Domaine du Vieux Pressoir Saumur Puy Notre Dame, Loire, France 2015 (£23, redsquirrelwine.com) A change in the season means a change in red wine style: away with the chunky, the rich, the powerful; in with the elegant, the fragrant, the refreshing. No wine style fits the latter brief better than the red wines of the Loire, especially those made from the increasingly fashionable (all over the world) cabernet franc grape variety. In a clutch of appellations such as Chinon, Bourgueil, and Saumur-Champigny, cabernet franc produces wines that combine a springtime sappiness and leafiness with currants and berries on a textural spectrum that runs from just-ripe and crunchy to supple and fine. For an energisingly vibrant example that is happiest showing off its just-on-the-right-side-of-tart summer pudding flavours after a half hour or so in the fridge, try Waitrose’s Les Nivières Saumur Rouge 2018 (£9.99). For something a little more Bordeaux-esque, sophisticated and mellow, yet still with an underlying pulse of Loire River liveliness, the Vieux Pressoir is very smart indeed.
Antinori Prunotto Langhe Nebbiolo Occhetti, Italy 2018 (£20.65, vinvm.co.uk) Is the northwestern Italian grape variety nebbiolo capable of making summer reds? Not, by and large, when it’s being used in the great red wines of Piedmont, Barolo and Barbaresco, both of which can pack a fair amount of alcoholic and tannic punch in their deceptively pale ruby frame, alongside the variety’s trademark tar and roses fragrance and its cast of fruit from the red end of the spectrum. These are wines that I associate more with autumn, especially the older bottles which might add truffly notes, smoke and savouriness to their enchanting mix. In Piedmont itself, the summer wine par excellence is traditionally a chilled down bottle of the black cherry juiciness of Dolcetto, such as the beautifully cherry-skin satiny Cantina del Pino Dolcetto d’Alba 2017 (£15.88, laywheeler.com). But many of the region’s producers also make a nebbiolo in a younger fresher style, in which perfumed raspberry red fruit is to the fore, and the tannic grip is considerably less firm, such as in Prunotto’s polished example.
Dominio do Bibei Lalama Red Ribeira Sacra, Spain 2016 (from £22.75, thegoodwineshop.co.uk; vincognito.co.uk) Spanish red wine was once easily caricatured as heavy and oaky or both. In the past couple of decades, however, wines of a considerably brighter, nippier, fresher persuasion have been cropping up all over the country. Many of my favourites are made from mencía, a variety that shares enough similarities in floral-edged fresh currant fragrance and brightness with cabernet franc to have had growers believing they might be one and the same. Ampelographers (aka grape scientists) may have since disproved that theory. But mencía wines, particularly those from my favourite region for the variety – the spectacularly steep granite and slate slopes of Ribeira Sacra in inland Galicia – satisfy a similar thirst to the French variety in wines such as the vividly red fruit juicy Guimaro Mencía 2019 (£13.98, vinatis.co.uk) and the hauntingly beautiful Dominio do Bibei Lalama, which adds 10% of other rare local grape varieties to the mix in a wine resonant with graphite minerals and racy raspberry.