Summer has come early, or at least it had last week.
May is traditionally a month of ups and downs as regards the weather in this country, and this year it has certainly been true to form.
Earlier in the month we had the severe frosts, which have caused havoc in the vineyards on both sides of the Channel and yet last week we had temperatures in the mid-twenties.
But now we are at the start of the wonderful month of June, it’s time to repair the deck-chairs, dust-off the barbecue and start seeking out some refreshment for the warmer weather.
At M&S, the buyers have been very busy selecting new wines, new vintages and new products which will be perfect for the Summer months. Many of these originate from decidedly warmer countries than ours, and drinking them on a lovely Summer’s evening, or perhaps with lunch in the garden, you can feel as if you’re in the Med, even if you aren’t.
Among the M&S line-up, are two products which both make an ideal aperitif to sip on the terrace. The first of these is a bone-dry Manzanilla Sherry, a Decanter Gold medal winner from Williams & Humbert. Crisp and fresh with a citrusy, salty tang and a wonderful ‘Flor’ nose from the yeast, it has a long, satisfying finish and is a steal at only £8 per bottle. A wine to transport you to the bodegas of sunny Spain. Staying with the southern theme, new this season to M&S, who are amongst the first in the UK to stock it, is an Olive Vodka. Produced in France, it is pure Mediterranean captured in a glass. It has an amazing, unmistakable aroma of cracked, mature olives, which evokes all the memories of lying in the shade of an old olive tree in Italy, France or Greece. Great on the rocks, with Fever-tree tonic or with tomato juice in an exotic Bloody Mary.
Back to Spain again, a pair of wines – red and white - from Valencia under the Las Falleras name, are a great choice for those open-air parties with salads and barbecues. Tremendous value at £5 a bottle, the white is dry, fruity, smooth and aromatic, whilst the red has good body and structure, with mellow, luscious, quaffable fruit. Push the boat out a little more on the red, and you can be whisked off to the shores and mountains of Turkey. The Anfora Trio 2015 has 40% of a local Turkish grape variety in the blend, and gives an interestingly spicy wine, with hints of liquorice, blackberries and possibly Turkish Delight?
Summer is also the time for Rosé and M&S provides a very decent range. One of my favourites is the Cotes du Rhone Rosé Reserve du Boulas 2016. Pale salmon in colour, it is dry with a good depth of summer fruit on the palate, and a crisp, refreshing finish. But for something a little different, there is a very pale rosé from the Southern Hemisphere. New in this season is the Vaglio Rosé 2016 from the Uco Valley in Argentina. With aromas of wild strawberries and crisp acidity, it is a Midsummer Night’s dream.
Last, but by no means least, don’t forget the fizz. Its stopped raining; its started raining (for the gardeners) or, just because its Wednesday, there’s always a good excuse to pop a cork or two. Watch out for this one, newly arriving in June and certainly ticking all my boxes in terms of quality, style and flavour. It is a Crémant de Bourgogne Brut, a dry sparkling Burgundy made by the Traditional Method (like champagne) by La Cave des Hautes Cotes.
Matured for 18 months on the lees, the wine has a fine, persistent mousse, with good body and biscuity, fruit aromas, showing the high percentage of Pinot Noir from which it is made. Dry, elegant and classy fizz at a very affordable £12 per bottle.
Celebrations every day!
Richard Esling BSc DipWSET is an experienced wine consultant, agent, writer and educator. An erstwhile wine importer, he runs a wine agency and consultancy company called WineWyse, is founder and principal of the Sussex Wine Academy, chairman of Arundel Wine Society and is an International Wine Judge. Twitter @richardwje. Visit www.winewyse.com.
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