With peak Summer temperature upon us, enjoying your favorite red wine may become somewhat of a challenge. Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Merlot and Petite Sirah, which can warm you on a cold Winter’s night, can further warm your innards in the sweltering heat and making you feel a bit sluggish.

Now feeling weighed down like a lead balloon, you ponder if there is a logical solution to enjoy a good red wine. For those who are not fans of a refreshing white, rose or sparkling wine, there are plenty of red wines on the market that will satisfy even the most staunch nonconformist.

In Part 1 of the Summer Red series, let’s explore the possibilities of one of my favorite wines to please the palate in the heat of the dog days.

Think Gamay!

For those not familiar with this grape varietal, you may know it better by its region of origin: Beaujolais. And not just Beaujolais Nouveau. Excellent alternatives with the same flavors exist year round made in the same region and produced from the same grape.

The Gamay vinifera, used exclusively in the making of Beaujolais wines, is expressed in even greater quality through communes in its northern region. These villages, also called crus, make wines that exhibit their own distinctive personalities. Because of their structure, acidity and presence of tannin, they are even worthy of a few years of aging, something the Nouveau style is not always capable of achieving.

The lure of Beaujolais is expressed through its vivid fruit flavors; black cherry, black raspberry, strawberry and currant.

Add in its lovely floral character of rose, lilac and violet, than let its black pepper, vanilla and other spicy notes tantalize the taste buds.

Fermented for a brief period of between 5 to 10 months, its light tannins and full roundedness leave us with a wine able to enhance any meal and seduce the palate in the process.

You will find these wines designated with a vintage date and labeled as: basic quality Beaujolais, a step up in quality Beaujolais-Villages, or the highest quality available Beaujolais Cru. The later mentioned Cru come from the 10 special villages that best exemplify quality of the vineyards, and their specific village name will be highlighted on the label.

The Cru Beaujolais to look for are Brouilly, Cote de Brouilly, Regnie, Morgon, Chiroubles, Fleurie, Moulin-a-Vent, Chenas, Julienas, and Saint Amour.

Each Beaujolais Cru exhibit their own flavor nuance and potential for age ability. Where as Beaujolais Nouveau resembles fun in wine, Beaujolais Cru commands respect. Let us examine each commune and see which style may appeal to your own personal preference.

BROUILLY: The lightest and fruitiest of the Cru Beaujolais, their appeal is appreciated by those first getting into wine. Drink within 2 years of vintage date.

COTE DE BROUILLY: With more concentrated fruit flavors than a standard Brouilly, their liveliness expresses a step up in quality. Drink within 3 years of vintage date.

REGNIE: One of my personal faves, with full fruit, bigger in body and depth or character, a lovely food wine. Drink within 3 to 4 years of vintage date.

MORGON: The Cadillac of Crus, huge jammy grape flavors, balanced spice and floral, deep in color with rich earthy nuances. Drink young or cellar 6 or 8 years.

CHIROUBLES: The prissiest of the Beaujolais Cru, light and delicate, expressing more floral than fruit characteristics. Drink within 4 years of vintage date.

FLEURIE: Elegant in flavor, it expresses both fruit and floral notes. Silky smooth with medium body, it’s the Belle of the Ball. Drink within 4 years of vintage date.

MOULIN-A-VENT: The Cru with the most age potential, its flavors rich and powerful. The Bordeaux or Burgundy of its region, drink it young or let it age for 10 years or more.

CHENAS: The hardest to find of the Cru, its richness worth the effort. Floral and stylish with the fruit hearty and plush. Drink within 3 years of vintage date.

JULIENAS: Power with grace, one of the richest in flavor, fullest in body, and spiciest of the Cru. Great nose, elegant in style and named after Julius Caesar. Drink with 4 years of vintage date.

SAINT AMOUR: Fresh and polished, spicy with distinctive fruit characters. Enjoy for its uniqueness among the other Cru. Drink within 2 years of vintage date.

As mentioned, these wines are very food friendly. With their fruit driven style and light complexity, they pair well with meat, fish or fowl, which includes nearly all international type cuisines. A traditional dessert of peaches, red currants and chilled Beaujolais is among one of the regions specialties.

It should be noted that wines from California that were long designated Napa Gamay and Gamay Beaujolais, which in reality were made using the Valdiguie grape, have absolutely nothing in common with the French grape Gamay. In cooperation with French laws from the region, United States legislation prohibits the use of these particular terms from California wine practices and labeling.

The best way for wine lovers to enjoy these particular types of wines, is to slightly chill them before serving. Taking away a bit of the warmness, the wines are much more refreshing and are not as likely to weigh down on your palate. No ice cubing !!!

With the solution to your red wine Summer drinking habit simply solved, there is more great red wines to explore in our next segment.

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