 15% alcohol leaves you snockered... but here I am at work, none the worse for wear (though looking forward to my vacation in California next week).

Also, I agree with Quixoticlife about Yellowtail -- it hasn't impressed me.
posted by languagehat at 8:08 AM on July 9, 2004

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