A Lighter Shade of Red
Roast beef and Cab, osso bucco with Barolo, cassoulet and Cahors, or an over the top Aussie Shiraz paired with your preference of slow roasted quadraped are but some of the many options available to drive the damp spring chill from our bones.
Yes indeed, rich reds are certainly the choice for the table. But what about their lighter confrères? Just because there is a chill in the air, does that mean light reds should be set aside? In fact, when it comes to appetizers, softer reds are the better option. The simple reason is that serious alcohol and serious tannins become obtrusive. Imagine, if you will, a monster Châteauneuf-du-Pape with seafood, salad or even a simple plate of pasta in a tomato sauce. It really does not work. The same rule applies to cheese after the meal. Milk and tannins simply do not mix (think curdle). Not to mention the deleterious effects of drinking wine with 15 per cent-plus alcohol throughout the meal.
So when planning your next meal, make sure to use a deft hand when reaching for your first bottle and have a good grip on the decanter for the main course.
89 Colinas de São Lourenco Tinto 2005, Bairrada, Portugal ($15.75)
Coming from the warm Bairrada region, this wine is a blend of Touriga Nacional, Baga and Merlot. For Bairrada, it is a lighter breed. But light does not mean thin. Its black colour is the harbinger of an equally dark nose of plum, cassis, smoke, violets and liquorice. In the mouth there is a concentrated core of black fruits, leather and earth with close to excellent length. Drink it over the next 2 to 3 years.
88 J.Lohr Merlot Paso Robles 2006, Paso Robles, California, United States ($16.95)
A subdued California Merlot. Nonetheless, there is still more than enough ripe berry fruit and stuffing to make this a serious candidate for the dinner table. Lovely jammy berry fruit, namely blackberries and raspberries caress the palate on the lengthy finish. This is sexy stuff, with no hard edges.
88 Kourtaki Mavrodaphne de Patras, Patras, Greece ($13.95)
Mavrodaphne is Greece’s answer to Port. Made from the grape of the same name, it is fortified during fermentation. After which, during aging, it is blended like a Sherry, so that the new wine might be educated by the older wines. Taste-wise, it stands somewhere between a ruby and tawny port, meaning that there is both dark berry fruits and raisins as well as candied fruit and nuts on the nose. The palate shows marked sweetness and very good length. Chill this baby down, and serve it with blue cheeses by the fireplace. A unique wine that is priced right!
88 Fontanafredda Briccotondo Barbera 2007, Piedmont, Italy ($15.95)
A smart use of oak here. The cocoa, hazelnut and spice weave between the cherries, strawberries and plum, helping to carry the finish. Barbera’s typical acidity shines through at the end. Make this your wine of choice with ravioli in a marinara sauce.
87 Kir-Yianni Paranga 2007, Macedonia, Greece ($14.50)
This assemblage of Xinomavro, Syrah and Merlot offers a rather interesting nose of plums, cherries, leather, mint and medicinal properties. The finish is lengthy with a definite earthy tone underscoring the berry fruit. Tannins are present, so take the edge off and serve it with a salty cheese such as kefalotiri or Romano.
87 Creekside Cabernet 2007, Niagara ($13.95)
A very nice wine with an equally nice price tag! Light to medium body, this red offers significant aspects of dark fruits, herbs, liquorice and smoke. The tannins are still youthful, so it can be cellared for a couple of years. Drink it over the next 3 to 4 years.
87 Doña Paula Malbec 2006, Argentina ($16.95)
The oak is very prevalent, here, as the chocolate covered coffee bean is the first to ascend the nasal passage, after which, blueberries, cherries and plums follow in procession. The finish is lengthy and balanced, including the 14.5% alcohol.
87 Raimat Abadia Crianza 2005, Costers del Segre, Spain ($14.95)
Costers del Segre is a warm and arid area in north eastern Catalunia. These conditions have given this blend of Cab Sauv, Merlot and Tempranillo an overripe personality of black cherries, raspberries, plum and mint. This combines with cocoa, vanilla and spicy notes from French and American barrel aging. Very good length with some heat.
