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Reds For Spring

Creatures of habit that we are (myself included), the outbreak of sun over Easter almost certainly had us reaching for a bottle of rosé on autopilot. It’s understandable – after all, we’re subconsciously pretending we’re in the south of France. However, instead of ditching all forms of red just because the mercury has ticked over 20, spring is a great time to instead look for lighter and fresher variations of your favourites.

Dialling back on the heft doesn’t have to mean sacrificing flavour. If you’re a habitual Claret drinker then switching your Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blends for a fresher Cabernet Franc could be a great option. Cabernet Franc is actually the genetic parent to Cab Sav (like us, grape varieties have their own genealogy; and like us they’re often somewhat mixed and murky), making for wines full of crunchy red fruit and with a bit of a red pepper prickle. It works brilliantly with lamb, too.

Or perhaps you’re a Malbec fan – and let’s face it, who isn’t? – in which case it’s worth looking for an unoaked style from the cooler area of Uco Valley in Mendoza, that will allow the fresh, almost violet-scented fruit sing without any distraction from the whack of oak. As an alternative, seek out Argentina’s ‘other’ red grape – the little known Bonarda – which makes a similarly fruit-forward, refreshing and soft tipple that is light on the ABV and perfect for guilt-free quaffing at any time of the day.

When looking for lighter reds, the first thought is often Pinot Noir. Chile, and to a lesser extent Argentina, are leading the way in great value for money, easy drinking styles. It gets a little trickier close to home, however, with Burgundy often a rather expensive minefield. Undoubtedly more exciting right now – and certainly more affordable – are the wines from the Beaujolais region, directly to the south of Burgundy. Beaujolais, often a source of derision a few short years ago, is now home to some of the most exciting young winemakers around, and the reds (made from the Gamay grape) are generally supple, juicy and made to be drunk rather than cellared – perfect for the warmer months. The most serious of the wines, from named villages such as Brouilly and Morgon, have every bit the structure of their Burgundian neighbours – at a fraction of the price.

For sheer drinkability and value for money though, it’s hard to overlook Italy with its plethora of indigenous grape varieties, the majority of which (excluding the usual suspects of Barolo, Chianti et al) are made to be enjoyed young. From the cherry blossom Frappato and rich Nero D’Avola of Sicily, to fragrant Nebbiolo of the far north, there’s more than enough to keep you occupied until the autumn rolls around. As always, the best place to start exploring is in a good local wine shop or restaurant. Happy sipping!

5 To Try

  1. Saumur-Champigny ‘Tuffe’, Chateau du Hureau (Justerini & Brooks, £12)

A benchmark for Loire Cabernet Franc producers – round, silky and full of red fruit. Oak aging is avoided, allowing the grapes to shine through.

  • U-Turn Malbec, Bodegas Luminis (Various, including Dvine Cellars, Clapham, £14)

So-named because it was conceived as the antithesis of stereotypical oaked Malbecs – vibrant, silky fresh fruit abounds.

  • Bonarda, Emma Zuccardi (Current vintage out of stock but new vintage coming soon with Alliance Wines)

Full-bodied and packed full of dark fruit, but with impressive elegance and softness. An underlying freshness elevates the whole wine. Impressive.

  • Raisins Gaulois, Marcel Lapierre (Various, including Beacon Wines £15)

Utterly thirst-quenching and delicious when chilled. Top-notch, value for money Gamay from “Mr Morgon” Marcel Lapierre. A fine example of new-wave Beaujolais.

  • Frappato, COS, Sicily (Noble Green, £21.50)

Surprisingly light, fresh and elegant given Sicily’s baking heat. Loads of bright red berry and cherry blossom, with a touch of tannin – perfect on a

Posted 20th May 2019 by Harry Christie

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