Now British summer time has officially begun, the mind starts to wander. Holidays are approaching. The days are getting longer and warmer. Possibly the odd barbeque or two is on the horizon?
At the same time our palates begin the seasonal migration from the cosy winter nest of full bodied reds or richer whites to more lighter, cooler style wines.
Rosé and pinot grigio are the usual bill of fare. In fact these two styles are so popular they're now drank all year round. What about the rest?
Italy has proven past masters for producing exciting light style wines, both red and white. I'm not talking about generic pinot grigio or valpolicella either. These two, in my opinion, have been seriously misrepresented here in the UK. Let me explain myself. Pinot grigio or pinot gris, to give its proper title, is originally from the Alsace region of France. Here the varietal is richer. The region's wines are globally known as aromatics. The generic Italian style we see on our shelves are mass produced, thin, bland wines. Not all Italian grigios are like this though. I've tasted wines that have had an abundant amount of flavours. These are from small, boutique wineries. You'll not see this style in commercial retail outlets. Maybe it's time to start stalking the independents more!
Valpolicella is a red made from a grape called corvina. Again, the generic style sitting on supermarket shelves is too light and thin. Valpolicella does offer more than that. Amarone is a big, robust wine made predominantly from corvina. It's also a valpolicella. There are production reasons why this style is big. The grapes are sun dried, thus reducing the liquid content of the grape, leaving a higher skin/sugar to juice ratio. Then you have amarone's sister wine, valpolicella ripasso. This is another full bodied wine. One difference being it's not quite as huge as amarone but, still great.
Notable Italian whites worth looking at for the summer are gavi, made using the cortese grape. The wine comes from in and around the town of Gavi, situated in the north western region of Piedmont. This varietal tends to produce soft pineapple and tropical fruit aromas with low acidity on the palate and same level of light soft fruit as you'd get on the nose. Fabulous!
From the Marche region in central Italy comes verdicchio. Housed in a very distinctive amphora shaped bottle, the wine has more natural acidic notes on the palate with touches of light citrus fruit.
Moving west of Italy we get to Spain. Albariño is a variety commonly produced in the Rias Baixas DO region of Galicia, north west Spain. If a wine can evoke a happy image it's this one. Imagine sitting on a beach by the Mediterranean. With soft aromas of peach and apricot, the same sensation can be echoed on the palate. Pure sunshine in a glass!
France isn't without their lighter style whites either. If you go north of Toulouse you'll come to the small town of Gaillac. Here you'll discover a grape called mauzac, also used in limoux. As a variety it can produce dry, full and fruity style. One wine from this town that particularly stands out is the Chateau Clement Termes Gaillac. On the nose, pineapple, cream, candied tinned fruit. The palate is dry with light notes of elderflower and pear. Great summer wine! At around £10, superb.
When it comes to rosé then there really isn't too far to look than Provence, France. Dry, clean, fresh in style with a level of natural fruit flavours, none of that synthetically sweet stuff from across the pond. Sorry but the name Gallo is a swear word to me. Shouldn't be allowed!
A quick tip to buying rosé, don't be fooled by colour. The darker the colour doesn't mean it will be a rich, sweet wine. Same could be said with light pink blush styles. The colour of rosé is determined by the length of time the skin has been left in contact with the juice. There is no sugar in grape skins. It's the sugar levels in the juice that determines how sweet a wine will be.
Not many reds, compared to whites, will be drunk during the summer months. If you do fancy sipping some rouge then take a look at beaujolais and Chilean pinot noir from the Bio Bio Valley. 99% of Beaujolais wines are from the gamay grape. Like pinot noir it's a thin skinned variety, producing a good mix of earthier black fruit flavoured wines yet fresh and easy.
You could get away with briefly chilling them down too. Give it a go. You may be surprised.
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