Late Summer Wine and Cider 2016
Em Marshall-Luck’s selection
Such changeable summer weather calls for a variety of wine types, from warming reds for the cold days of drizzle and overcast skies, through to refreshing rosés and dry whites for those all-too-infrequent days when the sun deigns to grace us with its welcome presence. The beverages listed below cover all bases in terms of flavours and price ranges; all come highly recommended.
Let us commence with a cider. Award-winning craft cider maker, Sheppy’s, has brewed up yet another cidery concoction, this one ideal for summer drinking. Their new Cider with Elderflower is very probably my favourite Sheppy’s cider thus far, with its lovely golden colour, nose which combines crunchy apples and floral elderflower, with just a hint of grapefruit as well. The taste is utterly distinctive and individual, not to mention distinguished – fresh and invigorating; not quite as sweet perhaps as one might expect, but with the honeyed tones that are present beautifully tempered by the sharp crunch of apple. Widely available, priced £2.69 for a 500ml bottle.
From the other side of the channel comes a deliciously summery rosé for when the sun does emerge from those lowering clouds. Etoile de Mer rosé 2015 is from vineyards in Luberon, just to the north of Provence. With 60% Syrah and 40% Grenache grapes, which are harvested at night from the high altitude, chalky clay terroir, the wine is a charming salmon pink colour. The nose hints at savouriness; I’ve never smelt fish in a wine before now but there’s definitely a chunk of delicate roasted salmon beneath the layers of fruit (melon, strawberry and a little raspberry too) and honey: intriguing. The taste is equally interesting, although we’ve lost the fish here, despite a very elusive savoury element still persisting. First comes a burst of fruits sharper than the nose implies – cranberries, red currants, and even tart gooseberries. Then comes a touch of effervescence on the tongue, followed by a hint of pepper, which gives a bite to the elegant finish. The bottle itself is a beautiful refined tapered shape – gorgeously elegant, while the label suggests class, sophistication and exclusivity, especially in the lower, gold Luberon label beneath the Etoile de Mer label. RRP £8.99 from Majestic.
Moving on to reds, as with the 2013 vintage I reviewed last autumn, the first thing that strikes one about Root 1 Carménère 2014 from the leading Chilean producer, Viña Ventisquero, is the fabulous bottle, with its beautiful and striking embossed design of a vine with its roots plunging deep down into the bottle, and with informative text embossed either side of the vine. This immediately raises the wine above its competitors, giving it an edge of exclusivity and individuality. The 85% Carménère and 15% Syrah grapes are grown on ungrafted roots (which the producer believes gives them purity and depth of flavour) in a vineyard in Colchagua, located between the Andes Mountains and the low coastal mountains of the Pacific Ocean. The colour is dark, like the bottle – a rich purple – and the nose is full of rich, succulent dark berry fruits – cherries, damsons, plums and blackberries, with a good hint of damp woodland as well – leaf mould, thickets of brambles and suchlike. The flavours prevalent on the nose are borne out on the palate – quite a high taste, full of those cherries and blackberries and plums. Towards the end of the taste comes the more mineral elements: a hint of ash and dash of tar, as well as a bite of spice and elusive swirl of smoke that lasts long into the extremely smooth, lingering finish. RRP £8 from Morrisons.
The remaining red wine recommendations I have come from the Top 100 Best Sud de France Languedoc-Roussillon wines 2016 (www.suddefrancetop100.co.uk). The Vignobles Lorgeril 1620 Malbec 2015 is a wine of a regal colour of ruby red with purple hints and a nose of dark berry fruits, brambles, violets and a hint of liquorice. Made from 100% Malbec, on the palate it is immensely smooth, rolling lusciously over the tongue. There are dark fruits aplenty here – damsons, blackberries, plums and cherries, with tarter blackcurrants as well. On the aftertaste the really black flavours come to the fore – tar and ash and that liquorice – and a warm spicy glow lingers after the final black taste has faded away. The bottle front boasts an elaborate crest, but this crest and the equally antique and regal-looking font are then detracted from by the more modern and basic-looking star and diamond apparently employed as a separator, which is a shame. This is an excellent wine that would work superbly well with red meats, whether served alone, such as steaks, or in dishes such as cottage pies, lasagnes and stews. RRP £9, available from The Wine Society.
Cersius IGP Coteaux de Béziers 2014 is a deep, rich colour: a thick purple-y black with ruby tinges at the edges. The nose is warm and rich also, with plenty of plums, damsons and cherries, as well as a little hint of eucalyptus too. Made from 60% Syrah, 20% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, there are plenty of soft, rounded black berry fruits – very dark and black but nevertheless very gentle rather than harsh – on the palate. So we have those plums, damsons and sweet cherries as well as some vanilla hints, before the taste gently tails away with final flavours of eucalyptus and warming liquorice. Another outstanding and intriguing wine that would work well either savoured on its own, or with red meats and stews. The only less-than-appealing factor is the slightly odd bottle label, which features a lovely compass in faded red with a gold star at the top, but with an intentionally grubby-looking stain down both sides. Available from Avery’s, RRP £9.
Last, but by no means least for the reds, comes Les Hauts de Median Petit Verdoit, with 100% Petit Verdot grapes. The bottle image is understated, with a Maltese cross on the front giving an air of age and permanence, with a light scripty font lending an impression of airiness and freedom. The first thing that struck me on tasting the wine was how incredibly gentle, soft and rounded the taste was – this despite a bold opaque dark purple colour and a nose of dark fruits, hedgerows, brambles and woods. The gentleness lulls one into a bit of a false sense of security and the immediate response is to downplay the complexity of the wine; but this is a mistake and deeper contemplation makes one realise that this has layers of complexities, most prominently in the aftertaste that follows the initial soft rounded fruitiness, where we find some of that blackness – a bite of pepper, an intimation of mint, a hint of ash and tar, and the bitterness of tamarind – lurking. Available from Stone, Vine & Sun RRP £8.
The first of my white choices also comes from the Top 100 Best Sud de France Languedoc-Roussillon wines 2016: (http://suddefrancetop100.co.uk) Laurent Miquel 2014 Chardonnay L’Artisan is a handcrafted wine which comes in an elegant bottle from an eighth-generation winemaker on a family estate in the Languedoc region of Southern France. The wine (100% Chardonnay) is a pale-ish straw colour, with a rather fruity nose – much richer and riper than one might expect from a white wine. This is borne out by the front taste, which is immediately reminiscent of summer kitchen gardens and sun-warmed fruits – a taste that very much recommends the wine for outdoor drinking. Further back on the palette, though, the flavour is much more muted, although a pleasant glow of warmth remains. An easy-drinking, non-demanding beverage for pleasant social occasions. Available from Majestic RRP £9.38.
Finally, an excellent budget white from Waitrose (RRP £5.99), Sous le Soleil du Midi Chardonnay 2015 uses a blend of grapes from vineyards on clay and limestone soils in the Languedoc with those from vineyards on silt soils in Gascony. The wine is a mid-gold colour, with an unusual depth of colour. Although the nose is rather shy (not particularly rich or wide), the initial taste is warming on impact, offering a pleasing glow on the tongue and a lingering reminder further back. The actual taste is slightly citrus-y, with additional hints of pineapple and grapefruit. This is a wine for easy drinking, at a late-summer garden party, maybe, or for an early-autumn dinner, when the wine’s warmth will help recall the kinder summer months, warding off the chills.
Em Marshall-Luck is QR’s Food and Wine Critic