Wine columnist Clare Morris has over 10 years’ experience in the drinks industry consulting with, hotels, restaurants, pubs and bars across the UK. She is currently studying for a Diploma at the WSET London Wine and Spirit School.
It always feels like the world has so much more to offer in June. In January I sit shivering in my car, hating leaving for and returning from work in the dark. Not so in the long, lazy evenings of June – the day only feels half-finished when I arrive home.
Naturally, I find a wine to fit the occasion. Heavy reds are out, delicate, light whites are in. In the fridge that is – and then out on my garden table. They don’t usually last very long at that point! But which to choose? An obvious solution in this category is Pinot Grigio. The UK has embarked on a passionate love affair with this grape over the last ten years (a fact I’m sure I don’t need to tell you) and driven
Italy’s share of the wine market once again. Sometimes I wonder if it’s chosen so often because it’s a familiar name, or if consumers really like the style. I’m going to assume a combination of the two, but either way it’s clear to see that consumers can easily get trapped in their comfort zone of buying the same wine over and over. True – it avoids risky purchases, but it’s also a lot less interesting than a bit of experimentation.
You don’t have to move away from the crisp, delicate style of this grape to find something you like – but sometimes it’s hard to know where to start. So – for all you Pinot Grigio lovers, here’s a few alternatives to your favourite grape.
Chardonnay is often about as different in style to Pinot Grigio as you can get. But it’s easy to forget what a versatile grape Chardonnay is. When grown in France it is often sold in different guises so many people are unaware of the fantastic range of tastes this wine can offer us. Macon Villages is fresh, lemony Chardonnay from the Maconnais region, slap bang in the middle of Burgundy. Unoaked to show off its fruit flavours, it’s the perfect summer evening wine and an excellent match for seafood. Try the Beauvernon Macon Villages by Thorin, at the excellent fresh fish restaurant the Lobster Pot in Farnham – perfect with the sharing seafood platter.
Onto another French, equally easy to drink and equally delicious wine. Picpoul de Pinet is from the South of France, around the sleepy village of Pinet in Languedoc. You’ll be forgiven for not having heard of it – it’s been grown there for centuries but its renaissance only began in 2007 in the bars of London, LA and New York. Surprisingly bright and fresh for a wine produced in such a warm climate, it’s rather like a fuller bodied, richer Muscadet with plenty of citrussy fruit. At the Verveine Fishmarket in Milford on Sea, the fresh fish menu changes daily. Not a problem for our rising star Domaine Sainte-Anne Picpoul – choose your combination when you arrive, sit back with a glass while you wait, and enjoy.
While we’re on the subject of indigenous wines, let’s move to North West Italy to another increasingly popular wine. Gavi di Gavi is made from the Cortese grape and its unoaked, fresh minerally flavour is often compared to Chablis (another wine that fits nicely into this category). Gavi is Piemonte’s most celebrated white wine, made in the South West of the region. With its contemporary packaging and easy drinking style, Gavi di Gavi Le Toledana is at home in either a bar or restaurant environment and great for some more experimental concepts. At Somewhere Else deli bar in Cirencester, you’ll find just that. It offers a ‘create your own’ evening menu with a mix of fusion-style dishes from a range of global cuisines. My only advice is – try as much as you can, of everything.
Finally – another native grape – another on-trend wine, and one of my favourites. Albarino from Spain, traditionally grown in the North Western region of Rias Baixas. As delicate as our other wines, but accompanied with citrus, dried flower and vanilla, spicy aromas. The Raimat Albarino Vina 24, grown untraditionally just west of Barcelona, is fantastically refreshing and my ultimate summer wine. You don’t need any food to show it at its best, so a beachside hotel where you can escape with an ice bucket is the ideal location. Head to the St Ives Harbour Hotel and soak up the glorious Cornish atmosphere in the sunshine.