British summer time is here and to Toby Spiers, head of Fine Wine Partners, this conjures up images of the cricket green, the boater hat and stripes of the Henley Regatta and the Queen attending Royal Ascot. But above all else, it is the season for the nation’s favourite frost-free addiction, the barbecue.
My buzzword for this time of year in wine is versatility. We all know the British summer is not as reliable as we would like. I remember last year packing only magnums of Provence rosé for a weekend of glamping, when it turned out to be wet and windy. A schoolboy error, as I can’t say the wine tasted as good sat inside.
Not normally a huge Sauvignon Blanc fan, I do find early summer the ideal time to enjoy this variety, with all the new season’s veg coming on and the last of the asparagus, early fresh peas and summer beetroot, with goats’ cheese aplenty and strawberries with elderflower jelly. Zesty and vibrant flavours. For me, I think South Africa has a lot to offer in terms of wine value for money and it is also a halfway style between the tropicals of Kiwi Sauvignon and the minerality and class of the Loire Sauvignons, such as Sancerre.
For bargains, check out Côtes des Gascogne whites from France for summer savings, or the English Bacchus for a more floral and patriotic offering, but these do tend to be pricier than the average Sauvignon Blanc.
I love drinking pale, dry pinks in the summer and can’t put anyone off these wines usually from down in the Mediterranean direction, especially Provence. Many producers around the world are catching on to the equity of pale and dry, so very good wines have started coming from elsewhere around the globe, including my current choice, a Nebbiolo rosé from Coonawarra in Australia. For me, this is very exciting as Nebbiolo is the grape variety used in the king of reds, Barolo.
On the other hand, this is a great time to be drinking darker rosé such as Rosados from Iberia which go well with barbecue food and have the flavour and depth of reds, but the drinkability of whites.
For reds, I would keep on the lighter end of the spectrum and even half chill. I like to have an ice bucket to hand and pop my bottle in and out as required to keep a little chill in the wine. Think bargains from Valpolicella and Beaujolais in particular, or if the thought of cold red wine is bringing out a rash, then go for a New World Pinot Noir or related South African Pinotage for a little hint of smokiness to go with that non-burnt sausage.
Fine Wine Partners Thomas Hardy House, 2 Heath Road, Weybridge, Surrey KT13 8TB Website:www.accolade-wines.com Telephone: 01932 428600