The summer season has begun. Jonathan Ray's suggested summer tipples will blow your socks off this season. We give you the best summer wine of 2015.
August is a good time to spot the caterpillar of the fuchsia and olive-coloured elephant hawkmoth
The best summer wine 2015 is ready to drink now. There is no season like the summer that wears its transience so sharply. The scent of a riverside lily blended with something grape-y can only be enjoyed for a small part of the year.
Do not turn the seasonal corner until you have tried a few of Jonathan Ray’s best summer wine selections. If you are in need of a few recipes when hosting your annual BBQ, try our Sangria recipe for summer parties. Jonathan Ray also advises lightly chilled red wines in the summer months as a more refreshing option.
Best Summer wine
My summer starts around the end of March/beginning of April, irrespective of what vile shenanigans the weather is up to: when the clocks go forward, when the blossom finally shows its face, when my can’t-really-afford-them-but-hang-it-all-I’m-going-anyway Glyndebourne tickets and my treasured MCC pass arrive and when I stop feeling so damn gloomy. This means that the best summer wine begins at the end of March too.
Manzanilla La Gitana Hidalgo (£10, Waitrose) The perfect mid-morning reviver, served straight from the fridge.
2014 Mabis Mavum Pinot Grigio/Pinot Nero (£10, Amps Fine Wines) Utterly charming and essential picnic fare.
2011 Ch Ronan (£11, fromvineyardsdirect) Spectacular merlot-based claret that’s astonishingly good value.
I used to laugh when my sainted mother started to go on about suffering from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) until I realised that now I’m firmly in my middle ages I’ve inherited the condition, too. I can’t stand the winter months without the best of summer wine. Not easy to bear when I’m already a martyr to CADDAD (Christmas Affected Doom, Depression and Despondency) inherited from my father. I was astonished to learn from my 14-year-old son that the Crisis of the Late Middle Ages refers to a series of events in the 14th and 15th centuries (you know, the Great Famine, Black Death, Wars of the Roses and so on) rather than the various dark thoughts or physical indignities that his aged parent now seems to suffer. You know, such as, ah well, never mind. The point is that it’s now June and summer’s firmly in place and I plan to make heaps of hay while the sun shines and enjoy the best summer wine. Nothing puts a summery spring in my step more than a finely crafted mojito. Well, apart from a finely crafted caipirinha, of course. And ok, yes, yes, a well-chilled glass of Pol or Bol,of course, of course.
But I digress. The point is that rum or cachaça-based cocktails lift you in a way that other spirits won’t, don’t or can’t. They make one relaxed, happy and chipper, instead of depressed, gloomy and introspective as other drinks can. No wonder the Brazilians and Cubans are so exuberant. In fact, instead of my favoured mojito, and in the interests of variety, I’ve started this summer with another rum-based drink: the dark and spicy, a refreshing spiced alternative to the celebrated dark and stormy. Build 50ml of exquisite Elements Eight Spiced Rum, 20ml fresh lemon juice and 10ml sugar syrup over crushed ice and churn. Top with ginger beer and garnish with some mint leaves, a cinnamon stick and a wedge of lemon, adding a bit more crushed ice if necessary. Then sit back and enjoy. The ginger will warm you if it’s a typically drizzly June day and the rum will ensure the sun beats in your heart if not outside.
And one can’t enjoy summer without buckets of fizz. The aforementioned Pol Roger or Bollinger are spot on for special occasions but sometimes champagne is just a bit de trop
and that’s where the likes of other French sparklers, prosecco or cava come in. Actually, forget the cava, I’ve never had a good bottle and why risk the inevitable headache in trying to find one?
Prosecco Ca’Bolani NV (£12, Private Cellar) Absolutely first rate; the tastiest prosecco I’ve had in ages.
2013 The Exquisite Collection New Zealand Pinot Noir (£7, Aldi) Not
madly sophisticated but deeply quaffable nonetheless and a steal at the price.
2013 “M Signature” Austrian Gruner Veltliner (£7, Morrisons) A gloriously drinkable white – fresh, crisp and peachy.
With the best summer wine in mind, it is far better to go for something like the Vouvray Mousseux Brut Réserve, Domaine Aubert from the Loire (£14, Yapp Bros), which is a cracker. Made using the champagne method from 100% chenin blanc, it’s dry yet full of creamy fruit and hints of toasty brioche and really is so moreish. I stocked up with a couple of cases a week or so ago and already need more. My chums love it. As for prosecco, one can’t move for falling over stacks of it in supermarket, off-licence, pub, bar or restaurant. Trouble is, the more that prosecco floods our shores, the less good it seems to be. The best I’ve had of late are both from independents: the Prosecco Collalbrigo Brut (£12, fromvineyardsdirect) and the Prosecco Ca’Bolani NV (£12, Private Cellar), both of which are excellent. The former is light, easy-going and approachable and the latter is apple-fresh, crisp and racy. They are perfect on their own or as the base for all manner of summery cocktails. The Bellini, for example (best made with Funkin white peach purée and a dash of Aldi’s excellent Frédéric Mugnier Crème de Pêche); the Jo-Jo (fresh pulped strawberries or Funkin purée); the Buck’s fizz or mimosa (fresh orange juice) or the sbagliato (Campari and La Quintinye red vermouth – it’s basically a Negroni with prosecco instead of gin).
Good rosé should not be forgotten in the best summer wine list. I’ll be drinking plenty of rosé, natch, as well as light and easy whites. Alsace pinot blanc is a current favourite as is Austrian gruner veltliner and Spanish albariño. And with the best summer wine reds, I will switch between hearty, violet-scented Argentinean malbec for the dread barbecue and juicy, bitter-cherry New World pinot noir, either room temperature with red meat or chicken or lightly chilled on its own or with tuna or salmon. So much to drink and so little time. Let’s just hope it’s a long, hot summer.