Columnist Giles Luckett recommends some sensational summer sippers available locally.
Summer is a brilliant season for wine lovers. There’s nothing quite like being able to sit in the sun and sip some time away in the company of a diverting glass or two. Over the last 30 years, I’ve written dozens of best of the summer wines columns, most of them under strict deadlines. Not because of pressure from my editor, but because spells of good weather have often lasted about as long as a bottle of Graham Beck Rosé (Majestic £11.99) lasts in my house. The current two-person record being 14 minutes and 18 seconds.
That certainly isn’t a problem this year. And with the forecast for our part of the country giving better odds on cloudy with a chance of meatballs than rain, here are some summer sipping wine recommendations that should bring a smile to even parched lips.
First up, a fizz. I’ve always been passionate about sparkling wines, and the last few years have proved a golden age. When I joined the wine trade, Harrods’ wine department reflected the mood of the times by listing a wide range of Champagnes but virtually no sparkling wines.
This was great for tastings – the evening we spent tasting every Champagne in the shop was one of the best tastings I’ve ever attended – but woeful for the wallet. Good (drinkable) sparkling wine was rarer than a hen’s dentures, but how things have changed…
South Africa, Australia, California, France (who knew?), and Italy all offer great tasting; great value fizzes these days. For this column, though, I’m going to recommend a homegrown wine, the Denbies Whitedowns (Waitrose £18.99). This is everything you could wish for in a sparkling wine. From the fresh, floral, white berry nose to the refined, zesty palate with its flavours of pears, citrus, and peach stones, it’s complex as it is and refreshing.
There's nothing quite like being able to sit in the sun and sip some time away in the company of a diverting glass or two.
Next up, the first of two whites. CUNE is one of the great names of Rioja. Wines such as Vina Real and Imperial are the stuff of wine trade legend, and even their entry-level Crianza (Sainsbury’s £7.50. No, seriously £7.50, I couldn’t believe it either) is brilliant. Their whites can be just as compelling, and the Cune White Rioja is deep joy Barrel fermented; this traditionally styled white Rioja offers masses of peach, red apple, and honeydew melon fruit, with overtones of spicy vanilla. Versatile enough to partner with white meats, fish, or creamy cheeses, it’s also lovely on its own.
My second white couldn’t be more different. It’s the Wine Society’s Vihno Verde (£6. ) Portugal’s wines have been a trade secret for years, though attention has focused on the reds. I’ve had quite a few of their whites of late, and if you’re looking for value and excellence, look no further. The Society’s Vihno Verde is a wonderfully pure, clean, fresh-tasting wine that is light, delicate, and has a touch of spritz to it Fruit-driven; it has a pear and almond flavour to it that finishes with a twist of lemon. The perfect summer evening sipper or elegant aperitif.
If you’re looking for a serious rosé for summer sipping, I can wholeheartedly recommend the Domaine des Echardieres (£9.50). This is made by Vineyard Productions, which is headed up by Liam Stevenson, the youngest ever Master of Wine and someone who holds world records for rowing across the Atlantic. Hero worship is due, especially when you try his wines. The dedication to the cause of creating great wines with a ‘taste of place’ shines through this delicious Loire Valley wine. Made from Cabernet Franc, Gamay, and Malbec, it offers an intriguing blend of blackberries and green peppers from the Cabernet, cherries from the Gamay, and a richness and a hint of ripe plums from the Malbec. This is an outstanding choice in a cluttered and often disappointing rosé market, where presentation counts for more than contents.
And so to the reds. My first choice is a perennial summer favourite of mine, the Zuccardi Los Olivos Malbec (£11.50 Oxford Wine Company). I’m a massive fan of Argentinean Malbec, and Zuccardi is one of the finest producers of it. Inky purple, the sumptuous nose is a combination of stewed black fruits, offset by notes of raspberries and rose petals. In the mouth, it’s generous, full, multi-layered, and offers everything from blackcurrants and chocolate to red berries and charcoal. This is an absolute must for barbecued red meats.
And finally, another wine from Liam, the Petite Immortelle (£11.95 Vin Cognito). This hails from the South of France’s Roussillon region and is a traditional blend of Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, and Carignan. Earlier this year, I tried this with its big brother, the Immortelle (£20.95 Dawe Wines), and I knew that both would make my top ten wines of the year. The Petite Immortelle is approachable now (its big brother is a beast that needs time to show its full beauty) and offers up masses of sweetly toned black fruits, plum skins, smoke, herbs, and a long minerally finish. This is another outstanding wine from a winemaking team that is doing some fantastic things.
Until next time...
Well, that’s me, for now at least. Given a following wind and an available glass, I’ll be back soon with a few words on affordable fizz.