Open the wine vault this summer and enjoy these wines on the path to vinous discovery. Here are a few favorites you may be familiar with and some that might become new wine friends.

Summertime Reds

Zinfandel

This California star has a mysterious European lineage and has gained international fame in the Golden State, especially in Sonoma and the Sierra Foothills where gold was discovered in 1840. The red style can be made light and fruity or full-bodied, complex and age-worthy. Large vineyard acreage provides grapes for blending, as well as fruit used for the production of the sweeter style pink wine called “White Zinfandel.”

Its aromatic spectrum on the nose provides the taster with a cornucopia of fruits such as black currant, boysenberry, cherry, cranberry, plum and raspberry jam. Spice components can be identified and often cocoa, nutmeg, truffle, clove and licorice is detected. Easy to enjoy chilled, it is a great choice for your summertime red wine needs. Compatible with foods such as pulled pork barbecue, grilled chicken and Mexican cuisine.

This native Italian grape reaches its heights in Tuscany and is the varietal used to produce Chianti, Italy’s most famous wine ambassador. Sangiovese offers fruit aromas which resemble black cherries, plums and raspberries with dusty mocha chocolate notes, gentle spices and herbal tones. Savory and high in acid, this dry red wine is particularly delicious with tomato-based dishes, baked pasta with parmesan cheese and grilled sausages. From the lightest style simply called Chianti, often found in attractive straw covered bottles, to more serious Chianti Classico or Chianti Riserva, these are some of my favorite go to summer reds.

Merlot

It is time to rediscover this classic French grape varietal. From its home in Bordeaux, it has spread its wings and is now found in California, Washington, Australia, Italy, Chile, Argentina and Spain. Used as a blending companion with Cabernet Sauvignon, it is soft textured, rich in flavor and excellent as a primary component in California. Some of the best values in the market are varietal Merlot blends. Fruit forward flavors of black and blue berries, cherries, plum and red currant with floral accents such as rose and violets.

The movie, “Sideways” stuck a disastrous blow to the sales of this wine as a character in the film named Miles much maligned the varietal and consumers shunned this proud and distinguished wine grape. Serve in wide bowled glasses and let the exotic aromas work with the air as you swirl the glass, releasing secondary aromas which often can be savory bacon or smoked meat notes, leather or tobacco with a subtle herbaceous scent.

Pinot Noir

The famous red wine grape of Burgundy, France was the favorite of Napoleon and today the varietal enjoys wide consumer appeal. Often light and delicate, it has a complex array of subtle aromas which evolve over time in the glass. Descriptors can include the spectrum of the red and black fruit basket, especially red cherry, cranberry, strawberry and floral bouquet of dried roses, violets and lavender. New world examples from Coastal California and New Zealand offer bright, fresh fruit scenting its cool climate origins. The grape are difficult to grow, but producers in Oregon’s Willamette Valley have unlocked the secret combining small production techniques and French oak barrel ageing, adding additional aromatic layers of earth, forest floor, mushrooms and subtle smoke overtones to the nose.

I must suggest that using the proper glassware allows the drinker to appreciate the wine makers creation. Broad bowls with deeper volume in the glass gives you the ability to swirl the wine, releasing the volatile esthers which will unleash the primary aromas and evolving bouquet. Oh yes, don’t forget to drink!

PHOTOGRAPHY BY MARK WALLACE MAGUIRE & PATRICK OSBORNE MAGUIRE

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