From season to season what we fancy eating and drinking varies so much. Recently we’ve had some of the hottest weather ever recorded in the UK and some people even admitted they didn’t fancy drinking wine. Not so in our household I’m happy to say – there will always be a wine suitable for any occasion. That’s the joy of the subject. A general pointer for summer wines is to go for something lighter and more cooling with plenty of refreshing acidity and more gentle alcohol (although big hearty wines have a place too, as long as they’re freshly balanced).
I have a weakness for French classics, notably Muscadet as it ticks a lot of summery boxes – not surprising for a wine produced near the Atlantic coast and a Gallic holiday favourite. Crisp acidity and light fresh fruit make it the perfect thirst quencher or partner for fish and seafood. It’s particularly happy with moules frîtes, oysters or fish and chips. Better examples are aged ‘sur lie’ (on the lees) and have more flavour and a creamier texture. Some even have a tangy, slightly salty finish which is surprisingly tasty. Pinot Grigio lovers should branch out and try them. Look out for Champteloup Muscadet sur lie (£7.99 Waitrose). A more serious example is the award winning Château de Cléray Muscadet sur lie from leading producer Sauvion (£9.99 Majestic).
Riesling is another great summer option especially from cool German regions like the Mosel. Think of a Cox’s apple: crisp and cleansing with satisfying flavours and delicately balanced sweetness and acidity – great off-dry German Rieslings can be described in the same way. What’s more, their lower alcohol (e.g. 8.5%) make them wonderfully gluggable in hot weather. Perfect for an afternoon in the garden and just the thing for a seafood salad (and fabulous with spicy Thai or Vietnamese dishes). Dr Loosen Riesling is from one of Germany’s best producers and a bargain at £7 from Sainsbury’s. If you’re a fan of New Zealand Sauvignon, give it a go – aromatic, deliciously fruity, but more racy and fantastic value for money. It’s what we drank on the most stifling day of the heatwave.
For me, rosé is the summer wine par excellence and top of the tree is chic, delicate Côtes de Provence. In recent years some producers have focused too much on limiting skin contact for the merest hint of colour with rather watery results, but great examples include Mirabeau Rosé (£9.29) produced by Brit Stephen Cronk (his website is very entertaining) and the more subtle Esprit de Buganay (£8.24 until 21/7/2015), both from Waitrose. Spain produces fuller flavoured versatile rosés superbly suited to Mediterranean food. The delicious Viña Sastra Rosado from the Ribera del Duero to the west of Madrid would be hard to beat with a picnic or barbecue, let alone a selection of tapas (Fashion and Wine £12).
You may not realise it, but many summery reds are best served lightly chilled. We’re not talking about big tannic bruisers, but softer convivial wines like Beaujolais made from the Gamay grape, which is the most immediately charming. It’s particularly at ease with French bistro fare like charcuterie or steak frîtes, but its understated character makes it very easy company. Try Louis Jadot Beaujolais Villages Combe aux Jacques (£9.99 Waitrose). Bold Mediterranean reds also fit the bill with their ripe garrigue-scented fruit such as Mlle Jones Fitou (£13.99 Majestic). One of Majestic’s best (since Majestic took over Naked who have been handling Katie Jones’s wines), this beauty is almost tailor made for barbecues or smart grills and roasts and made by a very inspiring Brit in France. Tip top.
Hard to believe I know, but Lambrusco is making a big come back (especially in New York) – not the cloying sickly sweet fizz of old, but the authentic dry version the Italians drink themselves. It would be great with a barbecue and I’ve really enjoyed it with duck, cherry and beetroot salad. It would also be amazing to sip while nibbling some prosciutto. Try Vecchio Moro Lambrusco Grasparossa Rinaldini from the Wine Society at just £10.50. Retrotastic!