Officially, about a month of summer still remains on the calendar, but few would argue with Labour Day on the horizon the end of the long warm days is near. To prepare for the coming cool evenings and to celebrate the roots of Labour Day as it approaches, I wanted to explore my latest list of "workhorse" reds you can enjoy all fall but are great for barbecuing in the meantime.
The job of any workhorse red is to be widely available, tasty and affordable - no easy task in the modern wine business. Sources of such wines lead us to Argentina for malbec and malbec blends, Spain for garnacha-based labels, the south of France for grenache/syrah blends, Australia for shiraz and shiraz blends, California for zinfandel and even Italy for sangiovese cabernet blends.
The styles all differ but the texture and tannins for the most part are soft and round and inviting. They're often better with food, usually something like grilled chicken or beef dishes or a piece of cheese. The protein helps to mitigate any youthful tannins or rough edges that can dry out your palate, especially in the finish.
Two Spanish red blends get the ball rolling, beginning with the Castillo de Liria Bobal & Shiraz 2007 ($9) . The bobal takes its name from the Latin bovale referencing the shape of a bull's head. In fact, the wine is a bit gamy with roasted pepper, tobacco, herbal, cherry aromas and flavours but with a soft, easy-sipping demeanour. A barbecue red at a fair price.
Look for a soft, dry pleasant entry from Lujuria 2006 Merlot - Monastrell ($10) , also from Spain, a 70/30 blend of monastrell (mourvèdre) and merlot. The flavours mix coffee, dark chocolate, plummy red fruit with spice and smoke throughout. Good value and fun to drink. Love the price.
Serious oenophiles should gravitate to the Espelt Sauló Garnacha Cariñena 2007 ($16) . It's awash in a black raspberry nose with bits of leather and a warm palate with meaty, peppery, cedar, black cherry and raspberry flavours. An excellent food wine from a winery whose vineyards border the great Spanish restaurant, El Bulli.
France remains the master of the red blend especially in the south. Languedoc is the home of Chateau de Cabriac 2006 ($15) , a mix of syrah, grenache, carignan and mourvèdre that over-delivers for its price. Expect a dry palate with smoky, plum, liquorice root, resin, peppery, cedar flavours. Think grilled flank steak or a fall stew for the perfect match.
A favourite summer discovery is the Louis Bernard Côtes du Rhône Rouge 2007 ($15) , a blend of grenache, syrah and mourvèdre from the villages of the Côtes du Rhône. I love the supple, smooth palate and the big black cherry, liquorice, peppery, mineral flavours. Grilled sausages will take this excellent red to an even higher level.