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Thin-skinned grapes make light wines, great drinking

In the last  blog I wrote about tannins in red wine and those (the tannin averse) who don`t like that chalky, dry feeling. I explained how the drying sensation can disappear when pairing with food. How, with age, they can smooth out, the best of them turning to velvet and silk. Well for the most part I was referring to dark red wines made from relatively thick-skinned high-extract grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon – the sort we call “full-bodied”. Today I want to address the role of the lighter thin-skinned, low-tannin red grape varieties – used to produce light reds. These also have low levels of anthocyanin, the compound found in grape skins which give wine colour, which is why they are light, translucent, and, many of them, of beautiful appearance. In sunlight they can be invitingly bright and lustrous, like a deep-coloured pink rose, or a shining ruby. Moreover, made well, they have flavour intensity and fresh acidity, especially in their youth. The best of these can still be of high quality, and they can still live to great age, virtue of the wine`s acidity, balance and terroir. The great red burgundies are testament to this. They often take years to evolve, before they fully express themselves. And the more serious of these – for drinking in the long term – are not without tannins, in truth. However, others are made for immediate consumption, and still others can be drunk young with scope to develop over just a few years.  Pinot Noir, Gamay and Grenache are “the big three”, offering flavour intensity without body weight or notable tannins. They are wide-ranging in styles. from fresh and juicy to savoury; and they are versatile with food, pairing well with both white and red meats, cold cut meats, smoked foods, cheeses and even with fish!   Pinot Noir, for example, is a textbook match with duck but also tuna.  Gamay, the grape of Beaujolais, is perfect with poultry – and fish pie. Grenache – think Mediterranean food – delicious with casseroles, charcuterie, cheeses and yes, fish too, in a spicy red wine sauce.

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