The sun is shining, the birds are tweeting and the nights are warm. Isn’t it beautiful out there? While we are still in the summer, enjoying some refreshing rose and white wines, many of us are craving some nice red wines to go along with their grilled steaks, BBQ ribs and burgers. However, I also often hear complaints that red wine is too heavy to be enjoyable in the heat. I do somewhat agree that full-bodied, tannic red wines tend indeed to be difficult to drink when it’s hot and humid outside, especially when they warm up so quickly in the glass.
I have some good news, though! There are some delicious red wines that can and should be served slightly chilled and that are also light enough and flavorful. The summer is a great time of the year to enjoy them, whether on Shabbos and Yom Tov or with a barbecue.
Red wines are made from dozens of different varieties and it is up to the winemaker to decide which style he wants to achieve, starting from the time of the harvest and until the wine is being bottled. There are several ways to make a lighter or heavier wine. The type of grape plays an important role as well, some varieties developing more tannins than others, and that has a significant impact on the resulting wine.
For instance, Pinot Noir is a grape that has very thin skins and therefore fewer tannins than Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Merlot. The wines made from this variety are usually light in body, elegant and delicate. Served a bit cool, at about 65 degrees F, Pinot Noir wines are a perfect pairing with roasted chicken wings, veal chops or grilled salmon. The Baron Herzog Pinot Noir features flavors of currants, tart raspberries and dark chocolate. It is not only a very enjoyable wine, but also a fantastic value! Another highly commendable wine is the Pacifica Pinot Noir. While made in Washington State, the grapes for this wine are sourced mainly from the Willamette Valley in Oregon, which is thought of as one of the world’s most sought-after terroirs for growing Pinot Noir. Light- to medium-bodied, this wine has gorgeous aromas of violets and strawberries, as well as a hint of vanilla. Much like the aforementioned Baron Herzog, it represents tremendous value for money.
Tempranillo is another variety that can show great versatility. It can be produced in a bold and heavy style but also in a more restrained and refined manner, while featuring interesting and sometimes unusual yet delicious flavors. Elvi Wines, the world-class and only fully kosher winery in Spain, produces several excellent Tempranillo wines from the Rioja appellation. The Elvi Herenza Rioja sports a medium body with flavors of cherries, roasted meats, minerals and espresso. Netofa in Israel makes a very nice blend from Tempranillo and Touriga Nacional, inspired by the wines of the Douro Valley in Portugal. It is light towards medium in body, with notes of cranberries, licorice and smoke. It has also a moderate alcohol content and high yet well-balanced acidity, which is ideal for the warm weather and makes it quite food-friendly. Both of these wines complement Mediterranean dishes such as grilled chicken breast with pesto, or a juicy burger.
These tasty wines will turn your summer meals into real parties! L’chaim!
Gabriel Geller is a wine consultant for Royal Wines.