Fellow Wine Lovers,
Babies get born, there’s an enormous fuss in the press, followed by a couple of rusks here and there, Lego, scooters and suddenly…
Schools out, summer’s here (?) and thoughts of escape weigh heavy. But you’re not alone –UK residents made 55.5 million visits abroad in 2011. So where did we go? Using figures from the Office for National Statistics (2011), the list is not altogether surprising: Spain, France, Irish Republic, USA, Italy, Germany, Portugal, Greece, Netherlands and Turkey. Add in a few other favourites: Great Britain, Egypt, Thailand, Australia and we have a nice mix of destinations.
Fast forward to the escape itself, planned with near military precision, airport parking organised, flights booked, villa chosen, two weeks of sunshine, great food and fab local wine all beckon. The first four should look after themselves, the food will be great, as much because someone else is cooking it as because it is all fresh and local, and the wine…. not so sure?
The first approach would be to stick with what you recognise: in Spain, drink Rioja; in France drink Bordeaux; in Egypt, drink beer. As we said, thoroughly reasonable and safe.
Our approach would be to go native. Local wines are always made with local specialities in mind and very often you can uncover some real gems that you wouldn’t normally consider in the UK.
So, taking our preferred holiday destinations into consideration, what would we recommend you give a go whilst on your travels?
SPAIN – a huge country with masses to offer beyond the realms of Rioja. In whites, look out for Verdejo and Albariño. Verdejo is a fantastic, slightly fruitier, alternative to Sauvignon Blanc. Albariño from Galicia is arguably the best wine to go with seafood – ripe slightly tropical fruits, medium weight body and lovely crisp acidity. In reds, I would thoroughly recommend old vine Garnacha, and for the Rioja fans, wines from Toro are made from the same grape but can carry a bit more punch.
FRANCE – Many, many wine choices here but for me pick of the bunch: from the far south, where the oyster beds are, Picpoul de Pinet has a lovely fresh but rounded lemon tang whilst Pinot Blanc from Alsace is very food friendly and a great switch for those Chardonnay lovers. In reds, Malbec, from Cahors, has a more savoury edge (and indeed blacker colour) than its contemporaries in Argentina and the reds (Gamay) from Beaujolais offer similar light red fruit characteristics to red Burgundy, but without the price tag.
IRELAND – er, Guinness…
USA – look outside of California, investigate the Pinot Noirs from Oregon and Washington state, and if you get the chance, ice-wine from Virginia. All the states now produce some wine, so there is no excuse for not drinking local.
ITALY – like Spain and France, wine is produced throughout the country so local works well –Fiano for zesty fruit with a bit of minerality in Campania, Pecorino if you’re in Abruzzo and fancy a really local variety that again will keep the Chardonnay crew contented. For reds, the rustic Cannonau (local name for Grenache) in Sardegna, Primitivo in Puglia. Lagrein for a sort of Pinot Noir-a-like up in the Northeast, Barbera in the Northwest and Moscato just to cleanse your palate.
GERMANY – if you’ve not enjoyed a glass of Bernkastel Riesling Kabinett on a warm summers day you’ve missed a trick. Low in alcohol at around 9% with just a little sweetness for texture they are perfect afternoon wines. Further south walking in the Black Forest? Try a Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir) or Grauburgunder (Pinot Gris) from here.
PORTUGAL – massively underrated, and with so much more to offer than Mateus Rose and Cliff Richard’s Vida Nova. Grape varieties are hard to pronounce and remember but for your fish course Alvarinho, for the same reasons we suggested Albariño from Spain, and in the reds, wines from the Dao take a lot of beating.
GREECE – there are some truly world-class wines coming out of Greece these days, the local wine is clean, fresh, and fruity too. If you’re on Santorini do try local speciality white Assyrtiko – Hatzidakis and Gaia are good producers. In the north, near Thessaloniki, perhaps try the spicy reds from Naoussa.
NETHERLANDS –Genever really needs to be tasted, partly to show how different it is from Gin.
TURKEY – hmmmm…we’ve no experience, so you’re on your own here.
GB – plenty of people practice the staycation option, and why not. Devon and Cornwall offer up an array of really great vineyards, personal favourites being Sharpham just outside Totnes and of course the fantastic success story that is Camel Valley.
EGYPT – as discussed before, beer here!
THAILAND – there are wines here – Monsoon Valley being the most famous, but they are made from international varieties and can sometimes suffer from the heat and humidity.
AUSTRALIA –seek out dry Riesling, a grape that has really thrived in the cooler parts of South Australia and makes for a fantastic aperitif. In the red corner, you’ve not lived until you’ve given Sparkling Shiraz a go – a classic Aussie invention, Shiraz with bubbles serve it chilled with a barbecue or a full English if you’re feeling brave!
Tasting this weekend
So in the spirit of holiday beverages we’ll taste Beyra Branco (£10.99) from some of Portugal’s highest vineyards (700m), so far up the Douro they’re nearly in Spain!
On the reds we’ll be flying into Bari and heading out to taste Telero Negroamaro (£9.99), a velvety red, full of flavour and fantastic with tomato dishes!
That’s all folks!
Alex & Wayne
P.S. A version of this will appear as an article in Issue 43 of Essence magazine, July/August 2013.