Station #3: Summer-Lovin’ Reds

Loire Valley Reds: Chinon & Bourgueil.
French vignerons have led the way in establishing the notion that certain grapes simply grow best in certain areas, and minor variations in terroir (the vine’s total situation…soil, climate, rainfall, slope, etc.) play out in the wines. Here we have two 100% Cabernet Franc wines from the same general area (the Loire Valley), and yet they are distinct…like brothers. And these are brothers you want around all summer, as Cab Franc is fresh, vibrant, well-textured without being rough;and low alcohol keeps the wine from clashing with just about anything or anyone. You may also detect herbal notes that beg for savory food… stuffed’ shroom anyone? Tonight’s examples are both from the ooh-la-la 2009 vintage: Chinon “Rive Gauche” by M. Plouzeau ($15) and Bourgueil “Cuvée Trinch” by Breton ($21); both are at Astor. Chambers Street Wines also has a fine selection; and Loire wines beckon by the glass at, well, smarter restaurants. Click for more on Loire Valley wines.

I have a soft spot for Rioja. It was one of the first European wines-of-a-place that I really got. Anchored by Tempranillo (Spain’s workhorse grape, not unlike Sangiovese in Italy), classic Rioja is earthy, but with hints of berryish fruit and vibrant acidity that makes it extremely versatile foodwise. Held longer than most other reds of the world before release, Rioja is ready to enjoy or can still keep well for years. The wines representing the region’s reds at this summer showcase: Marques de Tomares, Bordon and Darien. For great Rioja selection and advice in NYC, check out Tinto Fino; PJ Wine; Union Square Wine; and Acker Merrall and Condit. Click for more on Rioja.

Osborne “Seven.”
Boho Vineyards 2008 Old Vine Zinfandel.
Another pair of Octavin wines. Most of the fruit for the Zin hails appropriately from Lodi; the wine is noticeably fresh for a Zing, delivering fruity/spicy/brambly flavor (with merciful 13.7% alcohol). Seven, by Bodegas Osborne, was born in a high-tech vineyard in Spain’s heartland, with native grapes given a chance to party with Cab, Merlot and Shiraz, resulting in wine that walks an earthy-yet-fruity line. Both wines run $20-$24 (for 3L) and will synch up nicely with just about anything you can toss on a grill.

Banfi 2008 “Rosa Regale” Brachetto d’Acqui, Piedmont, Italy.
Light, fizzy and almost impossibly raspberryish, Brachetto d’Acqui is terrific with berry desserts and/or dark chocolate. At only 5% alcohol, it makes an ideal sweet quaff for warm weather. It may be impossible to find a wine that is as universally loved by novices and cellar-dwellers alike, and summer’s a great time to break out the Brachetto. $20-$25 for 750ml; also available in 375 ml splits and magnums. Click for more on Rosa Regale.