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Wednesday 1 February 2012

Weekly Wine: Tutti Fruity Reds

A lot of my friends say they don't like red wine. That's mostly because - while they associate white with being undemanding, refreshing and easy-drinking - when they think of red they think of the hearty monsters that fill your chops with oaky spice and cling to your gums with tannins so powerful you actually think your mouth has shrunk.

Sure, some reds are like that (and with the right food I think they're flippin' marvellous) but if you're looking for something lighter, more balanced and just easier to quaff of an evening, then look no further. Red is where it's at.

What to look for: Certain grape varieties are a good place to start - Pinot Noir and Gamay in particular - but they're not always a dead cert: also keep an eye on the alcohol levels - 13% and under is promising. Even then it's not guaranteed - sometimes it's best to experiment, and look for producers with passion and an ethos that wine isn't supposed to be pretentious: it's just a drink.

Gamay, Vin de Pays de l'Ardeche

When he arrived for Sunday lunch last week, my Grandpa presented us with a bottle of this while delightedly exclaiming it was the cheapest he could find in Marks and Spencer. Not exactly selling it, no, but when opened it speaks for itself. This is so succulent, light without being flimsy, and packed full of kirsch and bubblegum flavours. The bottle disappeared faster than you can say 'bargain Beaujolais substitute'. It's £28.74 per six (£4.79 a bottle - madness.)

Montepulciano d'Abruzzo 2010 Grifone

Italian reds can be great for fans of the lighter stuff: I always think of good acidity and juicy cherry from the Sangiovese grape, but you also get the big boys too. Luckily, the budget-friendly stuff tends to be lighter, and this is a gorgeous fruity, supple wine from Majestic for £5.99 a bottle, or £5.49 if you buy two.

Saumur Champigny, Clos de Cordeliers

Loire reds are so not in fashion. They're like the least popular kid at school in terms of French vino. But they are a bit of a hidden treasure if you like a lighter, softer red: in fact, many are better slightly chilled. This is no exception, and comes from the little-championed Cabernet Franc grape. This is fresh and fragrant, in the style preferred by Paris brasseries, so you can feel all Parisian and fabulous while you drink it. This is £11.50 a bottle from Eclectic Tastes.

Christian Moueix 2005, Bordeaux

I had the delight of meeting Edouard Moueix of JP Moueix wines this week, and his philosophy is divine: he wants the company to produce and sell wine that makes you open another bottle as soon as you try the first glass, because it is so good you know one bottle will not be enough. He believes wine doesn't have to be intellectual: in his words 'it's a beverage, not a Picasso!' Balance is key, and that is what you find in this gorgeous little 2005. It was dangerously smooth and fresh. It's £7.95 a bottle from The Wine Society.

New World faves

It's not just the cooler climates of the Old World that produce this super-fruity and drinkable treats. At the end of last year, I spoke about two New World wines that will do the job just as well so I thought I'd give a sneaky reminder: the Domaine Terlato and Chapoutier Shiraz-Viognier from Australia and the Undurraga Carmenere-Malbec-Carignan both blew my mind for their smooth balance and scare-free tannins.

Do you prefer a softer red wine or are my friends just a bunch of pansies? Tell us all about your faves in the comments, or on our Twitter or Facebook pages.

Image from Quacktaculous's photostream. This may be the best Flickr username ever.


  1. LOVE red, even though it makes my mouth blue and I look silly. It's white wine I'm against. Nothing worse than a white wine hangover.

  2. Oooh I love a Loire wine. I enjoy a good heavy read on occasion, but a nice light wine can be just as enjoyable, thanks for including it!

  3. I love a rich, deep red, as long as it has a hint of sweet. Shiraz is my favorite. Love Cab Sauvignon, and sometimes merlot. I don't like any whites except Reisling, and that only very rarely.

  4. Ooh, we're all fans of the reds, hooray! I clearly have the wrong friends. ;)
    Sarah, glad you share my love for Loire, they're so underappreciated! They do Gamay really well, too.
    Jo - I like your style! Shiraz is one of my faves too - so fruity but with really nice peppery spice too.
    Sian - I'm totally with you on the white wine hangovers. Half a bottle can be dangerous for me, but I find reds dangerously hangover-free...


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