Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, Scottish gin and food-friendly fizz, warming reds and vintage port: here’s what to drink as the weather turns cooler.
Words: Giles Fallowfield, Ben McCormack and Mark de Wesselow
Scottish gin? Why not? Especially when it’s good as good as this. The local Speyside landscape provides the personality, with lots of botanicals foraged from the Cairngorms National Park: rowan berry, heather and dandelion, to name but a few. These add fresh floral and herbaceous notes to a naturally citrus nose, while the gin itself is crisp, dry and aromatic. Drop in a wedge of red apple to a G&T for a seasonal finish.
The Champagne house originally slated its 2004 vintage to be released before the ’02 until it became clear that the wine had yet to offer up its true character. It is very much revealed now, however: a gorgeous confection of ginger and plum on the nose and honeyed brioche on the palate, all illuminated by a bright shaft of citrus clarity – so much so that Krug’s oenologist, Julie Cavil, has given 2004 the nickname of ‘luminous freshness’. Drink it now with salmon tartar or fragrant Thai fish, or put in the cellar for the next 30 years.
Essentiel is Piper’s elegant ‘new’ version of the regular non-vintage, with a lower dosage (it’s extra brut in style) and longer ageing on its lees. It’s impressive stuff. The label reveals the date it was cellared – Mis en Cave 2012 – and thus the harvest base for the wine (2011), since when it has developed aromas of almond and ripe yellow fruit and a silky mid-palate texture. Match the Champagne’s salty iodine note to new-season Colchester native oysters.
Reserve du Couvent, Château Ksara 2014
A wonderful new vintage of this spicy, Rhône-like Lebanese wine with a sensuous nose of cloves and autumn fruits and a rustic charm. The palate is juicy and flavoursome but it’s balanced by fine, well-integrated tannins and there’s a nice long finish. Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley has a kind of exotic resonance, too, that feels very appealing as the nights get darker and the weather turns colder. A great autumn wine to drink with game or a midweek supper of bangers and mash.
Taylor’s Quinta de Vargellas 2002
Bit of a treat this one, but so, so good, and you don’t have to finish the bottle all in one go (a bottle will last for a few days once opened). Lots of violet and mature raisined fruit aromas on the nose, with concentrated rich and sweetly spiced flavours on the palate. A subtle shaft of minerality is a pleasant surprise; a big exuberant finish isn’t. We tried it with creamy cheeses at Berners Tavern, but why not road-test it before Christmas at home. Just make sure you decant it a couple of hours in advance.
Looking for even more cocktail recipes? Then scroll down for our selection of summer sips from August.
This premium artisan gin from Cambridgeshire is distinguished by its pale-pink colour, a result of macerating the base spirit with local raspberries, whose flavour softens the natural sharpness of the gin and provides a delicate foil to its botanicals. Try it in this uplifting summery G&T, whose mint garnish makes for a refreshing finish.
50ml Pinkster gin
Fever-Tree tonic, to top up
1 fresh raspberry
1 mint sprig, smacked
Half-fill a highball glass with ice. Pour over the gin, then top up with the tonic. Garnish with the raspberry and mint sprig.
£31.75 (70cl), 31dover.com
Taylor’s Chip Dry Port
Chip Dry is a crisp, elegant white port whose fresh fruit flavours and complex nuttiness are accompanied by a dry, peppery finish. Although we tend to associate port with winter, white port makes an addictively delicious summertime apéritif – and a great-value alternative to Pimm’s or G&T that’s also lower in alcohol. Serve with olives or salted almonds for a refreshing summertime sip.
White port and tonic
75ml Taylor’s Chip Dry Port
150ml Fever-Tree tonic
1 mint sprig
1 lemon peel twist
Half-fill a large wine glass with ice. Add the port, then pour over the tonic. Garnish with the mint and citrus twist.
£13.99 (75cl), majestic.co.uk
H by Hine
Cognac is another fantastic year-round tipple – you already know about its soothing winter properties, but instead of shelving the bottle for summer, try a measure served over ice and topped up with soda. Or, mix cocktail-friendly H by Hine into this twist on the classic Champagne cocktail courtesy of drinks writer Neil Ridley – its delicate floral notes pair beautifully with the fruity sweetness of the apple juice (leave out the honey if you prefer a drier cocktail).
The Hine Line
37.5ml H by Hine VSOP
37.5ml good-quality cloudy apple juice
1 teaspoon of light honey
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Champagne, to top up
Half-fill a Boston shaker with ice and add the Cognac, apple juice and honey (if using). Shake well, then pour into a Champagne flute. Top up the glass with Champagne, then garnish with the bitters.
£45.24 (70cl), masterofmalt.com
This article was modified 13 September 2017