Perfect time for cool, light, red wines

John Wilson: Give your red some time in the fridge for that extra mouth-watering freshness

This is my favourite time of the year, with nature looking its very best and promising a great summer ahead, even if it ends in disappointment all too often. While I may drink lighter red wines throughout the year, it now seems essential to open them up and enjoy them cool or lightly chilled for that extra mouth-watering freshness.

Warm red wine, light or full-bodied, tastes awful; soupy, alcoholic and flabby. Although some people will object, I think even big powerful red wines should be served cold; they will warm up quickly once in the glass and will taste so much better this way. Adding ice will dilute the flavour; far better to give your bottle time in the fridge, an ice bucket or even 20 minutes in the freezer.

I have covered Cabernet Franc from the Loire before, and these wines remain among my favourites all year round. This week I feature an alternative low-alcohol red wine from the Loire Valley made from Gamay, Pinot Noir and Malbec (or côt, as they call it in the Loire) and three light reds from elsewhere in Europe.

I would also suggest stocking up on good Beaujolais, another great summer red. Pinot Noir may be light in colour and body, but not always in alcohol. Valpolicella and Bardolino from Italy also vary greatly, so always read the label first.


Looking around the supermarket shelves, it is not that easy to come across low-alcohol reds; most wines seem to be 13.5 per cent. Possibly Irish wine drinkers prefer something with a bit more richness. Fans of low intervention wines will know that many of these are made from grapes picked earlier and are, therefore, lower in alcohol. I tasted a very gluggable 10.5 per cent biodynamic red for this article. This week all four wines featured are 12.5 per cent alcohol or less.

Barbecue wines do not have to be mega monsters. These days many of our barbecues are far more subtle affairs featuring fish, chicken, vegetables and other less meat-centric dishes. These foods are better with something lighter. Often a little acidity helps cut through those charred flavours. In my experience, barbecues always take longer than you think to get ready, so a supply of low-alcohol wines, red and white, as well as beers, is essential.

This year I have been using the barbecue far less, probably because there are fewer of us eating under lockdown. We have been eating outdoors a lot though, enjoying mixed salads, roast vegetables, lighter meat dishes, charcuterie and cheeses for dinner. All go very nicely with a glass of chilled red.

Paparuda Pinot Noir 2018, Romania
12.5% €10-€12
I have written about the various wines from Cramele Recas before; this Pinot, at 12.5 per cent, is a perfect summer wine. Light, herbal, juicy black cherry fruits that seem more vibrant when served cool. Drink it with seared tuna or a salad Niçoise.

From La Touche, Greystones,; Jus de Vine, Portmarnock,; Blackrock Cellar, Blackrock, Co Dublin,; Londis, KCR, Dublin 6W; Londis, Malahide; Fresh Stores at IFCS, Camden St, Grand Canal, Smithfield; Goose Off-licence, Dublin 9; Kelly's, Dublin 3,; Mace, Dublin 5; D-Six Wines, Dublin 6;;

La Retro Lafage Vin de France, 2019
12.5%, €18
Delightful wine with mouth-watering fresh light red fruits with a touch of spice. Try this with herby grilled chicken thighs, or dishes with light tomato sauces.

From Sweeneys D3,; The Vintry, Dublin 6,; Redmonds, Dublin 6,; Drinkstore, D7,; The Wine House, Trim.

Meinklang Burgenland Rot 2018, Austria (Biodynamic)
12%, €18.50-€19.50
I featured the white a few weeks back; the red is equally good. I really enjoyed this one – perfect summer drinking with juicy ripe dark fruits, and a mouth-watering tangy acidity. Grilled pork chops with a scattering of herbs?

From La Touche, Greystones,;; Sheridan's Cheesemongers, Dublin 2, Kells, Co Meath, Galway,

Domaine de Montcy 2017, Cheverny (Biodynamic)
11.5%, €25-€26
A mere 11.5 per cent alcohol, this is a delicious light red wine with lissom sweet red cherry fruits set off by a refreshing acidity and good length. Light salads, grilled salmon, or charcuterie.

From Sheridan's Cheesemongers, Dublin 2, Kells, Co Meath, Galway,; 64wine, Glasthule,;; Martin's Off Licence, Dublin 3,; Green Man Wines, Dublin 6,