• Two Thumbs Up
• Aromas of fresh dark berries, cola, leather, violets and smoke. Pleasant, smooth flavors of strawberry and ripe raspberry give a red licorice quality. It finishes with something reminiscent of a spicy cherry cola.
Sometimes only a red wine will do. Even in the throes of summertime heat and humidity, you gotta have a light, fruity wine that wouldn’t mind 20 minutes in the ice cooler hanging out with its white and pink brothers and sisters.
You could go with the tried and true red heroes of summer, like a barbera or a Beaujolais-Village, but why not be a little daring and edgy? How about a wine from eastern Washington State?
OK, Washington wines are not that off-the-hook risky, but the wine I have in mind is a little different. But before I get to that, why oh why do we have a problem with red wines when summertime rolls around anyway?
Two reasons: tannins and alcohol.
Let me paint a picture for you with regard to tannins. You are poolside. It’s a million degrees out and the wooden deck burns your feet. You’re sweating (or glowing, if you are a Southern Belle) and need some relief. How about a nice cup of strong tea, no ice, no sugar, no lemon? No good, right? Why is that?
Tea has a ton of tannins in it. Tannins are a pretty complex polyphenol that loves to get it on with proteins. When poly gets her arms bonded to proteins, they precipitate out of solution. That drying, puckery feeling you get in your mouth when you drink tea—or big, red wines—are tannins doing what they do best, binding with proteins in your saliva and making them fall out of solution. This makes you feel like you’ve got cotton in your mouth.
Yuck-o, right? All that, plus tannins have a bitter taste.
That’s why iced tea has so many accompaniments to balance out the effects of tannins. Tannins in wine come from grape skins and they’re especially abundant in red grapes. Depending on the type of grape and how long a wine’s fermenting juice remains in contact with its skins determines how tannic the wine is.
The 2008 14 Hands Hot to Trot Red Blend went from grape juice to wine in less than a week, so it soaked up some tannins, but that is not a particularly long fermentation. Some fermenting red wines can spend a month with grape skins swimming around in them. Are those wines tannic? Yes, epic tannins!
As for alcohol, I’m not sure such a long explanation is required. You ever hear of doing shots of rum on the beach? No? You ever hear of chilled, fruity drinks with shots of rum in them? Yes, that makes a lot of sense. It’s not that you completely want to avoid the inebriating effects of the alcohol; you just want it in a package that provides relief and pleasure on a hot day. A slug of burning alcohol offers only pain.
Slightly cooled red wines with fresh, fruity flavors are just the ticket. If a wine is not particularly high in alcohol, all the better.
So whether you choose a wine the Hot to Trot or even a beefy, high-alcohol, high tannin California cabernet sauvignon, don’t be afraid to dunk the bottle in ice water for a few minutes. This will minimize the heat of the alcohol and amp up the wine’s fruitiness, so you can better enjoy your red wines all summer long.
Gil Kulers is a certified wine educator and a wine consultant for Tower Beer, Wine & Spirits. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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