Many people won’t consider their wine drinking as something that’s influenced by the seasons, but just as winter seems ‘right’ for powerful reds, so summer cries out for crisp white, rosé and lighter red wines. I suspect that seasonal drinking is partly dictated by our primal instincts to have something warming and rich in the cold of winter, and something cool and refreshing in the heat of summer, but it is also to do with the foods we eat and where we eat them. Winter casseroles, game and comfort foods are all potential soul mates for the big reds, whilst the salads, seafood and lighter meals of summer are made for whites – eaten outdoors if we are lucky enough.
So now in mid September, as the last chance of some warm Indian summer weather beckons before we batten dow the hatches for Autumn, here is my round up of some cool summer wines that I didn’t manage to review in July or August, with the emphasis on low to moderate alcohol (a few glasses of a 15 per cent Aussie blockbuster with lunch in the garden will mean saying goodbye to a whole afternoon) and affordable pricing.
La Gioiosa (Italy) Sparkling Pinot Grigio Brut
Now if this doesn’t please the crowds at a garden party (or any other kind of party) I’ll eat my hat. From a Prosecco producer in the Veneto, this 11.5% alcohol fizz pours with plenty of foamy mousse and an immediate aroma of crisp, firm pears and a gentle peach-down quality. On the palate it is just off-dry, with mouth-filling fruit that is all joyously ripe orchard fruits and delicate citrus, with enough acidity to freshen up the finish. £5.99, The Co-op
Stone Road (France) Chardonnay Colombard 2005
This Vin de Pays wine is our bargain basement choice. An exemplary, crisp, but richly accented white with 11.5% alcohol, it has a mealy, slightly buttery quality on the nose, with honeysuckle, crisp apple fruit and a hint of pineapple. On the palate it floods across the tongue with mandarin orange acidity and a lovely weight of very ripe fruit suggesting mango and nectarine. The red partner to this wine, a Shiraz, is also a great buy. £4.49, The Co-op
Lamura (Italy) Grillo Sicilia
Grillo is little known as a wine grape, with most of the plantings in Sicily finding their way into the fortified wine Marsala. This lovely, sprightly white is unoaked, but late-harvesting and lees-ageing have added a honeyed suggestion of luscious, creamy fig and barley sugar on the nose, with a palate of intensely sweet fruit that is all ripeness and richness, with a bone dry acidity flushing though to leave this full, rich, but crisp in the finish. £4.59, Oddbins.
Quinta de Simaens (Portugal) Vinho Verde 2005
A very superior Vinho Verde from northern Portugal, at a seriously bargain price, this blend of Pederna, Avesso and Trejadura comes from a single vineyard and bursts from the glass with exotic aromas of lychee, blossom and crunchy, fresh citrus fruit. On the palate it has a wonderful concentration, with an extremely focused, pure core fruit, gently wrapped in a vibrant, juicy acidity. Delicious, and although 13.0% ABV, it wears it well. £5.49, Waitrose.
Bodegas Garciarevalo (Spain) Tres Olmos Verdejo 2004
Garciarevalo is a family-owned company that is today managed by Antonio Arévalo, grandson of the founder. Its 40 hectares of vineyards are located in the heart of the Rueda region, a hot-spot for clean, vibrant whites, especially ones made from Sauvignon Blanc and this grape, Verdejo. The nose is just the essence of ripe pears, with a little hint of elderflower and gooseberry, and a lovely sense of purity. On the palate the 12.5% alcohol is discreet, with a rush of vibrant, tangy, burstingly fresh fruit and beautifully judged acidity. £6.95, Berry Bros & Rudd.
Schloss Schönborn (Germany) Estate Riesling 2004
Summer and light German Rieslings are made for each other. This halbtrocken or ‘half-dry’ style has 11.5% alcohol, so still not too heady for a lunchtime glass. It delivers a lovely gentle perfume of crisp, juicy red apples, hints of nectarine skins and a touch of blossom. On the palate it is balanced, with sweet, ripe, concentrated fruit, hinting at tropicality, but then reined in by fine mineral acidity. Beautifully balanced with a clean, fresh finish. £7.40, Corney & Barrow.
Rieffel (Alsace) Riesling Wiebelsberg Grand Cru 2004
Moving up a gear (or two) we come to an Alsace Grand Cru, where Lucas Rieffel has made a sumptuous Riesling in 2004. The nose is laden with ripe melon and juicy citrus fruit, but there is also a stunning overlay of slate and mineral, with a hint of smokiness. On the palate there is a definite sweetness making this very easy to sip, yet the precision of the herbal-edged, crisp fruit comes through. The weight on the palate and length are superb. £15.95, Berry Bros & Rudd.
Kendermanns (Germany) Dornfelder 2002
I do enjoy Dornfelder on the odd occasion when I drink it. In many ways the wines seem more honest and cheerful than a lot of German wines made from Pinot Noir and more ‘noble’ varieties. This is typically dark and aromatic, with masses of black cherry, pepper and crushed cranberries. On the palate there is uncomplicated fruity ripeness, with a touch of Beaujolais-style strawberry and bubblegum fruit and a spicy, quite earthy finish. £4.49, Tesco Extra stores.
Chileno (Chile) Merlot Shiraz 2005
Seventy per cent Merlot with the balance Shiraz, this has a fruity nose of raspberries, redcurrants and a little chocolaty note. On the palate it is more plush and rich than the nose suggests, with a spicy, peppery background to sweet red fruits, and a silkiness to the texture. There’s a jammy quality on the palate too, with just enough tannin to firm it up a touch. A good quality commercial wine of no great distinction, but ideal for barbecues. £4.49, Morrisons.
Marques de la Concordia (Spain) Rioja Reserva 2001
From one of Spain’s most progressive wine companies, this Rioja is made from 100 per cent Tempranillo grapes, and has been matured for 24 months in new French and American oak barrels. The nose has dramatically dark berry fruit with a mulberry richness, and hints of coffee and cigar smoke. The palate is bright and modern with plenty of fruit, but it is also fleshy and rich, with a fine structure beneath. £9.99, Majestic.
Quinta do Correio (Portugal) Vinho Tinto 2003
From the top estate of Quinta dos Roques, this wine comes from the Dão region, just south of the Douro Valley, and is made from a blend of five indigenous grape varieties. Another at just 12.5% alcohol, it has an alluring nose, deeply set with briar wood and bramble fruit, with a fine, rich, Dundee cake spice. On the palate it is smooth and quite full-bodied, with loads of cinnamon spice and curranty, dry fruit, but plenty of oomph for barbecued meats. £5.99, Philglas & Swiggot, Five Reasons Wine, Luvians.
Kendall Jackson (California) Pinot Noir 2004
At 13.5% alcohol this may be pushing the limits for a lunchtime barbie, but it is so soft and open-hearted that it will suit blackened chicken, steaks or even burgers very nicely. Aged in French and American oak, the nose has plenty of sandalwood and plummy richness of fruit. On the palate this is definitely in the sweet and ripe spectrum of Pinot Noir, with a plushness and velvety weight of fruit that melds with chocolaty tannins in the finish. £8.99, Sainsbury’s.