Some of you can’t stomach a heavy red wine. Too bitter, tannic, acidic, or it just doesn’t go down easily, you say. But sticking to your safe whites—Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Riesling, Gewürztraminer, or what-have-you—is limiting. Bruno Peixoto of Wine at Five, a wine merchant specializing in small-batch, artisanal fine wines in downtown Rye, wants to awaken your palate to a vibrant, ruby-red world out there.
“In my eyes, the ideal red for white wine drinkers is a juicy, fresh, and not very tannic red,” Peixoto says.
There are grape varieties that show these characteristics pretty much across the board, such as Gamay, but a lot lies on the vintner’s intention, he says. On the other end of the spectrum, wines made with Grenache and Syrah are rich, complex, and cellar-worthy wines, such as Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Yet one of the wines in Peixoto’s list below is also made with these varieties. The difference is in the approach: beginning in the vineyard and following through the winemaking process at the winery.
If you generalize wine based on grape variety, you might find yourself surprised, he says. In the vineyard, growers will sometimes pick a bit earlier to bring in grapes with higher acid (juicy/tart feel) and less sugar (and consequentially less potential alcohol). Then at the winery, techniques such as carbonic maceration ferment the grapes by crushing them through gravity only. That makes cleaner-tasting wines with low tannins, which means without any bitterness coming from skins and seeds. The technique leads to a brighter aroma and flavor.
The other method is called whole cluster or whole bunch fermentation. Grape bunches are left intact with the stems included in the press, bringing their savory, high-toned flavor to the mix. Not aging the wine in oak barrels is also a fairly common theme in these wines, as fermentation and aging in wood usually brings the deeper and denser feel to reds, along with toasty, woodsy aromas and flavors.
“When you think about it, what most white drinkers enjoy about white wine is the refreshing aspect, the clean and vibrant energy of varieties like Sauvignon Blanc or Albarino,” Peixoto says. “Red wines for white wine drinkers should follow suit with the same vibe—red juicy fruit, low tannins, fresh, and vibrant.
Peixoto’s red recommendations for white fans:
• 2014 Les Champs Libres, Vin de Pays de l’Ardèche Lard des Choix Rouge (Ardeche, France)
• 2014 Bauer Zweigelt (Niederosterreich, Austria)
• 2014 Broc Cellars, Valdiguie (Solano County, California)
To enjoy reds—gateway or otherwise—go to Wine & Food Fest and learn about this magazine’s June 8-12 festival.