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Summer in a bottle
We have all heard the rumour — it is going to be one of the driest summers on record, apparently. Of course, we can not be completely certain that this will be the case — there is something reassuringly unreliable about British weather predictions.
So, I am not going to give you a top ten list of rosé wines to try. Instead, here are some lovely wine-related things to do this summer and you can take your pick, whatever the weather.
Visit a vineyard . . .
If you are holidaying in the UK this summer, take the time to visit an English vineyard on your travels. If you are staying in Oxfordshire, there are a few to choose from.
Near Wallingford, Brightwell Vineyards (www.brightwellvineyard.com) is spectacularly beautiful and it’s easy to organise a tour of the vineyards and grounds. If you are anywhere near Tenterden in Kent, there’s the chance to visit the UK’s largest wine producers Chapel Down (www.englishwinesgroup.co.uk).
It is an impressive outfit, the sparkling wines are good, and you can even grab a bite to eat here too.
If I were having lunch at Chapel Down, I think I would order myself a bottle of the rather lovely sparkling Chapel Down NV Brut (www.waitrosewine.com, £16.15) which I recently popped for my birthday.
Riverside idyll . . .
Should you have the luxury of a whole, sunny day to while away can I suggest one of my all-time favourite things to do? Take a bottle of white or rosé wine and some tasty things to eat to the banks of a river.
When you arrive, create a (safe!) nook in the river to pop your wine in to and let it chill naturally!
Experience tells me that the faster the water, the quicker the chill, but you have got to make sure it’s nice and secure. So much more satisfying than carting around cool bags and all that stuff.
My choice for this would be The Millton Vineyard’s Opou Riesling (£10.99 www.vintageroots.co.uk).
I have loved this New Zealand wine ever since I first tasted it some ten years ago. Elegant, ever-so-lightly spicy and very, very low alcohol.
Going global . . .
Take a wine round the world trip — all from the comfort of your dinner table. It works like this: each guest chooses a wine region or country they would like the visit and then they go out and buy a wine from that place.
Once the wine is chosen, you then go about finding a local dish that will best compliment it. You learn an incredible amount whilst invariably trying wines and foods that you wouldn’t otherwise have considered.
I’m not going to do all the work for you here but countries like the Lebanon, Portugal and Greece offer some really exciting opportunities for this exercise.
Clear the decks . . .
Yes, I am referring to the wine rack and no, I’m not suggesting you work through the contents in a single sitting.
If I had a £1 for every bottle in Oxfordshire that was given as a gift and was being saved for that ‘special occasion’, I reckon I could buy myself a first class round the world ticket.
I would go on to bet a further £5 per bottle that the majority are now filled with tired, way past their best wines.
Go on, dig it out, dust it down and make something nice to eat with it. Just to be on the safe side, I’d also recommend buying in a spare bottle, just in case.
Read a book . . .
If you haven’t done so already, read Andrew Jefford’s The New France. It is not exactly a recent book, having first been published seven years ago but the writing is among the most evocative and captivating of any book about wine I know.
If France wants to resurrect its image amongst British wine drinkers then it could do worse than to ensure that it’s compulsory reading for everyone attending any sort of wine course.
How can you resist words like these.
“I walked up through the vineyards that lie like skirts about the fissured, honey-coloured rock, counting twelve different varieties of wild flowers on this April afternoon as I did so. A single wine-grower was scattering fertilizer like a Biblical seedsman.”
It makes me want to down tools, sell up and move to France immediately.
Andrew Jefford recommends many, many producers in this book and it seems a bit crackers to take a pick from his choice but, if I had to take a wine to sip while I was reading, it would be one of the Zind-Humbrecht wines from Alsace which are as dazzling as the writing. They are reasonably widely available with Waitrose offering three of his wines.
I refuse to apologise for being repetitive and I know I have been there and said it all before but if you have not done so already, make this the summer that you discover the delights of a lightly chilled red.
Lighter-bodied, red wines from the Loire and Beaujolais respond particularly well to this sort of treatment and it is a remarkably refreshing alternative to rosé.
Wherever you are this summer, I hope the sun shines on you and that you have time to relax and enjoy some delicious new wines.