Summer wine: Six wine choices for when the sun peeks out

Cruset Sparkling Blanc de Blancs NV summer wine

It’s sunny outside. I’m happy. At the risk of tempting fate, I bring you summer wine choices – two sparkling, two whites and two reds – to enjoy while the sun shines and as autumn beckons.

Summer wine to cheer up  a staycation

Beau Beaujolais 2014 (12.5% abv, Majestic,  £8.99 or £7.99 in a Mix Six deal) The dog was having a holiday haircut (it cost more than mine!) and I spotted a Majestic Wine Warehouse across the road which tempted me. I like to browse wine shops, not shoe shops. I left the store clutching this beaujolais, whose gamay grapes are grown in limestone hills north of Lyon. It’s the basic style of  all the Beaujolais appellations and does what it says on the vin – it has fresh red fruits on the nose, is very easy to drink with a raspberry ripple and a subtlety of spice.

Beau Beaujolais 2014 summer wines
Beau Beaujolais 2014


Domaine de Sainte Rose Coquille d’Oc Blanc 2014 (13% abv, Waitrose, £7.49) This wine is a blend of four grapes, with chardonnay and sauvignon blanc having the majority share, and viognier and muscat tugging at the tailcoats. This is a lovely white for summer, so it’s a shame the summer was evading me when I tried it. It has a mix of peach, citrus and floral notes on the nose and then to taste the grapes deliver a touch of their own characters, zesty, creamy, and with flavours of both stone and citrus fruits. Very drinkable.

Summer wine with sparkles

Cruset Sparkling Blanc de Blancs NV (11% abv, The Co-op, £5.99) The price and the “blanc de blancs” tempted me as the latter indicated quality, the former indicated a bargain. This is a French take on prosecco – simple unassuming bubbles with simple floral aromas and a simple citrus taste from a blend of chardonnay, airen and muscat. It was more like blank de blancs but pleasant enough.

Brown Brothers Cienna 2013 (6.5% abv, www.slurp.co.uk, £9.95) I sipped this spritzy Australian wine with ice cubes (I know, sacrilege) and flavours are akin to a sangria but without the oomph. The cienna grape  – created by scientists from cabernet sauvignon and sumoll – is at the heart of this sweet ruby-red wine laden with red berries and blackberries. It’s a pretty wine, and would be lovely with summer pudding or fruit-smothered meringue.

Summer wine from award-winning Wine Society

Léon Beyer Sylvaner 2014 (12% abv, £8.50) Sylvaner is  one of the main varieties in Alsace where it holds its head up higher than in Germany, where it is typically used in liebfraumilch. Ugh. This white has pear aromas, apple flavours, a hum of honey and  a savoury note. I’d cooked chicken stuffed with lemon and herbs and it was a perfect match.

Léon Beyer Sylvaner review
Léon Beyer Sylvaner

Altano Douro White 2015 (13% abv £9.99) Here is a bright white from Symington Family Estates which is better known as a key port producer. The wine is a blend of  fina, viosinho,  rabigato, códega de Larinho and moscatel galego, grown in the Douro Valley. It has vibrant aromas of  peach and pear and in the mouth those same stone fruit flavours sing with juiciness.  A decent acidity is a good counter-balance. A summer night must-have.

The society (www.winesociety.com) has won Online Retailer of the Year and Wine Merchant of the Year at the 2016 International Wine Challenge.

Summer wine … well, I like reds

Beronia Reserva 2011 (14% abv, Waitrose, Ocado, Majestic, tesco.com, RRP £13.49) This wine notched up several wins at the 2016  IWC, picking up a gold medal, Great Value Red under £15 and trophies including the Rioja Reserva Trophy.

Beronia Reserva 2011 wine review
Beronia Reserva 2011

I guess the judges liked it then.  Tempranillo makes up the majority of this blend, with tiny contributions from graciano and mazuelo. It’s a wine you just want to keep breathing in. There’s so much to enjoy on the nose, from cloves, to fresh red fruits, chocolate and a snap of bracken.  A hearty sip is rewarded with a rounded, full bodied wine, still-fresh fruits, white pepper spice and soft tannins.

