It's the longest day of the year, and for the last few days, here in
balmy Twickenham (10 miles south west of central London) it really has
felt like summer at last. Time to get the garden furniture out and
dine al fresco. And one of the few advantages of living at such
a northerly latitude is that we get wonderfully long summer evenings,
which almost compensate for the dismal winters we endure. So, what
sorts of wines make ideal midsummer sippers for back garden drinking?
Here are some slightly quirky (but hopefully helpful) suggestions.
If I see another article mentioning how undervalued and
underappreciated German wines are, I'll tear my hair out. It has
become a total cliché -- but, like many clichés, it has its basis in
truth. Whether you are talking about light, steely Mosel Rieslings or
fuller-bodied examples from the Pfalz, these are wonderfully bold,
crisp, refreshing summer tipples. Best of all, most are low in
alcohol, so you can drink them at luchtime without feeling wiped out
all afternoon. Novices to the genre might want to try out some of
Majestic's superb range of inexpensive and largely well aged German
range. Elsewhere on the high street, Oddbins stock the lovely
Lingenfelder Bird label Riesling (£4.99) and Thresher/Wine
Rack/Bottoms up have the lively 'Dr L' from Ernie Loosen (£5.99). For
more serious German wine fans, both Justerini and Brooks and Berry
Brothers carry very good ranges.
I rarely drink Rosé. But inexpensive Rosé, ice cold, is perfect
for al fresco dining on a hot summers day. This is what they
drink by the jug full in Provence, and they are horribly chic over
there -- so put away the notion that Rosé is uncool. However, I've
yet to meet a Rosé that has really tripped my switches: these are
mostly functional, context-dependent wines. As an aside, this is one
wine style where the colour can be almost as enjoyable as the taste.
Beaujolais is the ideal warm weather red. Opt for the less
expensive examples (generic Beaujolais and Beaujolais Villages, and
lighter crus such as Chiroubles), not the wannabee Burgundies (e.g.
Moulin à Vent). The 2000 vintage is a stunner and 1999 was no slouch,
so now is a good time to be buying Beaujolais. Don't be afraid to slap
it in the fridge or ice bucket. Alternative summer reds might also
include lighter Loire reds (inexpensive Chinon, Bourgeuil or Anjou
Villages), or the less expensive, juicy Aussie branded reds such as
the ubiquitous Rosemount Shiraz Cabernet.
OK, Austrian whites are a bit of a minority interest in the UK.
But despite their scarcity, they can be excellent, and make perfect
summer tipples. You'll be hard pressed to find many on the high
street, but Oddbins stock three excellent wines from Polz (Styria,
southern Austria): a Chardonnay (£9.49), Grauburgunder (Pinot Gris;
£7.99) and a Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc; £7.99). All three are
super wines, with lovely intensity of flavour, a spicy minerality and
Cheap whites, ice-cold
Finally, summer is the one time of the year when I don't really
mind inexpensive, crisp, neutral whites, provided they are served
ice-cold. They do a job. In fact, it's amazing what difference serving
temperature makes to the perception of flavour. Cheap Aussie plonk
with a tendency to flabbiness can actually benefit a great deal from
being served ice cold, because the low temperature gives the wine a
more savoury, acidic flavour. Try it…