In: Light Reds. Out: TBD.
Kicking off our celebration of light red wines as we gaze into the crystal ball for 2023.
I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions, but I love the annual slew of In-and-Out lists that people post on social media. A solid In-and-Out list works like this one below, by author David Lebovitz, which moves from hopeful (In: Pineau des Charentes, Out: Aperol) to obvious (In: Good Vinegar; Out: Bad Vinegar) to actual trendspotting (In: Buckwheat Desserts; Out: Breakfast Cereal Desserts).
Are these things true? Does it matter? The beauty of an In-and-Out list is that it’s impossible to double check at the end of the year. In December 2023, who will be able to verify that Salted Butter or the Macchiato did indeed usurp the place of Unsalted Butter or the Latte in our collective consciousness?
My favorite In-and-Out list of the season has been from Helen Rosner, The New Yorker’s food writer. Her recent In-and-Out is a work of art. Note the hopeful, the obvious, and the trendspotting. Masterfully, Rosner also adds in the contrarian element of declaring certain popular things as “out” (Air fryers, small plates, Buffalo sauce).
To be honest, what I love most about Rosner’s list is that she name-checks “Weird pestos” as In (casting aside boring cacio e pepe as Out). Weird pestos, of course, have a soft spot in my heart. In fact, a few years back, I wrote a long essay on non-traditional pesto (“God and Pesto are Dead”), including the outrage from the people of Genoa when I published a pesto recipe made with arugula, pumpkin seeds, and aged gouda. I actually ended up being invited to speak at a pesto conference in Genoa to defend my heretical pesto.
Thinking about weird pesto and trends sent my mind drifting toward the light red wines that are often served with pesto in Liguria, particularly Rossese di Dolceacqua. In the U.S., we don’t get a lot of Ligurian wines. Sometimes you see whites made from pigato and its twin vermentino. Rarer to find are the reds made from rossese (called tibouren across the border in Provence), but they are among my favorite wines in Italy. Rossese wines are usually light-bodied, fruity, and unoaked. Yet the good expressions offer something more, a backbone of savory, herbal notes, good structure, and appealing acidity. I popped open a couple of Rossese di Dolceacqua during the holidays and was transported back to my trip to Genoa.
Inspired, I decided that 2023 would be the Year of the Light Red. Light reds are more drinkable, pair better with food, and just hit different. But these have always been a hard sell for Americans (In fact, I’ve actually seen it suggested that light reds were “un-American”). Over the next couple of weeks we’ll be exploring this world of light reds, made from under-the radar varieties such as grignolino, listán negro, and more.
Picks For Pesto
The wines of Liguria are still among Italy’s great undiscovered gems, and rossese is a favorite to pair with the cuisine of Genoa. Here are two Ligurian reds you can easily find and easily enjoy. These are wines to pair with pesto, chickpea pancakes, caviar, butter candles or anything else on my In-and-Out list.
Light, spicy red, full of pepper, anise, that’s full of fresh blueberry, blackberry, and spiced plum. Fun but serious, and an amazing wine to pair with all sorts of foods.
Bright, vibrant, juicy, with notes of tart cherry and cranberry, balanced by savory, herbal undertones. The epitome of a light red and a perfect pesto wine.