Em Marshall-Luck proposes a selection
The two rosés in this May batch of wine recommendations proclaim with clarion call that spring is at last here, and summer on its way. They are well-matched by one superb-value budget-price white and mid-higher range red whose intriguing secrets need to be teased out with breathing; and a celebratory cider, perfect for a refreshing post-ambulatory drink in the emerging sun.
To commence with the rosés: one whiff of Haut Vol 2015 at once conjures up the long lazy days of summer; picnics in the countryside by clear running streams or serene lakes – or, indeed, relaxing in the warm Mediterranean landscapes from which the wine comes. Blushing a peachy colour, it has a warm and welcoming yet delicate nose of peaches with a hint of strawberries and plenty of elegant floral tones. Grown using 50% Grenache Noir and 50% Carignan grapes from the clay-limestone soils in Southern France, on the palate it is dry and refreshing, with plenty of citrus fruit flavours – lemon and grapefruit, as well as tart redcurrants and sweeter hints of soft berry fruits such as strawberries and raspberries. It boasts a long, lingering finish that tingles on the tongue with a delightful hint of cool mint at the very end. The elegant bottle – a beautiful tapering shape rather than the standard bottle shape –
hints at something more special than usual, while the understated yet refined label exacerbates this effect of a rather unusual and exclusive product, yet the back label still, pleasingly, contains all the information that one requires. A perfect partner for Mediterranean salads and pastas, fish dishes (especially salmon), or just to enjoy on its own with some Marcona almonds and a breathtaking view. Available from Majestic at £7.99.
Le Versant Rosé from France’s Pays D’Oc is pretty blushing salmon pink in colour and has a nose that is also immediately redolent of summer – full of berries, flowers (roses, apple blossoms and orange flowers) and long warm summery days. Comprising 100% Grenache grapes, from sunny north-facing hills with clay-limestone soil near Ensérune in the Languedoc-Roussillon region, the taste is elegant and refined. Quite a dry rosé, it has some citrus fruits to the fore – grapefruit and some lemon, which balance the sweeter strawberries and raspberries, and there is a lovely hint of roses on the smooth aftertaste. Although this bottle is a more traditional shape, the label is also quite understated (whilst still communicating all the information that one needs to know) and quite smart and elegant, indicating a superior product within. This is a wine that can take a little spice, so, as well as the usual fish and chicken dishes, it would work well with mild curries. Available from various online retailers, RRP £9.
Duo des Mers 2015 also hails from southern France, and is a blend of 70% Sauvignon Blanc from Gascony and 30% Viognier from Languedoc. The wine is a mid-straw colour, with a pleasing overglow of gold when held to the light. The nose is somewhat elusive at first, but with due focus it is possible to detect mineral overtones which are redolent of rain-washed gravel and which cloak a gentle hint of pineapple. Sipped without thought the wine reveals little: as for the nose, care and attention are needed before it reveals its multifarious characteristics. A tingle at the front of the tongue indicates citrus fruits (grapefruit especially prominent); whilst pineapple and pear make their presence felt further back. A warming, yet cleansing aura surrounds these flavours, invigorating the taste buds and refreshing the palette. Emphatically not a beverage for trend-setting superficiality; rather, this is a wine which compliments the courtesy of consideration. Available at the therefore rather good value price of £5.95 from The Wine Society.
Our red is also a wine that requires time and concentration to fully appreciate its finer points. Ramón Bilbao Single Vineyard Rioja is a blend of 70% Tempranillo and 30% Garnacha grapes from vines 500 metres above sea level on the slopes of the Sierra Cantabria in the northernmost point of Rioja. The wine-maker’s philosophy is to allow the grapes to speak for themselves, with minimal interference, and no over-oaking or over-aging, resulting in a modern-style, fruit-led wine. It is a luxuriously deep and rich colour, almost black with ruby edges, making the bottle label colouration – which consists of a black background with gold and red writing – very appropriate and reflective of the contents therein. The nose has strongly fruity tones of cherries and blackberries with darker woody and more mineral elements underneath. The taste develops as the wine, decanted, is allowed to breathe – at first it is surprisingly retiring but it opens out into the flavours detected on the nose – a mixture of the sweeter plums, cherries, damsons and blackberries and the tarter red currants; and beneath, tangles of undergrowth – hawthorn thickets and damp woodlands. A heady combination. Available from Majestic, RRP £9.49.
For their bicentennial, Sheppy’s have produced Old Conky, a cider with strong nationalistic overtones in the reference to the Union Jack on the front. The cider take its name from Wellington’s nickname, tying in with Sheppy’s location near the Somerset town of Wellington. The cider is a light orange-gold colour and has a strong and warm nose of apples. The taste is fairly retiring – sweet and honeyed but with a warm glow and strong aftertaste of ripe apples. In the mouth one finds just the slightest of effervescence and there is a little linger of warm spices on the tongue; making for a refreshing yet comforting beverage and one truly suited to a celebration. RRP £2.19
Em Marshall-Luck is QR’s Food and Wine Critic