Last time we explored the Gamay grape that produces a very nice light bodied red wine. Like most light bodied red wines, Gamay has delicate aromas, light tannin, plenty of acidity, lower alcohol and subtle fruit flavors that are sometimes described as “restrained” and that are not overpowered by oak aging.
Another example of a light bodied red wine, and certainly the most popular one, is Pinot Noir. The thin skinned Pinot Noir grape results in a wine with low tannin thus making it very easy to drink by itself and with most foods.
The Pinot Noir grape got its start in France. The region of Burgundy is the ancestral home of Pinot Noir (literally small black grapes ) where it is the dominate grape for red wines. So, if you’re opening a bottle of Burgundy (Bourgogne), you are drinking Pinot Noir or a blend that is predominantly Pinot Noir. And, by the way, don't forget that Pinot Noir is a major grape used in the production of Champagne.
All wines are influenced by where the grapes are grown, the types of soil, the daytime and nighttime temperatures, and the overall weather. This combination of factors is called terroir (tay-war) from the French word for earth “terre.” The Pinot Noir grape is especially influenced by its terroir.
Thus you’ll find Burgundy’s wines have finesse and complexity with delicate fruit flavors and soft tannins. These wines will have red fruit flavors of cherry, raspberry and cranberry along with some earthiness that adds hints of soil, leaves and even mushrooms. But don't worry, these are very subtle flavors that blend in well and sometimes even hide behind all the delicate fruit flavors.
In California’s Russian River Valley, Pinot Noir benefits from the warm days and cool nights to produce delicate wines that have flavors of cherry and raspberry along with cola or root beer from its oak aging. But then going a bit north, Oregon’s Willamette Valley produces Pinot Noir that tend to be bigger, bolder wines that are probably better defined as being medium bodied, almost like a Merlot.
New Zealand's regions of Marlborough, Martinborough and Central Otago, Australia and Chile are also producing fine examples of Pinot Noir that are light bodied and very reasonably priced. And if you happen to be buying wine in Italy look for Pinot Nero or in Germany look for Spatburgunder, both of which are Pinot Noir.
As light bodied red wines go, Gamay and Pinot Noir are certainly the most notable and consistent light bodied. But, depending on the terroir and the winemaker’s processes, there are certainly other grapes that can produce wines on the way lighter side. One of these is Sangiovese. The best example is Chianti from Italy. Other grapes used to produce light red wines include Rioja, Cinsaut and Zweigelt.
All these light bodied red wines are best served chilled a bit and go great with a large variety of foods. Enjoy them in a bowl-shaped wine glass that will capture all the great aromas of these amazing grapes. Cheers!