There's no question that most of the classic styles of red wine are best suited for pairing with red meats. Whether the primary grape is cabernet sauvignon, malbec, or syrah, the darker, stronger reds simply taste better with foods that are high in animal protein and fats. These food components can tame the most ferocious reds by making them seem lighter in texture and by smoothing their leathery tannins. Being lighter and less tannic on average, white and rosé wines have more natural affinity for lighter fare, like seafood and vegetable dishes. There is a solution, though, for those red wine lovers who are eating lighter but for whom drinking whiter wines sounds like cruel and unusual punishment: young, midweight European reds. Europe's winemaking traditions are more food-oriented than those of the new world, which helps explain why these wines don't always taste their best on first sip. Designed to serve as "sauce on the side" for the region's cuisine, such wines can seem too thin or tart at first blush but typically bloom in flavor and texture after the first bite of a suitable dish. This Sicilian red made with the nero d'avola grape is a great example. The fiery peppered blackberry flavors of its forceful grape won't disappoint fans of bolder reds or fall short with red meats. But its lively acidity and absence of barrel spice will allow it to flatter vegetarian and pescatarian dishes, too, particularly those with a Mediterranean slant that feature olives, tomatoes, and green herbs.
Villa Pozzi Nero d'Avola, Sicily, Italy. $9.99 (regularly $11.99; sale price through Nov. 4). PLCB Item #6675.