Value Vino: Beating the Texas heat with chillable reds 

click to enlarge COURTESY PHOTOS
  • Courtesy photos

Everybody knows this, right: Serve white wines chilled and red wines at “room” temperature. Just not in Texas.

When Conventional Wisdom devised the “room-temp” thing, he (or she) was thinking more mid-sixties to low seventies, so it’s clear that even your big-buck Bordeauxs benefit from 20 minutes or so chilling time. But beyond that, there is an entire category of red wines that take willingly to being tucked into ice—and they’re great for Texas summer drinking. Here are some, most well under $20.

“This is really pretty good if you don’t think of it as wine; I could drink the whole bottle,” said a taster of the Villa M Rosso, a generic red from Italy that’s lightly sweet, strawberry-scented and slightly frizzante, or fizzy. At just 5 percent alcohol, you could drink the whole thing without remorse, and with nutty cheeses. At 7 percent, the Roscato Rosso Dolce from Provincia di Pavia continues Italy’s mastery of bubbly reds—red raspberry variant. It was best straight out of the ice and it worked well with a spicy potato salad. Only slightly more serious, at 8 percent, is Il Lambrusco by Mionetto from Italy’s Emilia Romagna region. Intensely red, with flavors of red berries and an insistent frothiness, its sweetness is nicely balanced by acidity. Think grilled chicken sausage for this one.

From having tasted them at Dough, the full range of frizzante reds from Cantina Puianello, presented in styles from sweet to medium dry, goes well with pizzas, burrata and polenta cake. “Absolutely 100-percent perfect with salumi,” said the winery rep of the driest version, the Contrada Borgoleto. While also presenting it as good with barbecue, he offered that “it’s not an introspective wine, but you can drink it all afternoon.”

Many of us are used to giving pinot noirs a slight chill; some even more. From Italy’s Friuli region comes Antonutti’s 2011 Pinot Nero, redolent of black plum and showing well with duck rillettes. The same producer’s Refosco (a grape most Americans don’t know) exhibited deeper, earthier tones with a touch of espresso and seemed to prefer life a tad warmer. Ditto with Rossopesce, a non-vintage Italian red, with just a touch of tannin, that was easy to imagine with grilled salmon.

That same low- to mid-fifties range is where Beaujolais is also comfortable. We sampled Kermit Lynch’s 2012 Domain du Peuble Pére et Fils, a simple Appellation Contrôlée that was nonetheless beautifully structured, juicy and tart—and great with roasted corn. Like a kid on a sugar high, the 2010 Cupcake California Red Velvet had almost too much going for it: chocolate, cinnamon, cherry … the cold tamped it down enough to appreciate the nuances.

Back in Italy, Citra’s 2012 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, flaunting deep, red fruit, was the wine most of us could see drinking at a range of temperatures, from bracingly cool to room temp in, ahem, a Burgundy chateau. Moral: when in Texas, chill, dude, chill.

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