86 Flat Rock Cellars Red Twisted 2007, Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara ($19.95)
Twisted is a singular blend of Pinot Noir, Syrah and Chardonnay. It possesses a light ruby colour and a bouquet of cherries, vanilla and black pepper. Tannins are definitely present, so I recommend pairing it with some grilled quail or Italian salumi to soften the edge. Medium plus length.
86 Reif Estate Cabernet/Merlot 2007, Niagara ($13.95)
Medium cherry in colour, this is a melange of plums, cherries, violets, vanilla and herbs. The palate is ripe with a cherry vanilla cola flavour and medium length. Enjoy it now to 2011.
86 Dame de Briante Brouilly 2006, Beaujolais, France ($19.95)
Brouilly is one of the 10 famed “cru” Beaujolais. This means that there is more power than the typical bubble gum-scented “villages” labelled wine. Vanilla, strawberries, black pepper and cherries greet the taste buds with fresh acid and supple tannins.
86 Kickass Garnacha 2007, Campo de Borja, Spain ($12.95)
Guy Anderson, the man who created the Fat Bastard line of wines from France, has now set his sights on Spain. This 100% Garnacha (Grenache) serves up lots of cherry and plum fruit, black pepper, liquorice and violets. The finish does betray some heat, so serve it with Serrano ham and Manchego cheese.
86 Skouras Cuvée Prestige 2007, Peloponnese, Greece ($12.50)
Cuvee Prestige is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and the indigenous Agiorgitiko (St. George) grape. It offers up a bouquet of spice, blackcurrant, earth, cherries, strawberries and mint. On the palate, there is a good degree of berry fruit as well as fresh acid and medium length. It will work well with pork dumplings or meatballs.
86 Blackstone Winery Cabernet Sauvignon 2005, California, United States ($14.80)
Here is a good value from the Sunshine State. Typically Californian, it delivers ripe blackberries, cherries, vanilla and cocoa. It has a soft finish and is ready to drink.
85 Chateau Ducla 2005, Bordeaux Superieur, France ($15)
From the Entre-deux-Mers region comes this soft and easy red with moderate qualities of plum, spice, vanilla and cedar. It finishes dry with just a light dusting of tannins.
85 Boutari Naoussa 2005, Macedonia, Greece ($12.95)
This wine is all about old school Greek winemaking. While its garnet/rust colour and aromas of dried cherries, prunes, rubber, leather, minerals and herbs may not be to everyone’s taste, it is an excellent companion to classic Greek food. So try it with baked orzo pasta and lamb in a cinnamon tomato sauce (youvetsi) or Greek sausage and peppers (spetzofai).
85 Cave Springs Cabernet/Merlot 2006, Niagara ($15.95)
Medium cherry with a pink rim, this blend offers raspberry and herbs on the nose. It is smooth in texture with medium length and echoes juicy berries and tobacco on the palate.
85 Inniskillin Pinot Noir Varietal Series 2007, Niagara ($15)
Varietal Series is the everyday workhorse wines of Inniskillin. This Pinot is just that: light yet flavourful, with plum, cherry, liquorice and earth. Its smooth finish and soft tannins round out the experience.
85 Santa Barbara Salice Salentino Rosso 2005, Apulia, Italy ($14.95)
Salice Salentino is from the “heel” of Italy, a.k.a. the warm region of Apulia. It is a blend of Negroamaro and Malvasia Nera. It unfolds with plums, tar, cherries, vanilla, cedar and vague medicinal notes, while finishing with soft tannins and good fruit. It is ready to drink.
85 Bodegas Chivite Gran Feudo Reserva 2003, Navarra, Spain ($15.75)
This supple offering is a blend of 80% Tempranillo and 10% each of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. It offers up plum, strawberries, sandalwood and herbs. It finishes with strawberries, earth and a touch of heat.