Spring reds: lighter, brighter days call for wines to match

I’m still drinking a lot of red, although I’ve started choosing light or medium-bodied wines that work well with summery food

It's easy to forget that Rioja can taste refreshing Credit: Ruby Martin for The Telegraph

That beautiful lime-green shade of new leaves is here. If that and light evenings make you feel the need to be rosé-ready, one budget bottle to put in your fridge is Specially Selected Ventoux Rosé 2021 (12.5%; Aldi, £6.99). This is pale pink and, unlike most of Aldi’s wines, it’s bone dry. It’s from the Ventoux wine region, which on a political map sits within the Vaucluse département in the Provence-Alps-Côte d’Azur area, but in wine terms is considered part of the Rhône. 

Ventoux wines are often very good value, and this blend of Grenache (90%) with Syrah is no exception. More on rosé another time, when all the new vintages have landed. Besides, I’m still drinking a lot of red – although I’ve started choosing light or medium-bodied wines that work really well with a more summery style of food, and evenings that tend not to be quite as warm as I thought they might be.

The Loire is one of the obvious places to look for lighter reds. Les Nivières Cabernet Franc Saumur 2019 (13.5%; Waitrose, £9.99) is always a good shout. It has a ‘summer pudding’ fragrance and an appealing tang. It does go on offer a couple of times a year, but is still worth buying at full price. It’s just so good with a lamb chop or butterflied leg of lamb.

It’s unusual for me to fall for reds (or whites) from the Anjou appellation of the Loire: they can be very smooth, and I tend to prefer the focus, tang and structure of Saumur, Saumur-Champigny, Chinon, or Bourgueil and St Nicolas de Bourgueil. But I recently tasted a red Anjou that I absolutely loved, from Domaine des Rochelles, an organically farmed estate owned by the Lebreton family. I was tasting at my kitchen table from dozens of mini bottles and immediately texted a friend I knew had done the same tasting to say how brilliant I thought it was. ‘I have literally just bought six bottles,’ he replied. The details are below.

If you’re after Pinot Noir, Damien Martin Escargot Bourgogne Rouge 2019/2020, France (13%, Lea & Sandeman, £15.95), is beautiful: perfumed and sleek, refreshing and very moreish indeed. The vintage is in flux, but I’ve tasted both and both are recommended. Try it with mushroom pasta or pink duck breast served with braised peas. For a more plush, almost lavender-scented Pinot Noir grown in a warmer part of France, try Taste the Difference Pays d’Oc Pinot Noir 2019, France (13%; Sainsbury’s, £11). I like the juiciness of this wine, and the generous layers of cherry blossom.

This is also a good moment for lighter, unoaked or barely oaked reds from Bordeaux. I’ve been serving roast chicken warm rather than hot, with lamb’s lettuce with mustard dressing, roast baby potatoes and a lentil, aubergine and tomato salad, and this sort of dinner works well with a tangy, inexpensive Claret.

You could also look to modern styles from regions producing wines you might think of as heavy or heavily oaked, such as Cinsault from South Africa or Chile. Or you could even consider a modern style of Rioja: because Rioja is a style that’s often about the oak – all those coconut, spice and vanilla flavours – it’s easy to forget that it can taste refreshing, too. Unusually for a Rioja, the Artuke I’ve chosen this week is made using a technique called carbonic maceration, which is also used in Beaujolais and makes for a bright and fruity style of wine.


Wines of the week

Artuke Rioja 2020

(Spain 13.5%; Lea & Sandeman, £12.50 – 2021 coming soon; vinvm.co.uk, £9.95 plus delivery)

An unusually fresh, strawberry-ish style of Rioja to suit anyone who likes Beaujolais.

Finest* South African Cinsault 2020

(South Africa 13%; Tesco, £7.50)

This red isn’t perfectly dry, which makes it taste extra fruity: think raspberry coulis with a hint of white pepper.

Domaine des Rochelles L’Ardoise 2020

(Loire, France 12.5%, The Wine Society, £9.25)

A gorgeous red Anjou that is completely unoaked and smells quite bloody (in a good way).


Read last week’s column: The secret to creating a lasting wine dynasty


What are your favourite spring reds? Let us know in the comments section below