We all hope for plenty of sunshine come the summer months, but more often than not the English weather is lacklustre forcing us to pack our bags to fly thousands of miles in search of sunnier climes. Still, most of us have neither the time nor money to spend the whole summer sunning it up on a foreign beach. However, there is a simple solution! Pop a cork (or unscrew a cap) and you can be instantly transported to the Provence, Italy, California or anywhere else in the world there is sufficient sunshine to ripen grapes. Here are some wines that are perfect for when the sun does shine!
BYSS BLOG: This summer all eyes are on the UK, are there any British wines you recommend we celebrate with?
MATT: There is no better wine to celebrate with than one that is literally bursting with bubbles. Forget the champagne though and look for something a bit closer to home. English sparkling wine is getting better every year and we are now producing wines that are beating their French counterparts and winning international acclaim. These wines are becoming increasingly easier to find with most large supermarkets and local wine shops offering a variety of options. Names to look out for are: Camel Valley, Chapel Down, Denbies, Ridgeview and Stanlake Park.
Nyetimber Classic Cuvee (Various Vintages)
This is one of my favourite English sparklers, offering great value when compared to many vintage champagnes, it can usually be picked up for around £25-£30 (I recently found some 2005 going for £16 on a P&O ferry). It has a tight, toasty nose that also shows brioche & dried fruit, an impressive, rich palate with long length (£28.49, www.waitrosewine.com).
BYSS BLOG: Brilliant! How about something to serve with a summer lunch?
MATT: Grüner Veltliner is one of the most widely planted grape varieties in Austria, a country that has found it hard to recover from an episode in the 80’s when it was discovered (and highly publicized) that a small amount of diethylene glycol, a colourless, odourless, and poisonous banned organic substance was being used to sweeten some wines. Following this there was a huge clamp down. Austria now has some of the strictest wine laws in the E.U and produces some wines of amazing clarity and precision. Grüner Veltliner has been nicknamed ‘Gru-vee’ and it certainly is, some of the best expressions of this grape variety are to be found in Wachau, Austria’s western most wine district and are known for being typically dry with spicy almost peppery notes and a rounded body. In my experience these wines also have a fantastic mineral edge and lifting acidity that makes them interesting and layered as well as being a great match to a range of salads and light summer lunches.
Domäne Wachau Grüner Veltliner ‘Terraces’ 2010
Domäne Wachau produce a wide range of wines but their specialty lies in gru-ve, their Grüner Veltliner Smaragd Terrassen 2009 was awarded a place in Wine Spectator magazines Top 100 of 2011. The Terraces represents great value for money, at the time of writing you could pick a bottle up for £6.40! It shows pear fruit, white pepper and a wonderful wet stone minerality. It really is a perfect match with seafood, especially prawns.
Chablis is a very lucky wine, like champagne it has a brand name that resonates with most wine drinkers, it is rather a straightforward wine to understand, only made from one grape variety (Chardonnay, shhh, don’t tell anyone!) in a consistent style that makes it an easy choice on any wine list. I was lucky enough to spend some time there in April and taste a number of the regions wines at all levels. One thing that struck me was how fantastic some of the Petit Chablis wines tasted, more fruit forward and expressive in their youth. These may not be wines to cellar for long periods but they offer great early drinking at a sensible price, perfect when well chilled on a hot day.
Laroche Petit Chablis 2010
Chablis has four classifications; Grand Cru, Premier Cru, AOC Chablis & Petit Chablis. Petit Chablis was the last of these designations to be added (in 1944) and is made from vineyards in the outlying areas with younger soil types. Some Petit Chablis punch well above their weight and Laroche produce one of them. It has a fresh yet slightly sweet almost candied pear & lemon nose, the palate is slightly more giving and rounded than you would expect but in a good way-soft, fleshy ripe apple, lemon and a hint of honey (£11.95 www.slurp.co.uk).
BYSS BLOG: Any secret finds for us to wow our friends with?
MATT: Beaujolais may be best known for its rather gimmicky (and generally rather poor) Beaujolais Nouveau wines, but following a consumer backlash in the early 2000’s there have been some fantastic wine coming from this often overlooked appellation. Beaujolais has been helped over the last decade with a number of outstanding vintages (05’09’10’ & 11’) as well as some passionate winemakers looking to coax the best out of the top sites. Gamay is the name of the ancient grape variety that dominates this area, thin skinned it gives light fruity wines that are perfect when lightly chilled on a summer’s day.
Moulin à Vent, Les Rouchaux, Thibault Liger-Belair
Just how amazing these wines can be recently hit me during a visit to the benevolent Thibault Liger-Belair’s cellars in Burgundy. I have to say how impressed I was with these wines, especially with the company they were keeping!
Beaujolais 10 Cru wines are where you should expect to find to find the top wines of the area, and Moulin-à-Vent is at the top of this class offering wines that are in some ways similar to those of the far more distinguished Burgundy.
Full bodied and powerful with a rose like bouquet, this is a serious wine that does need time in bottle. It has the potential to age for decades showing fantastic bramble fruit with plenty of succulence on the palate. Well worth its price and when compared to what you would get for similar money in Burgundy it really does offer good value for money (£20.40 www.bbr.com).
BYSS: Finally, we’ve been hearing a lot about New Zealand wines, which ones should we try?
MATTL New Zealand pinot noir is a completely different kettle of fish to its French forbear. Generally more open and fruit forward, they can offer unparalleled, early drinking, picnic juiciness. Three of the top areas to look out for are; Martinborough, located on the southern tip of the North Island, Marlborough at the top of South Island, and Central Otago which is one of the most southerly wine growing regions on the planet! Now Pinot is a rather hard grape to transform into wine but makes some of the worlds finest, for a more impassioned diatribe check out Paul Giamatti in the film Sideways.
Craggy Range Te Muna Road Pinot Noir 2010 Martinborough New Zealand
Craggy Range was founded in 1997 by Terry Peabody, who saw the vast potential New Zealand offered, and alongside kiwi viticulturist and Master of Wine Steve Smith decided to exclusively pursue single vineyard wines. The Te Muna vineyard is located around 7km from the township of Martinborough at an elevation of 70m. There are two Terraces with the top one being primarily planted with pinot noir, the overall climate is similar to that of Burgundy. This is a silky smooth pinot filled with spiced red fruit on the nose and a plumy depth, the palate shows well structured and fine tannins, red fruit flavours are followed through on the length with a spicy, liquorice intensity. Kiwi pinot doesn’t get much better than this (£18.99 www.waitrosewine.com).
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