Wine & spirits: Cool it!
If the wine aficionados in your life tend to avoid red wines during the summer, it may be the type of wines you serve or the temperature at which you serve them.
Those big bruisers, the fruity Aussie shirazes, luscious California Cabs and succulent Sicilian Salice Salentos are terrific when the weather is crisp and the chow is hearty. But once the warmer days arrive, our appetite turns to lighter, fresher fare and seasonal offerings from the farmers' market. That's when those brooding, alcoholic fruit bombs morph into dark, bitter, tannic triggers for a whopping migraine.
That's no reason to stop drinking red wines altogether during the sultry months. The big guns are usually made from thick-skinned grapes, like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, shiraz/Syrah or Zinfandel/Primitivo. They tend to hail from hot growing regions, like those in Australia, California, southern France and Italy, North Africa, Jordan and Israel.
Kinder and gentler reds are produced from thin-skinned varieties, including Hollywood's recent favourite -- Pinot Noir. With thinner skins, these reds have less tannic toughness and a lot more fruity oomph. That all adds up to greater delicacy, as well as a rich spectrum of nuances that won't overpower the subtle flavours of summery foods. Instead, thin-skinned reds gently lift, embrace and enhance those flavours. Look for Cabernet Franc, Gamay, Dolcetto or Pinot Noir. Also try the light reds from Beaujolais, Burgundy or Loire in France; Bardolino, Valpolicella or Chianti in Italy; northern Spain; Oregon; New Zealand; Chile; and, of course, Ontario and British Columbia. These regions produce exciting reds that are lighter in colour, possess reasonable alcohol levels, and deliver supple, ripe flavours.
And here's a tip: Chill reds down to the summer temperature of a north-facing or underground root cellar (12 to 18°C), so they taste their very best. Like a rose that wilts with too much heat, these wines taste best when they're as cool as a cucumber.
The big chill
Here are my picks for serious easy-drinking wines perfect for chilling out on a steamy summer day. An hour in the fridge and they're ready to go. One way to keep your bottle cool outdoors is to wrap it in a damp cloth or towel; as moisture evaporates from the towel, the bottle remains cool.
• Château des Charmes, Gamay Noir "Droit" ($16), St. David's Bench, Ont.
• Mission Hill, Five Vineyards Pinot Noir ($15), Okanagan Valley, B.C.
• Georges Duboeuf, Beaujolais ($13), Beaujolais-Villages ($14), Brouilly ($18), Moulin-à-Vent ($19), Beaujolais, France
• Joseph Drouhin, Côte de Beaune-Villages ($23), Burgundy, France
• Remy Pannier, Anjou Rouge ($12), Loire, France
• Negrar, Bardolino ($10), Valpolicella ($11), Veneto, Italy
• Masi, Modello delle Venezie Rosso ($12), Valpolicella Bonacosta ($14), Campofiorin ($17), Veneto, Italy
• Candidato, Tempranillo ($8), Tierra de Castilla, Spain
• Torres, Sangre de Toro ($11), Catalonia, Spain
• Cono Sur, Pinot Noir ($10), Rapel Valley, Chile