Wine writer, Raymond Blake selects the best wines to drink for any occasion throughout the summer. Just add sun.
Ireland’s fickle concoction of weather pays only scant attention to the passing of the seasons. Granted, it is brighter in summer and darker in winter, but that is about the only certainty. All of which makes choosing wine for the Irish summer a more challenging exercise. Options must be kept open, circles squared and bets hedged when the tricky task is approached. With that in mind, read on…
The best summer whites are defined, not by what they have, but by what they have not – in other words, lashings of new oak allied to oodles of luscious fruit.
Aresti, Estate Selection Sauvignon Blanc 2018 12.5% €10.99 Chile
Sauvignon Blanc is such an established part of the wine world now that it is hard to remember there was once a time when it was the new kid on the block and that kid came from New Zealand. Today, the kid has cousins all over the globe and this delicately flavoured Chilean number goes easy on the famed green, herbaceous notes – charming instead by way of tingling fruit and freshness.
J Moreau & Fils, Chablis 1er Cru Montmains 2014 13% €40 France
A serious price, yes but this is a serious wine too. In a world awash with too many white wines that come edged with unwelcome saccharine flavours, proper Chablis – slightly ‘nervy’, intense, penetrating and inimitable – is an oenophile’s delight. And if that is what rocks your boat – look no further. The palate brims with savoury fruit. It is intense and forceful, bracing and engaging. There are depth, length and a hint of age. Yum!
Rosé is having a moment right now. From a time when it was little more than an afterthought, it has now moved centre stage and shop displays now dazzle with every hue from the palest salmon to the richest cherry.
Jean-Luc Colombo, Les Pins Couchés 2018 12.5% €17.95 France
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The name translates as ‘The Sleeping Pines’ and the wine is a 40:40:20 blend of Syrah, Cinsault and Mourvèdre harvested from vineyards near Marseilles that enjoy a view to the Mediterranean. Jean-Luc Colombo is one of the most innovative French winemakers of recent times and from his base in Cornas in the northern Rhône has produced this lively, fresh-fruited number with a tingle of acid and a mild bite of spice to keep the lusher elements in check.
Doña Paula, Rosé of Malbec 12% €12.50 Argentina
So fixed is the stereotypical view of Malbec as a hearty ‘n’ hefty, dark ‘n’ brooding red wine that some severe palate re-calibration is necessary to appreciate the more delicate delights of this perky rosé. Red berry fruit is its signature, amplified by a welcome dry rasp and given focus by a nice ping of acidity. A perfect tipple for when you crank up the barbecue.
The Irish summer is not a time to abandon red wines entirely – the focus should simply be shifted slightly, away from big, concentrated flavours and towards wines with some ‘bounce’ on the palate. And just because they are lighter in texture and weight does not mean they have to be characterless, far from it. Only a sip of each of the pair recommended here should convince you of that.
Daniel Bouland, Morgon Courcelette Vieilles Vignes 2016 13.5% €26.00 France
My tasting note for this Beaujolais runs backwards, as it were, for, more than anything else, it is defined by reverberating length on the finish. Everything up to that point is delicious but that can be said of numerous wines which then fail to follow through, slinking away having given everything early on with nothing left for the finale. Robust fruit flavours and impressive concentration mean that this one gives encore after encore on the long, long finish.
Tolo do Xisto, Ribeira Sacra 2016 13.5% €23.95 Spain
Not every Spanish red wine marches to the stentorian beat of Ribera del Duero or glides with the elegant reserve of the best Rioja. Some – like this beauty – cleave to a leaner, more singular, flavour register. The region whence it comes, Ribeira Sacra, is a near-forgotten wonderland of steep slopes with patches of vineyard clinging precariously to them as they plunge towards the Miño and Sil rivers. And the grape it is made from, Mencia, is not on every wine lover’s radar either. Yet it is a chisel-pure delight, seen to good advantage in this meticulously crafted example. Incisive fruit and a lovely mineral cut serve to make it the perfect red summer sipper.
Author: Raymond Blake
Raymond Blake is one of Ireland’s most experienced wine writers and has written for Food & Wine since its launch in 1997. Since then his travels have taken him to almost every corner of the wine world and he visited Chile and Argentina late last year. Forthcoming trips will see him visiting Bordeaux, Piedmont, Austria and Burgundy.