By Dan Radil
Have you been ignoring red wines altogether during the summer months? Then it’s time to reconsider.
Yes, a chilled white wine or rosé makes a great warm-weather adult beverage, but red wines deserve a little summertime love as well. Red wines pair nicely with a variety of foods prepared outdoors on the grill and they’ll stand up to charbroiling and barbeque sauces much better than practically anything along the lines of a Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, or Pinot Gris.
So instead of treating red wines like last year’s winter coat, tucked away in the back of the closet until December, bring them out now! You’ll be rewarded with excellent food-pairing-potential wines that will make you realize just how important it is to always have them on hand.
FROM ACROSS THE POND
More often than not, European-based reds make great wines to pair with food. Start with the Marina Cvetic 2013 Merlot (about $22), a heady Italian red with dense black plum and blackberry flavors, chewy tannins and hints of dried herb and black olive. It should match up nicely with a pepper-encrusted beef tenderloin or a big, juicy charbroiled steak.
If your preference leans towards lighter fruits with the same full-bodied finish, the Caroso 2010 Montepulciano D’Abruzzo Riserva (about $22) should fit the bill. Brighter cherry and strawberry flavors start you off, with smoky finishing notes along with black licorice, savory spice, and a mouthful of grippy tannins. Give this wine plenty of decanting and aerating time and then serve it with gamey meats for a potentially spectacular food/wine pairing.
Also from the Italian front is the Frescobaldi Chianti Rufina 2013 Nipozzano Riserva (about $29). The base of Sangiovese grapes is blended with four other red varietals including Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot for added depth and structure. It’s filled with red cherry fruit, nice acidity, and a trace of black pepper and earthiness on the finish.
For those who enjoy French wines from the southern Rhône Valley, the Les Dauphins Côtes du Rhône 2015 Reserve Rouge (about $13) has plenty to offer at an unbeatable price. Comprised of 70 percent Grenache, 25 percent Syrah, and 5 percent Mourvèdre, the wine carries an overall smoky/sultry quality with peppery aromatics, compact black currant flavors, and a touch of spiced berries on a soft, mellow finish. A similar regional choice that offers a bit more complexity for just a few dollars more: the Les Dauphins Côtes du Rhône 2014 Village Puyméras Rouge (about $18).
OTHER INTERNATIONAL OPTIONS
South Africa and South America are two wine-producing regions that are turning out a number of red wines that lend themselves well to foods prepared on the barbeque.
Uruguay is home to the Bodega Garzón 2014 Tannat (about $20), an intensely colored, fruit-forward, full-bodied wine from a country where Tannat is considered the national grape. The wine’s black cherry and blackberry compote flavors are highlighted with baking spices and plenty of tannic structure, making it a natural to pair with a variety of grilled meats and vegetables.
From South Africa’s Western Cape region comes the Mulderbosch Faithful Hound 2014 Red Blend (about $24), a combination of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, and Petit Verdot. The subtle green herb aromatics and flavors of the Cabernet Franc really come through, with darker fruit undertones and an edgier note of red currant, cherry tomato, and sweet tobacco on the finish. This nicely complex blend should easily stand up to chicken or pork with a mild barbeque sauce.
SUMMER REDS FROM THE USA
Washington state’s Columbia Winery always provides plenty of reds at highly affordable prices that make terrific summertime wines. Try the 2014 Merlot (about $16), a tasty selection packed with jammy plum fruit flavors that melt into a soft finish of toasted oak with a dollop of vanilla cream; or the Non-Vintage Red Blend (about $14), primarily composed of Merlot and Syrah with three other red varietals. The blueberry fruit predominates, while silky tannins and a whisper of brown sugar on the finish are certain to make it a crowd-pleasing choice.
Dave Matthews of the Dave Matthews Band has teamed up with New Zealand winemaker Sean McKenzie to produce a line of California-based wines that offer a number of solid, easy-to-drink reds that are perfect for outdoor events.
The Dreaming Tree label features well-distributed current releases that include the 2014 Crush Red Blend (a combination of Merlot, Petit Sirah, and Zinfandel), the 2015 Pinot Noir (sourced mostly from California’s Central Coast region), and a 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon. All are made from sustainable practices that include recycled paper labels and packaging using lighter weight bottles. A bonus: each of the wines is nicely priced at only about $15 each.
Back in Washington, Zillah winemaker Paul Portteus has produced another winner with his Portteus Winery 2015 Tempranillo (about $24). The wine’s deceptively lighter color belies a darker core of red cherry fruit, while subtle nuances of clove, mocha, anise, and vanilla bean linger in the background. It’s a beautiful and absolutely delicious red wine worth seeking out.
Finally, be sure to consider red wines with your dessert course, especially tawny or ruby Port-style wines that should pair well with grilled fruits such as peaches or apples. An excellent choice: the Thurston Wolfe 2014 Touriga Nacional Port (about $16) from Prosser. It’s filled with ultra-dark plum flavors, a hint of hazelnut, and a sweet — but not too sweet — touch of cherry cordial on the lengthy finish.