Extolling the virtues of whites and rosés is easy in times like these. Tipping my hat to reds when the thermometric accumulation pops over the 30 mark may lead to more than one virtual hairy eyeball. Try this one on for size. Take that bottle of red with your name on it and lay it down in the icebox for twenty minutes. Pop and pour. The result? A cool, refreshing summer drink. Go ahead, try it.
The late, great Steve Irwin said “I think my path would have always gone back to or delivered me to wildlife. I think wildlife is just like a magnet, and it’s something that I can’t help.” For me, it’s food and wine. There is never a feeling of time wasted, no pangs of guilt or regret.
Zinfandel and other big wines pushing the 15% envelope do not take well to a cold treatment. Nor do the finest big B’s; Bordeaux, Burgundy, Barolo, Barbaresco and Brunello. Their subtleties can be masked by low temperature. Right now “it’s hotter than the outback after the apocalypse.” That’s a quote. Uttered in conversation yesterday. Australian reds are the apex predators of wine, Crocodiles, full of lash and whack. Quotidian examples from paradoxically branded “cool-climate” Victoria take the reptilian itch down a notch, perfect for a short chill in the throes of this sweltering, Ontario summer. Give these four red wines the air-conditioning treatment. You won’t regret it.
The grape: Shiraz
The history: Signature varietal of Australia, producing more than 400,000 tonnes annually
The lowdown: Victoria’s climate is suitable for a low and slow growing season
The food match: Grilled Half Chickens with an Apricot, Ancho-Chile BBQ glaze
Camelback Shiraz 2008 (665125, $27.95) out of the Sunbury sub-section of Victoria trades sun stroke for an even tan. Expatriate Lorenzo Galli brought Tuscany to Victoria and here the fennel, almond biscotti and ripe fig dominate this medium-bodied, princely Shiraz. Too many OZ reds load up on straw that break the camel’s back. The Camelback far I enters the eye of a needle. A berry good Galli walking gracefully across the sand. Chill and grill. 90
The grapes: Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot
The history: Derivative if not exactly typical Right Bank, Bordeaux blend
The lowdown: The Okanagan Valley in British Columbia is an excellent Meritage site. Osoyoos Larose is a world-renowned, red blend
The food match: Grilled Lamb Chops marinated with Rosemary, Garlic and Olive Oil
Lulu Island Meritage (277566, $23.95) just sounds like an Aussie moniker when in fact it hails from the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia. Maybe the most lustrous B.C. red I have ever laid eyes on. Hard not to forbear a crush on its purple profile, hued like a $100, Single-Vineyard Argentinean Malbec. A bit reductive due to its infantile youth but this is appurtenant to the samphire, currants and peppery Merlot scents. Less weight buoys the palate. Bites back in the end. Follows varietal rules of proportion vis-a-vis the dry martini. Massive CVR** complexity from this massif assemblage. 91
The grapes: Carignan/Mourvèdre/Syrah
The history: Traditional CMS combination from the Midi
The lowdown: Carignan-lead reds are often a fortress of austerity. This is a welcome exception
The food match: Crispy Duck Legs, finished on the grill with a Tamarind glaze
Le Cirque Carignan/Mourvèdre/Syrah 2010 (277079, $14.95) is a big, chic IVR* wine for $15. Foxy, Wisterian colour and salinity of a quayside negotiation. Dancing circus act craze of TGV vitesse yet structured and organized of a Poussinian order. “Like the days of stopping at the Savoy.” 88
The grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon
The history: Memories of Bordeaux long gone, now essential Napa Valley
The lowdown: From a small husband and wife run winery in Calistoga
The food match: Grilled Za’atar-rubbed Boneless Rib-Eye Steak
Summers Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 (279380, $29.95) inculcates the success of Napa Valley Cabernet at a fraction of what most others cost. Silky texture, rapt tint and deep-seated, earthbound aromas. Fresh picked blackberries and crushed pine cones underfoot in an evergreen forest. A warm weather song, “taste the summer on your peppery skin.” No bruised fruit bomb so be not afraid to add a few minutes of December gelidity. 89
IVR* – Vintage Direct Intrigue-to-value ratio
CVR** – Vintage Direct Curiosity-to-value ratio
Good to go!