One swallow doesn't make a summer...

Raise a glass to the cabernet franc grape from the Loire and the gamay from Beaujolais, two thirst-quenching, juicy summer wines. Anthony Rose picks his favourites, full of redcurrant and raspberry summer-pudding flavours
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Indy Lifestyle Online

Red may be the colour of revolution, but two similar styles of French summer red offer gentle consolation rather than violent solutions for British wine lovers. The cabernet franc grape has its origins in the Renaissance splendour of the Loire and tends to be drunk by not very revolutionary Parisians. The gamay on the other hand co-exists peacefully in the picturesque Beaujolais hills among the more homely peasantry, country cousins of Lyon's thirsty industrial workers. Each in its different way is capable of offering some of the most delightfully juicy and thirst-quenching style of red wine going.

Red may be the colour of revolution, but two similar styles of French summer red offer gentle consolation rather than violent solutions for British wine lovers. The cabernet franc grape has its origins in the Renaissance splendour of the Loire and tends to be drunk by not very revolutionary Parisians. The gamay on the other hand co-exists peacefully in the picturesque Beaujolais hills among the more homely peasantry, country cousins of Lyon's thirsty industrial workers. Each in its different way is capable of offering some of the most delightfully juicy and thirst-quenching style of red wine going.

It's always worth a detour to the Loire's grand Renaissance châteaux which out-château anything Bordeaux has to offer in their sheer, breathtaking grandeur. Crowd-pullers such as Azay-le-Rideau or Chenonceau, can be overrun, particularly in July and August.

You may be better off exploring the markets and sights one of the quieter and still unspoilt little towns such as Beaugency. In a typical Loire restaurant by the river, a delightfully fresh and fruity 2000 Saumur Champigny from Filliatreau, brought to the table lightly chilled, rekindled my enthusiasm for the Loire's thirst-quenching summer reds.

Temperature matters as much as the fruit character. Because the wines of northern France are light to medium-bodied, with fresh acidity and soft in tannins, they don't need oak to bolster the fruit. If they do, it has to be administered with the deftest of touches. Oak is all very well on robust village Rhônes or Australian shiraz which have the power and tannins to cope with barbecues. But for picnics, meals al fresco, fish, salads and poultry, the traditionally unoaked or lightly oaked, savoury reds of northern and central France come into their own. They're a welcome and thoroughly refreshing antidote to the oakier styles of red from further south and the New World.

The best Loire reds come from the medieval Loire River towns of Chinon, Bourgueil, Saint-Nicolas de Bourgueil and Saumur Champigny with the odd gem or two from the Anjou-Villages district. Among the best-value Loire reds on the market, the 1999 Chinon Les Garous from Couly-Dutheil, (£5.49, or buy two, save £1 = £4.99), Majestic, is a soft, enticingly redcurranty charmer. So too is the spicy, capsicum-scented Chinon La Baronnie Madeleine, Couly-Dutheil, (£5.49, Tesco). If you want to try the relative merits of three different towns, Waitrose has three examples, all excellent, in the elegant, blackcurranty 1999 Château de Targé, Saumur Champigny, (£6.99), the delicately herbaceous, capsicum-like 2000 Les Quarterons, Saint-Nicolas de Bourgueil, (£6.79), and, from Chinon's Charles Joguet, an intense, vivid and full-flavoured 2000 Les Petites Roches, (£6.99).

There's another fine Chinon in the 1999 from Chateau de Coulaine (£6.99, Wine Cellar), a pure expression of the cabernet franc grape grown organically with perfumed, summer-pudding fruit characters. Further afield, the London wine merchant Haynes Hanson & Clark (020 7259 0102) currently has an offer of The Finest Domaines of the Loire Valley, whites and reds for summer drinking. The red I'm most keen on is the excellent 1999 Saint Nicolas de Bourgueil, Cuvée Les Malgagnes (£8.40) from Max and Lydie Cognard Taluau, an appetisingly fragrant yet serious cabernet franc densely packed with redcurrant and raspberry fruit flavours. Another consistent favourite, from Loire specialist Yapp Bros in Mere, Wiltshire (01747 860423) is the beguilingly fresh 2000 Saumur Champigny (£7.75) from Paul and Fredrik Filliatreau, a wine of the purest, red berry fruit character.

Over to the east, just south of Burgundy, is a multitude of pretty villages to visit in Beaujolais, cast in the region's famous pierres dorées or golden stone. As in the Loire, there's nothing quite so thirst-quenching as a fresh young beaujolais from bottle, or, better still, fresh from the barrel in pichets or stone jars as the most traditional restaurants still serve it. The thirst-quenching nip of a berry-fruity but soft, young beaujolais such as the 2000 Olivier Ravier, (£4.99, Oddbins), is a perfect match with a rich Lyonnais sausage. In the absence of Lyonnais, try a Cumberland sausage, grilled chicken or lamb kebabs.

The wines of Beaujolais' 10 villages, also known as crus, generally have more oomph to them than run-of-the-mill beaujolais, most of which goes to that inferior species, beaujolais nouveau.

The wines of the crus are worlds apart, and often benefit from ageing for a year or two, after which they can even take on some of the red-fruit delights of red burgundy. Hence the expression "ça pinotte", or, literally, it's starting to taste like pinot noir.

The gamay grape hasn't quite reached that stage in the 1999 Morgon Domaine des Souchons (£8.29), Oddbins, but it's on the way in this richly flavoured, strawberry-fruity, soft red. Equally in George Duboeuf's 1999 Classic Selection Brouilly (£6.99, Sainsbury's), the gamay really comes good in a thoroughly moreish, gushingly gluggy, raspberry fruit-flavoured red. Guaranteed to go down a storm on Bastille Day.

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