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Cool It on the Reds PDF Print E-mail
Written by Bill Citara, BT Contributor   
September 2016

Red, white, and you: Agreeable wine for $12 or less

TPix_Vino_9-16.S. Eliot wrote that “April is the cruelest month.”

Silly man. He’d obviously never been to South Florida in September.

I mean, really. What has April got that can hold a candle -- or a pair of thumbscrews and a chainsaw -- to September? Mild spring temperatures? No annoying, traffic-clogging holidays? April Fool’s Day? National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day? The Feast of the Second Day of the Writing of the Book of the Law?

Okay, you do have to pay your taxes by the 15th, but if that’s the worst April can do, it is one seriously wussie month.

September, on the other hand.... Hellfire temperatures that can fry an egg by just showing it a picture of a sidewalk. Air so thick and wet with humidity you can grab a handful and wring it out like a damp dishtowel. Hurricanes. Daily thunderstorms. Mosquitoes as big as Cessnas. Christmas decorations (!) already up in stores. Political ads fouling the airwaves.

One more September cruelty is its inhospitableness to the consumption of red wine. After all, man does not drink by Chardonnay alone. But with the heat index somewhere north of Hades, popping a bottle of meaty Cabernet Sauvignon or fruity Merlot or inky Zinfandel in September is like wearing a wool overcoat to the beach.

Sorry, T.S., September is the suckiest month.

Luckily, we here at Vino are mortal enemies of all suckishness, so as a public service -- also because we can’t stomach one more glass of mediocre Chardonnay -- we’ve hauled our sweaty bodies out of our air-conditioned comfort zone to compile a list of red wines that take well to a little time in the fridge, emerging cool and soothing and, above all, red.

One thing we found out quickly is that virtually all of the promising choices were on the European side of the street. Reds from California and South America tended to be heavier and more fruit-driven, the kinds of wines that are great for fall and winter, but not so much for the pit bull days of September.

Perhaps the most obvious choice for chill-friendly reds is Beaujolais-Villages. Made from the light-bodied Gamay grape, it’s a readily available and palate-friendly wine, though it can seem bracingly acidic to those accustomed to more fruit-forward New World wines. Georges Duboeuf is probably the most recognizable producer, and the winery’s 2013 vintage is true to its style, light in body, with bright strawberry and raspberry aromas and flavors, and a distinct citrus acidity.

On the earthier, spicier side of that bright berry fruit is the 2014 Vignobles Bulliat Beaujolais-Villages. It too balances fruit with a stiff citrus acidity and, less successfully, with an odd petroleum taste on the back palate. Thankfully, that blows off with time in the glass.

A less obvious choice for warm-weather reds is Cabernet Franc, but the 2014 Lieu-dit Beauregard is perhaps the best. From the Bourgueil appellation in France’s Loire Valley, it offers rich blackberry-blueberry fruit with pronounced woodsy nuances that takes surprisingly well to being chilled. It would make a fine companion to grilled steak, sausages, and barbecue.

If the French have Beaujolais-Villages, the Spanish have Garnacha, aka, Grenache. Both the 2014 Nostrada Campo de Borja and the 2014 Castillo de Monséran are terrific values.

The Nostrada shows off intense cherry-plum fruit with a dash of toasty oak, spice, and pepper, and drinks lighter than its 14 percent alcohol level might indicate. The Castillo clocks in at 13 percent alcohol and is lighter-bodied still. It also displays unusual complexity for a $10 wine, with fresh cherry-berry flavors and seductive notes of herbs, spice, and toast. Buy a case of this wine before it runs out.

Another case buy is the 2014 Caparzo Sangiovese. It didn’t start off promising, with earthy, musty aromas that initially overwhelmed the fruit. But a little aeration and it blossomed, revealing aromas and flavors of cherries and cloves, black olives, and leather. Get past the disconcerting nose and give it a try.

The 2014 Sant’Orsola Dolcetto d’Alba also benefits from aeration. At first, it’s uncomfortably tight and astringent, but in time it opens up and mellows, displaying tangy cherry-strawberry-raspberry fruit with hints of cloves and anise and a tart, citrusy finish.

So the evidence is in. Even if September does suck, there’s no reason why your wine should.

 

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