It’s time to clear some space in your fridge for a chillable red, a nice bottle of fizz or a crisp white. Simon Woods recommends styles that make perfect summer drinking
While it’s definitely an all-year-round tipple, sparkling wine comes into its own in summer. It takes pride of place at weddings, transforms picnics into feasts and is an essential ingredient of
the best barbecues – if you haven’t experienced the child-like delight of firing the cork over the hedge into next-door’s garden you really are missing out. Champagne remains the king of fizzes,
but it no longer has a monopoly on the genre where quality is concerned. Spain, northern Italy and various parts of the New World now boast several wines that, although not of Krug quality, are
Two to try:
Lindauer Special Select Sparkling (£10, widely available) from New Zealand is a fairly weighty wine with a toasty smile in which the chocolate and raspberry edges of Pinot Noir combine
with the pineapple nuances of Chardonnay to enjoyable effect.
Bisol Crede 2006 (£13.35, Bibendum) is a fresh apple-and-pear-tinged prosecco, soft and almost creamy, with a refreshing herbal twist to the finish. Prosecco is what the
Venetians drink and its gentle, juicy style is winning many friends here too.
Anyone who remembers Don Cortez, Corrida and dubious bottles labelled ‘Sauterne’ could be forgiven for giving white wines from Spain the cold shoulder. At best they were bland and fruitless, at
worst… Well, let’s not go there. However, Spanish wine of all colours has undergone a revolution in the past 15 years and the whites in particular have improved beyond all recognition. Some
producers have chosen to follow the international route by planting grapes such as Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, but the most interesting wines are made from local talent. The happiest hunting
ground for modern Spanish whites is Galicia in the northwest, where the sea brings a bracing freshness to the wines. The ‘it’ grape is Albariño, which offers juicy fruit with a ginger-like tang –
think Viognier with a little more finesse.
Two to try:
Bodegas Gerardo Méndez Albariño do Ferreiro Rias Baixas 2006 (£13.99, Moreno Wines) is a rich but dry Albariño with a spicy, honeyed richness to its apple and citrus
Val de Sil Godello Sobre Lias Valdeorras 2006 (£10.75, Laymont & Shaw) is made from the less known but equally promising Godello grape. It has musky peach and apricot
flavours, floral nuances and a lively finish. Both are very seafood-friendly.
Bruising, beefy reds are all very well in winter, but the warmer weather of summer calls for something a little less aggressive. That doesn’t mean skimping on flavour however. Lighter wines can
be just as complex and satisfying as their brawnier counterparts – think St Julien versus Californian Cabernet, or Crozes Hermitage versus Barossa Shiraz. One of the best grapes for lighter
styles of red wine is Gamay. Its home turf is Beaujolais and those prepared to work their way up the scale from Nouveau will find some terrific, sappy, refreshing wines, especially among the crus
– the 10 best villages in the region.
Two to try:
Manoir du Carra Moulin à Vent 2006 (£12.50, Theatre of Wine) is about as chunky as Beaujolais gets, and although its smoky red cherry, raspberry, violet and fresh earth
characters make it extremely tasty now, anyone who can resist drinking it for another couple of years will be very pleasantly surprised.
Te Mata Woodthorpe 2007 (£9.99, The Wine Society) is a lighter Gamay from New Zealand. Its just-ripe red fruit flavours, toasty overtones and fresh, fragrant finish make for a
delicious, chillable summer red.
The ABC – Anything But Chardonnay – faction seems to have quietened its protests in recent times. It’s not hard to see why. The OTT style that prompted the backlash, in which levels of oak,
ripeness and alcohol achieved new heights, is thankfully on the way out, leaving lighter, crisper, friendlier wines. If you still find the presence of oak in Chardonnay a turn-off, then the good
news is that there are several wood-free versions to be found. The first port of call for these should be Chablis. It’s one of those default wines that many people order without thinking in a
restaurant, but good versions are seriously good, and are among the best bargains to be found in Burgundy.
Two to try:
Jean Marc Brocard Chablis 1er Cru Quintessence Minéral 2006 (£15.99, selected Tesco) offers lithe, lively citrus and quince flavours that are underpinned by a streak of
mineral-rich acidity – a classic lunchtime white, for those who still drink at lunchtime.
Omrah Unoaked Chardonnay 2006 (£9.49, Oddbins) from Western Australia manages to be exuberantly creamy fruity – mandarins, melons and pineapples – but still has a modicum of
zesty restraint. Not Chablis, but still tasty Chardonnay.
South African Chenin Blanc
South Africa may currently be making a splash with its Sauvignon Blanc, but it is Chenin Blanc that dominates the vineyards. Despite it being a quality grape – think of the great sweet wines of
the Loire – it was grown in the Cape for quantity rather than quality, with much of the production heading straight for the distillery. Only a few wineries, such as Nederburg with its rich, heady
Edelkeur, treated it with any respect. However, a decline in brandy consumption has caused producers to think again about Chenin. Although the bulk wine image still lingers, there are growing
numbers that are prepared to take it more seriously, for both dry and sweet wines.
Two to try:
Bosman Family Vineyards Chenin Blanc 2007 (£9, Yeo and Co) sees Chenin Blanc in precise, dry, unoaked form, which lets the musky pear, melon and grapefruit characters and hints
of nuts and honey shine out.
Ken Forrester The FMC Chenin Blanc 2006 (£16.99, Waitrose) is a different beast, richer and off-dry with a kiss of oak adding toasty weight to the lush apple crumble, nut and
Editorial feature from Square Meal Lifestyle Magazine Summer 2008