Morgon LaPierreI hosted a few folks from the Tex & Fritz Wine Club, and the theme was Red Wines of Summer.  It was a blind tasting, and some of the foods I’d prepared included a hickory-smoked, dark beer-braised brisket (!!!!!), a variety of cheeses with crackers, and a salad of grilled romaine, sunflower shoots, red peppers, garlic, arugula, and edible flowers. In a word, yum.

I wanted to have this particular theme, because let’s face it, some of us are diehard red wine lovers and no amount of pretending to enjoy a steady diet of only white wines throughout the summer just doesn’t quite do it for us.  Summer reds paired with summer foods is not an oxymoron, just something that has just started coming into its own.

The wines were varied, both in style and in price.  They ranged from a Lambrusco for $8.00 to a Beaujolais Villages for $24.00.  All were reasonably priced, comparable to fine summer white wines. And so good.  There wasn’t a bad one in the bunch, and the WOTN (that means Wine of the Night to you noobs) was the Beaujolais. As Ms. Ray would say, “Yummo!”

2009 Morgon Beaujolais Villages Lapierre – The wine of the night.  A standout wine that goes for less than $24 at Marche Bacchus.

2009 Michele Chiarlo Barbera d’Asti – Hints of berries and plums! And, of course, the funky earth that’s such a signature of old world wines.

NV Sei Amici Lambrusco Rosso ($7.99 at Total Wine) – Sparkly with lots of dark fruit that’s just a touch on the sweet side.

NV The Chook Sparkling Shiraz – This was a real surprise, and it paired beautifully with the brisket.  Especially the crunchy crust! This could easily kick the beer to the curb.

2009 Cambria Pinot Noir Julia’s Vineyard – A perennial favorite!  Light tannins and lots of black cherry fruit.

2009 Evans & Tate Metricup Road Margaret River Shiraz – The followup wine of the night, this is filled with lots of fruit, and has a savory character that would scream for BBQ ribs!  At only $13.99 at Total Wine, this is a delicious bargain!

While routinely sipping a big Cab, Merlot, Tempranillo, or other dense reds during the summer months may not be something to do habitually, that doesn’t mean that you should avoid your favorites!  Because our blind tasting was limited to six, I had to leave out several that are also terrific for summer fare, including Malbec, Zinfandel, and Grenache.

I have to admit that my favorite summer reds aren’t truly “red” at all, but pink.  With the notable exceptions of Zinfandel and Merlot, nearly every red grape can be made into a single varietal Rosé or (my favorite), delicious blends.

So don’t confine yourself to champagnesque sparklers or whites during the heat.  Next time you fire up the grill, pop the cork on a bottle of Sparkling Shiraz and enjoy!


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  1. Most “Lambruscos” that are made and consumed in Emilia are completely different from most Lambruscos that are imported into the USA.

    Lidia Bastanich, chef and host of PBS’s Lidia’s Italy, probably said it best when she remarked: “Lambruscos have been misrepresented by industrial versions that have the soda pop flavor they think Americans want.”

    The majority of Lambruscos destined for the USA are ‘custom-made’ for an US importer and sold under a private label.

    In Italy Lambruscos are classified by style: a) secco (dry to off dry), b) semisecco (off-dry to sweet), c) amabile (sweet to very sweet) and d) dolce (very sweet to super sweet.)

    For instance, a Lambrusco labeled ‘secco’ may have 0-15 g/l of RS (residual sugar.) Such a wine would be considered bone-dry at 0 g/l but already slightly off-dry at 15 g/l.

    The Lambrusco you reviewed and described as being “a touch on the sweet side” is actually labeled “dolce”: Lambrusco “dolce” has a minimum of 40 g/l RS. Minimum. Most “dolce” Lambruscos manufactured for the the USA have 80 g/l RS or even more.

    In order to help readers and wine consumers to know what kind of Lambrusco style they are buying a Lambrusco review should – at a minimum – include a) the style and b) the alcohol percentage. Why? Authentic Lambrusco has to have a minimum of 10.5% alcohol — by law.

    BTW, the best ‘pink’ Lambrusco is made from 100% Sorbara. It’s a “red” that’s naturally pink – always.

  2. Thank you for the best explanation of Lambrusco that I’ve ever seen! I would love to find a dry Lambrusco because I’m not too much of a fan of sweet wines. My hat’s off to you for sharing your knowledge.


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