By Ron James
My last few columns have been about light, crisp rosés and whites perfect for the summer picnic and grilling season. Do not despair, my red-loving friends — there are a whole lot of reds that are perfect for summer quaffing and food pairing. In fact, many of our grilling creations — like ribs, steaks and burgers — can easily overpower white and rosé wines. The key to successfully matching summer cuisine and reds is the style and temperature of the wine.
Big, bold, oaky and tannic reds are not the best choices for hot summer days. We’re looking for easy drinking fruit-forward elegance with soft tannins and good acidity for a crisp clean finish. There are many wines that fit this bill, including pinot noirs, merlots, Grenaches, French Beaujolais and blends. All of these reds come in a wide range of styles, including some that are very big and tannic, so make sure you select the elegant lighter styles that lend themselves to great summer fun.
There’s more than a bit of confusion on the serving temperature of wine — red or white. With white it’s pretty much of a no-brainer: serve it chilled at 45 to 55 degrees. Any colder you either have a “winescicle” or wine so cold your palate can’t decipher the flavors.
With reds, serving temperature is a little more tricky. Despite conventional wisdom, all reds are best served slightly chilled. Warm or even room temperature wines release excess alcohol fumes and have a tendency to be flabby, sappy-sweet with little character. Most big aged reds are properly cooled at around 60 degrees with 10 to 15 minutes in the refrigerator. Lighter-styled young red wines, on the other hand, should be served colder — anywhere from 45 to 54 degrees or about a half hour in the refrigerator.
Once again, these are general guidelines that may not suit everyone’s fancy. To find the right wine temperature for you , try serving your favorite red at progressive levels of coldness until the wine characteristics suit your taste.
Uptown Wine Picks
Lot 110 Cameron Hughes 2007 Los Carneros Pinot Noir ($14-18)
Cameron Hughes is a innovative phenomenon in the wine business. Hughes and his partner Jessica Kogan began buying small lots of super premium wine, then blended and bottled and sold them at a very competitive price. I recently tried their 2007 pinot noir and it knocked my socks off. It was right up there with my favorite pinots, including Roccioli and Sea Smoke, that cost many times the $14 I paid at Costco. It was smooth and silky, balanced with perfect acidity and soft tannins. It has vibrant layered flavors of strawberry and raspberry fruit, and a bit of dark mocha and spice. It is an elegant, medium-bodied pinot that is as versatile as they come. This wine will bring a smile to your face — I’m smiling just thinking about it.
Guest Wine Pick: Ron Troyano, co-owner of Alchemy Restaurant, South Park
Domaine Dupeuble 2008 Beaujolais ($10/$42)
Beaujolais is a region in France just south of Burgundy. It is best known for the “Beaujolais Nouveau,” which is the first wine released every year from that particular vintage. The release is in November and has become a much-anticipated celebration of the year’s harvest. So, that being said, this is not a Nouveau … this is a much more interesting wine; more complex and delicate than Nouveau. Beaujolais wines are made from Gamay Noir (a close relative of Pinot Noir). The wine has flavors of raspberry jam, hints of mint, and a smooth-easy finish. Simply put, this wine is made for the summer. Dupeuble is a long standing producer in the region that is known for quality. A great summer tradition is to sip Beaujolais slightly chilled — not to add ice, but just slip it in the fridge for about 15 minutes for a refreshing summer treat.