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Jun 20, 2014 08:39 AM

Wanted: Light Red Wine

A month or so ago my wife and I had the fortune to be served a very light chilled red wine along with one of our courses at a restaurant. Of course, we neglected to write down the exact name, varietal, or region that it was from, however the somm described it as a 'crusher' wine, drank in the summer months in France and chilled down. He said it was a traditional way to drink it.

We are planning on a lot of picnics this summer and would really like something similar to fit the bill. I am not even sure where to start looking for this, and hoping some of you who know way more about wine than we do might be able to help out. Hoping for something <20 a bottle. Any help is appreciated!

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  1. I have no idea what the person meant be the term "crusher wine." It is a term I've never heard before.

    That said, I would think that a straight Beaujolais -- *not* a Beaujolais-Villages, and certainly not a Cru de Beaujolais -- would fit the bill. These are often served lightly chilled, and show quite well that way. They are also lighter in body, typically, than a Beaujolais-Villages or one of the Crus.

    1. Beaujolais, or perhaps Valpolicella?

      1. Rosè is great in the summer (though I'm the weirdo who'd drink it year round). Do you have a trusted wine store? They can make some good, affordable suggestions.

        1. I was about to post about this Grignolino D'Asti that we had last night. I was not at all familiar with this grape and I think it's one of the nicest, light reds I've had in a while. I'd love to learn more about this but I loved the acid as well as how sort of vegetal I found it. Forgive my limited wine vocabulary but my wife and I found it absolutely delicious!

          1. Yes, as others have alluded to, this role was very often assigned to Beaujolais in the past. It was almost taken for granted in US wine books of 30 or 50 years ago that you'd use Beaujolais in situations like this. Lighter ones are charming chilled, and always well under $20. (A limitation of the US wine industry is that it hasn't been anywhere near as successful producing "light reds" to compete with something like Beaujolais, compared to its success with major red and white varietal wines.)

            If you aren't familiar with the terminology, Beaujolais is a geographical name (as typical in France). The grape variety is Gamay, but that's unimportant as it does not compare closely with domestic analogs even from the same grape, and also the grape variety traditionally doesn't appear on Beaujolais labels.

            The picture became complicated some years back when short-lived offshoot Beaujolais styles made by a particular ferment method (Beaujolais "nouveau") were heavily promoted to the point that they surpassed "real" Beaujolais in sales, and distorted overseas perceptions (in North America for instance) of what "Beaujolais" meant. The "nouveau" wines are essentially an Autumn seasonal specialty, and can be charming to a point, but the limitation is their extreme one-dimensionality: aromas overwhelmed by the "pear-drop" character (term from the Brit. wine trade) imparted by the light acetate esters that the special fermentation technique brings out.

            Also I respectfully disagree with zin1953 in cleaving a large distinction between straight "Beaujolais" and "Beaujolais-Villages." I have plenty of experience of both appellations from many producers; the "Villages" designation restricts the sources and in theory connotes higher quality and perhaps greater weight, but in practice the two categories overlap considerably in style, some producers' Beauj-Villages are lighter than other producers' straight Beauj, and the vintage too is a factor. The "villages" label has been much more common in the US, also, in my experience.

            In the US, I think the most commonly encountered producer anyway (of either designation), by far, is Jadot.

            2 Replies
            1. re: eatzalot

              >>> but in practice the two categories overlap considerably in style, some producers' Beauj-Villages are lighter than other producers' straight Beauj, and the vintage too is a factor. <<<

              I agree 100% . . .

              1. re: zin1953

                You see I was only counseling caution with the broad brush. In fact, at one time I was comparing a lot of "cru" Beaujolais and certain of even those, e.g. Brouilly from some producers, ran lighter than the typical Beauj.-Villages. (For those unacquainted with Beaujolais wines, some sub-districts are entitled to use a more specific name, like Brouilly, on the label, and generally have more specific style and fetch higher prices.)

                Another category, "Beaujolais Supérieur," I've seen only occasionally in the US, I wonder if it's even still used. Traditionally its definition was just slightly more restrictive than plain Beaujolais (10% min. alcohol, rather than 9% -- most Beaujolais were higher anyway -- and a bit lower limit on yield per hectare).