The big chill

Roast Chicken with Beaujolais. (Glenn Koenig/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

Combined ShapeCaption
Roast Chicken with Beaujolais. (Glenn Koenig/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

There used to be a saying among wine aficionados that "a wine's first obligation is to be red." Indeed, there is a significant body of wine enthusiasts that clings to that mantra and only drinks red wine -- as an aperitif before dinner; with dinner, even if fish or shellfish are being served; or after dinner, as a nightcap.

To each his own. But my mantra is that a wine's first obligation is to be delicious. The thought of sipping a heavy tannic red wine served at room temperature on a sultry 90-degree summer day is far from appealing. Bring me something cool and refreshing.

For those whose thirst can only be quenched by a red wine, there is a solution. Several categories of red wine are frequently served with a slight chill, particularly in Mediterranean climates.

The most common red wine often served chilled is Beaujolais. It's light in tannins and easy to drink when young, and it has such a burst of bright fruit that it can even can be lip-smacking delicious served cold. The French sometimes even serve it chilled in the dead of winter.

Italy has its own Beaujolais-style wine in dolcetto, which is made in the northern Italian district of Piemonte. Dolcetto is generally lighter than Beaujolais -- at least cru Beaujolais -- but it is fruit-forward and delicious and loses nothing when given 10 to 15 minutes on ice before serving.

Spain also has a serious red wine that benefits from chilling in warm weather: Rioja crianza. The crianza Riojas are lower in the Rioja hierarchy, well behind reserva and gran reserva. They are younger and usually fruitier with lower levels of tannins. Tapas bars throughout the Rioja region often serve crianza by the glass with a slight chill.

So, if you're a die-hard red wine lover and the summer heat's getting to you, here's a tip: Chill.

Best Value 

Wines are rated on a 100-point scale. Wines are chosen for review because they represent outstanding quality or value, and the scores are simply a measure of this reviewer's enthusiasm for the recommended wine.

Gabbiano 2015 Dark Knight, Toscana IGT, Italy ($17) -- Gabbiano's great leap forward over the past two decades has been built around its heart and soul, traditional chianti classico. The next step is a plunge into the trendy world of Super Tuscan red blends. But this is not the usual Super Tuscan plunge, which often is a trophy wine the average person can't afford. Gabbiano's Dark Knight, a blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and sangiovese, is a mere $17. Don't be fooled by the price. This is a bold, full-bodied red that shows layers of black fruits, firm structure and a judicious presence of wood spice. It's a steal. Rating: 90

Tasting Notes 

Dry Creek Vineyard 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, Dry Creek Valley ($26) -- Perhaps one of the finest values in cabernet sauvignon from this vintage, the Dry Creek Cab is a bold, distinctive red that would hold its own in a lineup of much pricier wines. This vintage offers layered black fruits, a warm wood note, firm tannins and a deliciously long, spicy finish. Drink it now, or tuck it away for a few years. Either way, it's a superb California cab at a very modest price. Rating: 93.

Dry Creek Vineyard 2014 Merlot, Dry Creek Valley ($26) -- Dry Creek Valley is one of the warmer sites in Sonoma County, which would seem to be a strike against any merlot vineyards there. But the nights are cool, and the grapes love that. This beauty exhibits freshness and balance, though it's richly layered and complex. It shows notes of plum and blackberry, and a hint of cedar and graphite. Despite its richness and voluptuous palate, there is a firm backbone that indicates it will improve with another three to five years in the cellar. Rating: 92.

Cambria 2016 Rose of Pinot Noir, Santa Maria Valley ($25) -- The rose bandwagon is beginning to overflow. Cambria is on board with a crisp rose of pinot noir that's inviting and refreshing and everything you could want from rose. It has notes of strawberry and citrus, a balancing acidity and a lingering finish with a note of peach. Rating: 90.

Decoy 2014 Red Wine, Sonoma County ($25) -- Duckhorn's second label, Decoy, seldom approaches the level of excellence the big dog achieves on a regular basis, but that's not a knock. The Decoy wines are superb and a fraction of the price. This red blend is heavy on the merlot (52 percent) and shows it, with a smooth, supple palate and seductive aromas of blueberry, boysenberry and cassis. It's well-balanced, and it finishes with a touch of wood spice. It's both delicious and affordable. Rating: 90.

Selection des Vignerons 2015 Moulin-a-Vent, Beaujolais, France ($25) -- Moulin-a-Vent is arguably the richest and most structured of the Beaujolais crus, a reality that is on full display in this excellent vintage. The 2015 Selection des Vignerons is a meaty red that shows nuances of dark cherry and plum, chewy tannins and a floral perfume that blossoms after a bit of time in the glass. Rating: 90.

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