Flavorful, inexpensive reds give a taste of the summer to come
The dreariness of ceaseless snow, icy roads and freezing cold induces sensible souls to reflect. Consider that each passing winter day allows sunlight to linger just a little longer.
It reminds us that spring will arrive — eventually.
Enjoying inexpensive, flavorful red wines with a just a little extra kick bolsters patience perfectly. The deep colors, intriguing aromas and ripe fruit engage the senses while evoking the warmth of sunny vineyards. Pairing the wines with easily made comfort food adds to the pleasure.
Try the following — with patience for spring's arrival:
The 2012 Penya Vin de Pays des Côtes Catalanes Rouge, France (Luxury 48381; $9.99) offers a classic, robust wine made from grenache and syrah with smatterings of carignan and mourvèdre. The vines grow in stony soils in France's Roussillon region, known as French Catalonia near the Spanish border.
Independent vignerons fiercely guard their Catalonia traditions while selling grapes to the local cooperative. The cooperative, in turn, produces the wine to reduce costs across the board. The vignerons' ownership interest in the cooperative and its profits focuses attention toward quality.
After temperature-controlled fermentation, the young wine ages on the lees — spent yeast cells — inside large, neutral concrete tanks called bétons. The process knits the wine beautifully without intrusive oak notes.
Enticing, unabashed fruitiness bursts forth. Ripe blackberry and smoky, meaty notes lead to rich, dark fruit and spice flavors with well-integrated power — the wine carries 15 percent alcohol by volume. Fresh acidity and chewy tannins balance the fruity, juicy finish. Pair it with old-fashion, slowly cooked pot roast made with onions, garlic, carrots and red wine. Highly recommended.
Eastward up the Mediterranean Coast, just north of Montpellier, another cooperative, Les Vignerons du Pic, also produces a classic southern French red blend, the 2011Devois de Perret Coteaux du Languedoc, France (Luxury 46975; $12.99). For this wine, 70 independent producers spread over the rustic villages of d'Assas, de Baillargues, de Claret and de Saint-Gély-du Fesc deliver syrah and grenache grapes declassified from the nearby Pic Saint Loup appellation.
The wine's ripe fruitiness balances with a touch of earthy complexity. Black cherry and cassis aromas meld with smokiness. Fresh, dark fruit and savory notes wrap around fresh acidity and smooth tannins. The wine finishes fruity and dry with pleasant, subtle earthy notes and 13 percent alcohol by volume. Pair it with roasted chicken and mushrooms with risotto. Highly recommended.
Courtesy of the value driven Chairman's Selection program, the 2011 Carpineto Rosso di Montepulciano, Italy (Luxury 32869; on sale, $12.99) delivers a terrific twist on one of Tuscany's great wines, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.
Like Vino Nobile di Montepulciano reds, the Sangiovese (known locally as prugnolo gentile) and canaiolo grapes for this wine grow just southeast of the famous Renaissance city of Siena. The alkaline soils on southeast facing slopes enable the grapes to ripen with pitch perfect balance of fruitiness, fresh acidity and elegant tannins.
Unlike Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Rosso de Montepulciano can rely on slightly higher yields and small amounts of international varieties, such as cabernet sauvignon. In this case, however, the producer relies only on traditional grapes, so the resulting wine offers an immediately drinkable, “younger brother” version of its more famous sibling.
The ruddy, ruby color offers cherry and strawberry aroma and similar flavors. Bright, vibrant acidity and correct, firm tannins frame the fruity, lingering finish. Pair it with pasta with sauteed onions, peas and bacon. Highly recommended.
Back home in Sonoma County's Alexander Valley, the 2011 Trentadue Winery Old Patch Red Lot #36, California (Luxury 46892; $12.99) offers another unpretentious, yet very tasty, well made everyday drinking wine.
The wine blends America's signature red-skinned grape — zinfandel — with petite sirah for a classic field-style red. The nose unfolds black raspberry and brown-spice aromas. Ripe blackberry and raspberry flavors burst on the palate with light, toasted oak notes. Fresh acidity and soft tannins frame the fruity finish that carries 14.5 percent alcohol by volume. Pair it with the old-fashion pan-fried hamburgers topped with your favorite fixings. Recommended.
Dave DeSimone writes about wine for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com.