First Class Pinot Noir 2015  (14.5% abv, £7.99 or £5.99 in a buy six deal from Majestic). This pinot noir from the Bio Bio Valley in Chile is great value. A  light  pinot noir is perfect for a summer’s day and when  the sun peeked out this week I bought this from Majestic. Characterful red fruits and pepper spice cloud out of the glass and in the mouth they combine to race across your tastebuds without being overpowering.

First published in Raise a Glass, Trinity Mirror regionals August 2016

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

Rioja wine, its a glorious taste of Spain

Marqués de Griñón Tempranillo 2010

THE sun surprisingly came out at the weekend and so did the Rioja. I blinked and the sun was still there … if only I could say the same about the Rioja.

A glorious taste of Spain; the signature red wine of the country. It is so elevated that Rioja was the first wine to be granted the superior Spanish classification status.

The Spanish DO (Denominación de Origen) system is the equivalent of the French AOC (Appellation d’origine contrôlée) – but there is a higher status in Spain, DOCa (Denominación de Origen Calificada).

Rioja was granted the status when it was first introduced in 1991, due to the region’s record in consistently producing top-quality wines.

The Rioja wine region lies in the north of Spain and takes its name from the Rio (river) Oja.

It is divided into three regions: Rioja Alta (concentrated fruity, velvety wines), Rioja Alavesa (firm character) and Rioja Baja (best for blending).

Rioja has a varied range of soil and topographical features. The Cantabrian Mountains provide shelter from the influences of the Atlantic Ocean, but also protect the vineyards from severe winds. Temperatures vary as do the soils, ranging from chalk to iron, limestone and clay.

Now it doesn’t seem as simple to say a glass of Rioja does it! All the taste permutations of soil, air, wind, mountains and varied temperatures combine into this taste of summer; the memory of a Spanish holiday or tapas treat.

A wine which is young and fruity, or aged and velvety.

Tempranillo is the signature grape and occupies more than 75% of the region’s vineyards.

Yes, it is joined along the journey in blends, but it is the thin-skinned tempranillo grape (meaning ‘little early one’ as it ripens two weeks before garnacha) which thrives on the clay and limestone-based soils of the best vineyard sites.

It is often blended with garnacha which brings along spicy body and high alcohol.

Other grape varieties which find their way into Rioja can be mazuelo (also known as carignan) for colour, tannin and aging and graciano (morrastel) for fresh flavour and aroma. Cabernet Sauvignon peeks in now and again.Marqués de Griñón Alea Tempranillo 2010

But the mainstay of a tasty Rioja is its oak aging. Time in an American oak barrel adds the yumminess that is coconut and vanilla.

Rioja can appear in four styles.

Joven: Wines in their first or second year which keep their fresh fruitiness. Crianza which are at least in their third year, having spent a minimum of one year in casks. Reserva: Selected wines of the best vintages that have been aged for a minimum of three years, with at least one in casks. Finally, Gran Reserva which have spent at least two years in oak casks and three in the bottle.

Back to my north Liverpool garden and the surprise, the sun, the wine.

Beronia Tempranillo Rioja Especial 2010 (£11.99, from Waitrose and selected independents. Bronze at the 2012 Decanter awards) This was smoky, chewy liquorice to taste with mocha, chocolate and vanilla on the nose. Deep, deep red and incredibly moreish.

Marqués de Griñón Alea Tempranillo 2010 (£6.99, Tesco, Morrisons). From the Rioja Alta region, this wine had smoky red fruits on the nose; but a little spicy harshness which could do well with maturing.

Altos de la Guardia Tempranillo 2008 (£8.99, www.laithwaites.co.uk) A delight? I think so. Winner of a silver at the 2011 International Wine Challenge. Silky, spicy, autumn plum sunshine and an oaky nuttiness.

First published in the Liverpool Post, September 6th 2012