Aug. 8, 2014 at 2:16 PM ET
In the middle of summer, I look for light and lively red wines with vibrant fruit, bright acidity and moderate levels of alcohol – wines that can be cooled down a bit to make them more refreshing in the summer heat.
From my recent tastings, three such wines stand out, all of them from France and all under $20. In fact, two of them are such bargains that you might consider buying them by the case.
The Loire Valley, that long and winding region in central France that ends at the Atlantic Ocean, is full of great values, and one of them is a charming gamay, from a producer known more for white Muscadet.
Domaine les Hautes Noëlles’ 2013 Gamay is an irresistible summer delight, light ruby in color and full of cherry, raspberry and blueberry tastes punctuated by a minerality that gives it structure and interest. Haute Noëlles farms organically and the $13 price makes this one of the summer’s best buys. It’s a great choice for sipping on its own and for white meats and fish.
Bordeaux churns out oceans of red wine, most of it from merlot and cabernet sauvignon, and its volume of moderately priced wines presents both a challenge to sort through them and an endless opportunity to find the gems among them.
One that rises well above the crowd is Château Labrousse’s 2012 Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux, a lovely blend of 80 percent merlot and 20 percent cabernet with a winning $11 price. It shows a classic blackberry core with some blueberry, a touch of semi-sweet chocolate and well-integrated oak. It’s drinking nicely now but will continue to evolve for a couple of years or so. It’s perfect for burgers, steak, lamb and duck.
When it comes to pinot noir, there is no more famous region than Burgundy, but finding good bottles for under $20 is always a challenge.
A good one to try is Domaine des Remparts’ 2011 Bourgogne Côtes d’Auxerre. Côtes d’Auxerre is a small appellation in the northern outposts of Burgundy, not far from Chablis, and this restrained and subtle cool-climate wine is notable for its complexity, with cranberry and cherry notes, earth, minerals and hints of licorice and eucalyptus. This is my style of pinot noir at an affordable $18 price. Enjoy it with meats, both red and white.