Five reds that fall on the right side of “light”


Photograph: Joe Woodhouse

With summer’s arrival, we look for fresher styles of red – but “light” needn’t mean simple or boring: here Wine Advisor Paul Keating suggests five lighter reds that offer serious pleasure

When I was first considering this piece, the word “quaffable” popped up once too often. Forgive me if I come across as something of an ignoramus, but to me the word “quaffable” suggests a wine (or other alcoholic beverage) that does not require too much thought. This seems an insult to the person who has spent time and effort making it; so, while one could sip any of the wines below with abandon, they are equally worthy of contemplation.

The logical go-to-grape in terms of light reds would be Pinot Noir. This variety so often amazes me with its range of styles, its poise and delicacy – and, on the odd occasion, its unexpected power. I was sorely tempted to review six Burgundies and be done with it, but it seemed unjust to the many other wonderful, intriguing wines that are so easily suited to the warmer weather.

2016 Dolcetto d’Alba, Cascina Luisin, Piedmont, Italy

Dolcetto is a wonderful grape variety. It is grown commonly in Piedmont, often on poorer sites by producers who need a wine that can go to market quickly and give them a fast and reliable revenue stream while their more prestigious Barolo and Barbaresco wines are slowly ageing in the cellar. For us, though, it offers a delicious entry-level expression of Piedmont: Cascina Luisin’s Dolecetto delivers an abundance of juicy, dark-cherry character, counterbalanced by the cherry-pit bitterness and mineral note found in so many of the region’s wines. Try pairing with the food of the region; game-heavy dishes, especially. If you fancy something a little less labour-intensive, I had this with a pizza.

2014 Ronan by Clinet, Bordeaux

While you might not normally turn to Bordeaux for “light” reds, this Merlot is silky and supple enough to sip solo. Produced in a new state-of-the-art winery built by Ch. Clinet in Pomerol, this wine is designed to offer an expression of the character and style of the prestigious producer at a fraction of the price. With grapes and land in Pomerol itself highly prized, Clinet instead turns to more affordable appellations such as Lussac-St Emilion and the Côtes de Castillon for their fruit. I was impressed by this wine’s approachability and silky fruit-led character. It hints at all the character you expect from a wine from Clinet; round and plummy fruit character complemented by typical pencil shavings and wood-smoke character. A good value pairing for a Sunday roast.

2013 Moulin-à-Vent, Vieilles Vignes, Thibault Liger-Belair, Beaujolais

A feature about light red wines would not be complete without a good glug of Beaujolais. For so long overlooked as cheap, overtly fruity and simple, “serious” Beaujolais is finally coming into its own. This is helped by the fact that reputable winemakers from Burgundy are moving south to help Gamay reach its full potential – as is exactly the case with Thibault Liger-Belair and his Moulin-à-Vent. This appellation is often regarded as the most grown-up of the Beaujolais Crus, with the wines often having more concentration and structure when compared to the likes of Fleurie, Morgon and co. Berry fruit dominates the nose, with typical kirsch aromas. A hint of smokiness and burnt match provides evidence of a more reductive winemaking style. This wine lends itself to picnics – particularly good with charcuterie and pâté.

2015 Berry Bros. & Rudd Nuits St-Georges, Benjamin Leroux, Burgundy

When I am looking for a wine that is ready to drink now and is good value for money, I rarely look beyond our Own Selection range. The wines here are meticulously sourced and designed to offer an excellent, typical style of their region. Produced and bottled for us by Benjamin Leroux, this wine epitomises Benjamin’s style of pure fruit character – even more evident in a year as excellent as 2015. Here he delivers a wine with intense and concentrated red fruit characters, and a hint of the leafy, earthy tones that suggest this wine has more than enough staying power.

2015 Viña Koyle, Don Cande Cinsault, Itata Valley, Chile

Cinsault is a grape some may be familiar with in the south of France, as a blending partner in the bigger Southern Rhône wines and those from the Languedoc. It adds a softness, as well as a perfume to wines that may otherwise be overbearing. It is for this reason that it is now being frequently used in varietal wines. The wine is named after the owner, Don Cande, of the vineyard from which Viña Koyle source the grapes for this wine. The resulting wine offers poised, delicate and precise fruit, and there are lovely, fresh pine-needle and mineral characters that keep it light and exciting. Try it with charcuterie, or with a meatier sort of fish such as tuna. (NB This wine is only available in our London and Warehouse Shops, priced at £17.50.)

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