Having said last week that I never seem to have enough whites in my wine rack, I now realise that I rarely have enough of the reds I want to drink, either. You, too? Maybe the kids are sneakily “borrowing” bottles when your back is turned, but it’s more about the season, I think, and the switch from winter to spring and early summer.
At this time of year, I want my reds light, bright and breezy – in other words, from a recent vintage and largely unoaked and the kind of wine I could happily drink without food. (I know many people are perfectly happy to drink a 14.5% malbec on its own, but I’m not among them, or at least not at the moment.)
It’s a style of wine referred to in France as a vin de soif or glouglou, or a thirst-quencher. The English equivalent of gluggability or smashability is the nearest we get to it, but that somehow suggests excess, rather than drinkability. (That said, one of the wines in today’s pick, the Saint-Pourçain that surprisingly classifies as a Loire wine – the Loire is incredibly long – has the words “Raaa Grande Soif! Patron, une autre!” on the label.)
In fact, France still does this style better than anyone else, so long as you exclude pinot noir from elsewhere. Beaujolais is the obvious example, though the cru (village) wines can be serious, along with the cabernet franc-based Loire reds. The Anjou is a particular favourite in this week’s lineup, and only 12.5%; in a similar vein, I’d also look for bardolino, frappato and valpolicella from Italy and bobal and mencia from Spain.
So called new-world wines from the southern hemisphere are traditionally riper and higher in alcohol than that, but the younger generation of winemakers, particularly those who have embraced the natural wine movement, are tending to pick earlier and prioritise lightness and freshness. Look out for grape varieties such as cinsault and pais (from Chile; North Americans call the latter “mission”) and, again, gamay, the grape from which beaujolais is made. Young syrah can be quite sprightly, too.
Finally for this week, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, because not all restaurants seem to get the message: it is perfectly acceptable to drink this style of wine chilled. Maybe not ice-cold as you might a bottle of fizz, but give it a good half-hour in the fridge. Cool, in other words, which is exactly what you want at this time of year.
Five scrumptious seasonal reds
Estevez Chilean Pinot Noir 2020 £3.99 Aldi (in store only), 13%. Bright, juicy, raspberry fruit. Astonishingly good for the price.
Anjou Rouge L’Ardoise, Domaine des Rochelles 2020 £9.25 The Wine Society, 12.5%. I love a Loire cabernet franc, and this joyously fruity example is the region at its best. Drink with grilled asparagus.
Saint-Pourçain Le Ficelle Rouge 2021 £12.75 Yapp Brothers, 12%. If ever there was a vin de soif, this is it. All it needs is a baguette and some saucisson.
Côte de Brouilly Les Grillés Domaine Chevalier-Métrat 2020 £14.95 (or £13.95 as part of a mixed case of 12) Lea & Sandeman, 13%. Serious, age-worthy beaujolais – but why wait when it’s so delicious now?
Craven Cinsaut 2021 £20.17 unchartedwines.com, 12%. Much lighter, prettier and more delicate than your average South African red. Spring in a glass.