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With the lazy days of summer now here, Simon Woods recommends some warm weather thirst quenchers
Will 2010 be a barbecue summer? Perhaps, perhaps not. But even if the weather is on the soggy side, the coming months should at least provide the warmer weather that will have us favouring white wines over red. Pinot Grigio is very much in vogue at the moment, having elbowed Chardonnay out of the way for many people. I’ve recommended two of each, from countries that maybe wouldn’t be your first port of call. I’d also encourage you to rediscover the pleasures of German Riesling Kabinett – I think of it as perfect cricket match wine. And because you can’t drink white all the time, I’ve included a couple of wines from Beaujolais that will hopefully make you look at this beautiful region in a new light. But we start with two rosés from a place that, for football fans at least, will be very much on our mind this summer…
South African Rose
South Africa is not an obvious first port of call for those in search of rosé wine, but the Cape produces some terrific examples that, although seldom of the shy and retiring type, can still manage an extremely attractive double whammy of punchy fruit with refreshing finish.
TWO TO TRY:
Delheim Pinotage Rose 2009/2010, Stellenbosch (£7.95, Naked Grape)
While the Pinotage grape in red form can arouse intense (and differing) emotions, it’s very adept at making user-friendly rosé. There are two vintages of Delheim’s version available. Curiously, the 2009 seems to be the fresher and lighter wine, with an almost grassy edge to its apple and blackberry flavours. The 2010 is fuller and weightier, with plumper plum and berry flesh. If the 2009 is picnic pink, 2010 is the one for barbecues.
Fairview Rose 2009, Western Cape (£7.99, SA Wines Online)
Mourvèdre, Gamay and Grenache all find their way into this fleshy blend from master winemaker Charles Back, but it’s Shiraz that dominates. It’s about as ripe and full-bodied as rosé gets, with notes of strawberries, plums and cherries. But there’s enough of a juicy tang to the finish to keep it fresh.
Chardonnay is the most widely planted wine in California, with more than 20% of vineyards taken up with the variety. You’d expect, then, that wine merchants in the UK would have a wide range on offer, but that isn’t the case. Why? Quite simply, the cheap ones are not good and the good ones are not cheap. Finding decent examples under £20 is tough and under £10 very tough. But not impossible…
TWO TO TRY:
Tesco Finest Sonoma County Chardonnay 2006 (£9.99, Tesco)
Bully to Tesco for tracking down a wine that steers away from the insipid sweetness and crude oaking of many cheap Californian Chardonnays towards a fresher, cleaner style. It still packs in flavour, with pineapples and peaches to the fore, but backs it up with a kiss, not a bear hug, of toasty oak.
Au Bon Climat Santa Barbara Chardonnay 2008 (£20.50, Berry Bros & Rudd)
Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat is big and hairy; his wines are not. His Pinots and Chardonnays are about as graceful as California gets. This tender young white shows nice tension between minerally acidity and fresh apple, lemon and just-ripe peach flavours, and there are touches of oatmeal and buttered toast from its time in barrel.
Australian Pinot Gris/Grigio
Pinot Gris, Pinot Grigio – what’s the difference? Genetically, nothing. They’re just different names for the same grape. However, just as you can tell something about a wine producer’s intentions from whether they call their wine Shiraz or Syrah, so it is with Pinots Gris and Grigio. Those aiming for something keen and crisp tend to use the Italian spelling of Grigio, while those seeking to produce richer, fuller-bodied wine that nods towards Alsace label theirs Gris. You’ll find both styles in Australia, and very successful they can be too.
TWO TO TRY:
The Gum Pinot Grigio 2009, Adelaide Hills (£10.79, Marks & Spencer)
This is succulent, refreshing, food-friendly wine, with more personality and depth than run-of-the-mill Pinot Grigio. Clean and tangy, there’s pear and peach flesh, with lively lemon and lime acidity on the finish.
Tim Adams Pinot Gris 2009, Clare Valley (£11.50, www.australianwinecentre.co.uk)
A richer, fleshier style of wine, this has aromas of honey and blossom, and a wealth of voluptuous peach, lychee and mango flavour. There’s also a slightly nutty, almost creamy edge, and a touch of sweetness, but enough fresh orange tang to give balance.
German Off-Dry Riesling
‘German’, ‘off-dry’ and ‘Riesling’ are terms that will have some people reaching for the nearest bucket. But forget Liebfraumilch; here we’re talking about dainty wines that offer a vital mix of fruit, sweetness and acidity that nowhere else in the world can match. And at a time when many people are looking to lighter styles of wine for health reasons, it’s worth pointing out that both of these weigh in at just 8.5% alcohol.
TWO TO TRY:
Meulenhof Erdener Treppchen Riesling Kabinett 2008, Mosel (£9.90, Tanners)
A delightful, sprightly style, with lively quince and citrus fruit, mineral notes like wet slate, and racy acidity. The finish is long, fresh, pure and delicate. Delicious now, but with the energy and structure to last a decade or more.
Leitz Rudesheimer Riesling Kabinett 2008, Rheingau (£13.50, www.everywine.co.uk)
It’s warmer than the Mosel in the Rheingau, so the wines tend to be richer, riper and fuller bodied. And yes, there’s a touch more sweetness, roundness and peachy flesh here than in the Meulenhof, with crystallised pineapple and orange to the fore, but still a backbone of vibrant acidity and a touch of mineral.
If your Beaujolais goggles are clouded with wimpy Nouveau, it’s time to think again. Buoyed up by the excellent 2009 vintage, this southern outpost of Burgundy is undergoing a renaissance. In a wine world sometimes dominated by butch, overbearing reds, here’s a place that can provide wines that don’t skimp on flavour yet remain refreshing, even at their most ambitious. The region has 10 ‘crus’ – villages considered a step above the Beaujolais norm – and Morgon is the place to go for those in search of Beaujolais with balls.
Chateau de Pizay Morgon 2009 (£8.99, Majestic Wine Warehouses)
Currently in a young, vibrant and boisterous state, this is already showing the bumptious black cherry and berry fruit, mixed with tangy acidity and ripe tannins, that at this level make 2009 such a promising vintage.
Foillard Morgon Cote de Py 2007 (£22.99, Les Caves de Pyrène, Cooden Cellars, Whole Foods Market)
As good Morgon ages, it turns into an almost feral, meaty version of decent red Burgundy. Jean Foillard’s version is as good as it gets: dense and fruity, perfumed but still with the rustic charm of Beaujolais. This wine is in a very appealing adolescence, but still with its best to come.