For lighter but still-substantial red wines that can be cooled down in the heat of summer, France’s Loire Valley offers excellent choices, rivaled only by the wines of Beaujolais. The Cabernet Franc grape is in its element here, especially in a cluster of central Loire appellations.
Chinon is perhaps the most familiar of them, but another one worth getting to know is nearby Saumur-Champigny. The limestone-rich soils of Saumur-Champigny give its wines depth and elegance, and many of them are under-$20 values.
This summer I’m enjoying the 2017 Saumur-Champigny “Tradition” from Domaine la Bonnelière. This $15 wine is made by Anthony and Cédric Bonneau, brothers whose father created the domaine in 1972.
Their “Tradition” cuvée is aged in stainless-steel tanks, which produces a relatively light, refreshing wine in which the fruit speaks for itself. The fruit is gorgeous, marked by aromas and tastes of red and dark berries (especially raspberry and cranberry) and violets, and punctuated by a hint of milk chocolate, minerals and a decent amount of tannic “chewiness.”
Because there is no exposure to oak, the wine lends itself beautifully to a moderate chill, which brings out the fruit and made it the perfect wine on a hot evening with grilled chicken and the season’s first corn and string beans from one of our local farm stands.
This is the kind of wine I love drinking in the bistros of Paris with just about anything on the menu. Lucky for us, we can enjoy the experience right at home with this fun and refreshing wine that will accompany everything from red meats to grilled fish. With alcohol at a lean 12.5 percent, it goes down easily — and makes a second bottle tempting.