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Warm weather calls for cool wines. Not wines you need to stick in the freezer for hours because they’re dreadful at room temperature, but wines that offer freshness and life, as well as intensity. From the southern hemisphere, New Zealand Riesling and Chilean Chardonnay are both styles that increasingly offer a touch of class and restraint. From closer to home, good Beaujolais has always been an excellent summer red, and renewed interest in the region means that quality has never been higher. Finally, good dry sherry remains criminally undervalued, despite being an ideal summer drink both with and without food.
While New Zealand outclasses Australia with Sauvignon Blanc, curiously it’s the opposite way round for Riesling. However, there are several producers aiming to rectify this, and many of them are found in those regions that excel with Pinot Noir. Central Otago has some excellent examples, but these two are from Martinborough on the North Island.
2011 Craggy Range, Te Muna Vineyard, Riesling, Martinborough, New Zealand (winedirect.co.uk)
Intense young wine brimming with bright citrus flavours and touches of orange blossom and slate. It’s off-dry, but the light sweetness is held in check by zesty lime-like freshness. An ideal partner for lightly spiced oriental fishy dishes.
2009 Dry River, Riesling, Martinborough, New Zealand (Justerini & Brooks)
Classy wine from Martinborough’s finest winery, this is clean, dry(ish) and pithy, and still a pup. Give it a chance to uncoil in the glass, and a wealth of juicy orange zest and nectarine flavour emerges, along with a richer, almost toasty character and a pithy mineral undercurrent. Bring on the tuna carpaccio.
Chilean Chardonnay was once a little large and lumpy, full in flavour but not exactly subtle. But the search for cooler places to grow grapes has (literally) borne fruit. Sometimes, this search has meant planting vineyards higher in established regions, while at other times it has led southwards to places such as Bío-Bío. But the most promising regions today are those close to the chilly Pacific Ocean…
2011 Santa Rita, Medalla Real, Chardonnay, Leyda, Chile (Majestic)
…such as Leyda. Some of the vineyards here lie within a couple of miles of the coast, and there’d be many more of them, were it not for the dearth of water – it has to be pumped in from a few miles away. This shows the effort is worthwhile. It’s fresh and lively, with lime, peach and dried apricot flavours combining with creamy cashew richness. Lobster please.
2011 Arboleda, Chardonnay, Aconcagua Costa, Chile (The Wine Library)
The Aconcagua Valley is best known for its sturdy reds, but this lithe beauty comes from the cooler coastal part of the region. This is delicious, grown-up wine with a little toasty oak, but the main event is the lush but fresh lemon, hazelnut and oatmeal flavour.
For the summer months, young, dry styles of sherry such as fino and manzanilla come into their own. The key to getting them at their youngest and freshest is to buy from places where there’s a rapid turnover of stock. So if the bottle is dusty, leave it on the shelf. And if it’s not, take it home, chill it and then polish it off with whatever nibbles you fancy.
Marks & Spencer Manzanilla, Spain (Marks & Spencer)
M&S has a very decent Manzanilla Pasada in half-bottles for £7.49, but to be honest, on a hot summer day, I’d be just as happy with this tasty younger sibling. Really splendid tangy style, classically nutty and salty, with a touch of green-apple freshness. Bring on the toasted almonds.
Tanners Mariscal Manzanilla, Spain (tanners-wines.co.uk)
Hidalgo is the producer of manzanilla, and this bottling for Tanners doesn’t disappoint. It combines a bracing briny bite with flavours of roasted nuts, apple and citrus, and leaves your mouth wanting more. This is as good with shellfish as it is with jamón and other salty snacks.
Aided by a trio of excellent vintages from 2009 to 2011, Beaujolais has muscled its way back onto the drinking radar of many. To see the best of the region, seek out wines from the 10 Beaujolais Crus. Here, the granite-rich soil adds class and concentration to the exuberant flavours, but never so much that the wines lose their joyful exuberance.
2008 Louis Jadot, Château des Jacques, Moulin-à-Vent, Beaujolais, France (Harrods)
This is about as firm and chunky as Beaujolais gets, yet while it does still have a backbone of earthy tannins and fresh acidity, there’s more than enough plummy raspberry and blackberry flesh to balance. Try it with grilled meats and hard cheeses.
2010 Domaine de Colette, Morgon, Beaujolais, France (halifaxwinecompany.com)
Morgon has a reputation for being one of the sturdiest crus, sometimes needing five years or more to reach its peak. However, this gem is good now, combining redcurrants and red berries with a violet fragrance and fresh, slightly earthy finish. A wine for barbecues.
This feature was published in the summer 2013 issue of Square Meal Lifestyle.