Summer pink wines to enjoy while the sun is out (or when it rains)

AS its summer,  I suggest you grab some summer pink wines,  glasses and head to your nearest park, picnic basket in hand.

And as its summer, don’t forget the umbrella.

Some people view pink wines as flim flam, never to be touched.

One or two wines here may convince you otherwise. But first, do you know how they’re made?

All grape juice is clear; red wine is made by the juice having contact with the skins. If the juice doesn’t have skin contact, then you’ll get a white wine. In fact, did you know the black grapes pinot noir and pinot meunier are used to make champagne? But champagne is a white wine – that’s because the juice didn’t come into contact with the grape skins.

And so it is with rosé; there are pale pinks, medium pinks and really deep cerise pinks. There are three ways to make rosé, and by far the most common is by the juice having contact with the skin. The paler the rosé, the less time the skins and the juices have been in contact.

Different grape varieties are used, driven by the native grapes of the region. There are grenache, tempranillo and pinot noir to name but a few.

The classiest (and driest) pinks are rosés from Provence where ex-pat winemaker Stephen Cronk and his Mirabeau range is rapidly making a name for itself. Mirabeau Classic (£9.29, Waitrose stores and www.waitrosecellar.com) is dreamy with its strawberry-fresh blend of grenache cinsault and syrah.

But then, hold on, I tried Mirabeau Pure (£12.99, also Waitrose). Everything about this wine is sublime.

From the simple bottle design to the sun-glinted springwater-fresh wine as it pours. This is a blend of syrah and grenache, and is the palest of pinks, with gorgeous aromas of fresh and dried strawberries, a subtle hint of rhubarb and perfectly balanced flavours and acidity.

One of my favourite online wine retailers is winetrust100 because they stock what they say on the tin – 100 wines – all of which are selected by Masters of Wine.

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I adored Rosa dei Frati 2014 (£16, winetrust100.co.uk). It is from Italy, and is blended from a selection of Italian grapes, groppello, marzemino, sangiovese, and barbera. The masters of wine give this a score of 96 out of 100 and it’s not difficult to see why. From the first aromas to the last sip, this is a pink with character – perhaps a wolf in sheep’s clothing!

But it doesn’t bite; red cherry flavours toy with your tastebuds alongside a vibrant acidity.

To the High Street… and keep a look-out for Aldi’s easy-drinking Exquisite Collection Malbec Rosé (£5.99) (a bronze in this year’s International Wine Challenge) and Villa Maria Private Bin Rosé 2014 (RRP £10.25, Tesco, Majestic and independents).

Also in my glass:

Gallo Family Vineyards has a new spritz duo – Gallo Family Vineyards Spritz Pineapple & Passionfruit and Gallo Family Vineyards Spritz Raspberry & Lime.

The Pineapple and Passionfruit is not over-sweet and when really cold, with one or two cubes of ice, it refreshes quite nicely.

In contrast, I added a slice of lime and plenty of ice to the raspberry and lime to counter the sweetness. Both have an ABV of 5% – if you don’t want to over-indulge – and are available in all major supermarkets (RRP £5.99).

Published in the saturday extra magazine July 25, 2015

Liverpool Echo – South Wales Echo – Daily Post Wales – Huddersfield Examiner – The Chronicle, Newcastle – Teesside Evening Gazette – Birmingham  Mail – Coventry Telegraph – Paisley Daily Express

Co-op wines can be truly irresistible as Decanter Gold awards prove

I prodded, thumped and squeezed various cuts of meat last Saturday only for the heavens to open when the barbecue was lit. Ah well. The British summer always catches us out.

One thing was a certainty – the Co-op wines I’d taken to a friend’s were always going to please.

Truly Irresistible Bio Bio Valley Malbec (£6.99, Co-op) is a stunner and has won Gold at the Decanter World Wine Awards.

As the barbie finally took hold, there was a fair bit of sprinting in and out of the rain to turn skewer-spiked lamb I’d marinated in harissa paste, mint and lime juice. While they spluttered and sparked, the Chilean malbec held centre stage.

This wine is power-packed with silky dark cherries and blackberries; it is clothed in vanilla and has edges of peppercorns and hints of herbs. It was perfect with the spicy lamb kebabs – a truly fabulous red for less than £7.

The Co-op has also scooped Decanter gold with Domaine les Grandes Costes Pic Saint Loup 2012 (£14.99) a blend of syrah (80%) with grenache and cinsault as the backroom boys.

Judges said “this is a wine you just want to drink more of” – a scenario I don’t have a problem with.

There’s a punnet of perfect plums and layers of spice mingle and tickle in the mouth.

Staying at the Co-op, it has added Truly Irresistible Greco (£6.99) to its range; and oddly for a summer release, the label is more akin to Halloween. With a nod to 1950s B-lister horror films, the label’s illustration has a woman screaming, a villain emerging from a crypt and the declaration: “The Co-operative Wines Proudly Present Grecula (Greco 2014)” “pale, haunting, crypt-cold and chilling”.

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Erm. Right, OK. The Greco grape is known locally as Grecula – which explains the Co-op’s artistic inclination. The wine is lemon-rich with stone fruits and clothed in honey. The label is a bit of fun from the marketing folks but I wonder if it cheapens the image of a wine which is simple and pleasant.

Also in my glass

Josmeyer Pinot Blanc Mise du Printemps 2014 (£11.50, The Wine Society) – Such a pretty label and a pretty wine. Both are the creative vision of winemaker Isabelle Josmeyer. It’s a summer treat, perfect with prawns or grilled chicken. I enjoyed with a ginger-flecked veggie stir fry. Citrus pulses through this wine, there’s vibrant lemons and a crunch of pear too.

If you like your barbecue reds to stand up against burnt chipolatas, then William Hardy Langhorne Creek Shiraz (RRP £9.99 various retailers) could be for you. It is an Oz shiraz which isn’t backward in coming forward. Blackberries and pepper aren’t shy on all the senses.

Finally, I admire the concept of new wine club Sip & Learn which was set up by two friends. One of them, Marie-Anne Onraed sent me the first box in their “education” series. It’s an introduction to the differences between aromatic and non-aromatic wines. The box included Sauvignon Blanc Touraine Chateau Gaillard 2013 (£9.50 if you buy separately from sipandlearn.co.uk) and Chardonnay Domaine Corin Pouilly-Fuissé Les Chevrieres 2011 (£20.50). A booklet explains the grapes, key facts and tasting notes.

The Loire Valley sauvignon blanc is fruity and grassy with a river running through it; the Pouilly-Fuissé from the southern part of Burgundy has pear, apples, hazlenuts and vanilla with a dry finish. A good contrast between the two wines for people on a learning curve.

It is £30 a month, which is a chunk, but if you want to try good wines, it may be worth a punt.

Published in the saturday extra magazine July 18, 2015

Liverpool Echo – South Wales Echo – Daily Post Wales – Huddersfield Examiner – The Chronicle, Newcastle – Teesside Evening Gazette – Birmingham  Mail – Coventry Telegraph – Paisley Daily Express

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