After last week’s selection of spring whites, today we turn our attention to red wines for spring. Here we are looking for wines that bridge the gap between the big, rich, warming wines of winter that match roast meats and casseroles and the very light, chillable reds of summer – so, we are talking about medium-bodied juicy reds, with enough about them to warm a cool evening, but also match lighter foods, such as perhaps grilled tuna and chicken or pasta and risotto dishes based around spring vegetables.
The grape that of course best fits this description is gamay, which reaches its peak of perfection the Beaujolais villages area of France – and is grown almost nowhere else – delivering wines that, according to the particular village, vary between light and perfumed and more robust and weighty, but always remaining succulent, food friendly and highly drinkable, with a lightness of touch that is irresistible.
A good name to look for is Henry Fessy, now under the wing of the Louis Latour combine, which, despite the slightly jokey labels produces excellent wines from several of the crus including the Henry Fessy Cote De Brouilly 2015 (£12.07, bcfw.co.uk) full of bright red fruit flavours or the Henry Fessy Morgon 2017 (£14.28, bcfw.co.uk) which packs a bit more depth and complexity.
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Both are ideal with roast chicken, charcuterie and main course vegetable dishes. Very different again is the Domaine Metrat La Roilette Fleurie 2016 (£17.95, twelvegreenbottleswine.co.uk; 2017: £15.95, bbr.com) from ancient vines planted on the borders of Fleurie and Moulin a Vent, with the village’s characteristic floral aromas leading to a bright, light but intense and concentrated cherry flavours, with a slight earthy underpinning.
Of course the other great lighter French grape is pinot noir, the Burgundian epicentre of which is just to the north of Beaujolais. My pinot roundup of a couple of weeks ago deliberately omitted Burgundy, so here is a classic pinot from the area: the Santenay Clos des Hates Domaine Bachey Legros 2013 (£26, wineswithattitude.co.uk; £26.99, satchellswines.com), beautifully balanced flavours of fresh red fruits and hints of spice and smoke. A great dinner party wine, for roast pork or a peppered loin of tuna.
If the intricacies and prices of Burgundy are a bit forbidding, look for the generic Bourgogne label and wines such as the accessible, smoothly silky Maison Roche De Bellene Bourgogne Pinor Noir 2016 (£17.99, laithwaites.co.uk) made from old vines by Nicholas Potel, one of the big names of the region.
All these wines are best at a cool cellar temperature, but one that might take an hour in the fridge is the Frappato di Sicilia, Nicosia 2017 (£9.95, winesociety.com), made in southern Sicily from the local frappato grape: lighty spicy, raspberry fruits flavours which is really meant to be drunk out of tumblers in the garden with a bowl of pasta with sardines.
But I think we might have to wait a little longer for such evenings, so now for two more weighter but still succulent and fresh wines, suitable for all weathers. Regional Spain – but away from the classic areas of Rioja and Ribera Del Duero – is a great source of medium-bodied reds, such as the Ochoa Crianza “La Foto de 1938” 2014 ( £14.50, davywine.co.uk) a blend of merlot, tempranillo and graciano from Navarra, where the latter provides the fresh, leavening notes to the other two grapes, resulting in rich, but vibrant red and black fruit flavours, a very food-friendly wine for all Mediterranean foods.
And finally, the Margan “Breaking Ground” Barbera 2016 (£14.95, tanners-wines.co.uk) from the Hunter Valley in New South Wales is a typically hefty Aussie take on a lighter Italian grape, the rich, concentrated black fruit flavours balanced by a fresh, juicy lightness on the palate. Which is perhaps the defining characteristic of all the wines here – let’s hope for some warmer evenings in which to enjoy them.