Is it a light red or a dark rosé?
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Light reds – or dark rosés – used to be nobody’s child. Not meaty enough to please wine snobs, but not pale enough to have commercial appeal, they all but disappeared from wine lists. But now, thanks to the trend for lighter, fresher wines, liminal styles are back in fashion.
Yotam Ottolenghi’s new wine range includes a biodynamic red from the Czech Republic’s Krásná Hora (£25) that’s as thirst-quenching as pomegranate juice. Made from a blend of Zweigelt, Pinot Noir and Dornfelder, it’s designed to be served lightly chilled with spicy, smoky and barbecued dishes. “These more fruit-forward wines are super-drinkable, they don’t feel heavy or tire the palate,” says Zainab Majeriková, co-owner of indie merchant Basket Press, which consulted on the Ottolenghi project.
Another great wine for summer would be the cherry-red Jaroslav Osicka Ryšák 2021 (£19, basketpresswines.com), a playful blend of Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir. The fragrant, pale-ruby Sziegl Pince Babel (£23) from Hungary is also wonderfully expressive.
Look to Portugal also, says Max Graham, founder of Festa, a Portuguese wine specialist. “There is a long tradition there of making lighter-style red wines. The palhete style – which sees red and white grapes co-fermented, often in a field blend [grown together], has had a renaissance, creating fresh, wild and vibrant light-red wines.” Folias de Baco Uivo Renegado 2021 (£18.50, wearefesta.co.uk) is a skin-contact wine in the palhete tradition – it marries vibrant mulberry and a touch of funk with a bitter orange finish. The damson-coloured Vitor Claro Foxtrot 2020 (£23) from Alentejo is gorgeous when lightly chilled – a fusion of wild strawberry, herbs and flintiness. “When everyone tires of orange wine, chilled reds or dark rosés will be the next page on the wine list,” says Luca Dusi, owner of Italian wine importer Passione Vino.
Dusi’s favourite in-betweeners include the sour-cherry Nero d’Avola Il Rosato Terre Siciliane 2022 from Sicily’s Sergio Genuardi (£39, passionevino.co.uk); and Aleato I Mandorli, a Tuscan light-red that balances juicy damson with smoke and liquorice. Bigger-hitting is the Rosato (£29) from Calabria’s A’vita, which has broad tannins and sweet-and-savoury notes: “Imagine Barolo if it was a rosé”, says Dusi.
A fixture on the list at New York’s Korean steakhouse Cote is the “heftier-style” rosé from France’s Gaël Petit: “It’s from the Rhône but drinks like a Beaujolais,” says beverage director Victoria James.
Riding on the coattails of the light red/dark rosé trend is Lambrusco. The Italian red sparkler is the picnic wine to be seen with this summer. Try the hedonistic Vigna Rosa Lambrusco Blend (£24.50, shopcuvee.com) from new-wavers Vitivinicola Fangareggi, with its blood-orange and raspberry fruit, fine tannin and lively fizz.
Never has it been so delicious to be quite so indecisive.