This week, Terry’s looking at white wines, but not the usual suspects – instead he’s found some that will go with grilled fish, grains and vegetables. Just make sure they’re properly cold
After two weeks of rosés, it is time for some summer white wines for both special occasions and everyday drinking over the coming months. We are of course looking for light, sometimes floral, always fragrant and usually unoaked wines, but let’s look beyond the big and predictable for something a bit different. And we need wines that can accompany grilled or poached fish, grain and vegetable dishes – including the glorious English peas and broad beans in the shops right now, as well as the last of the asparagus – salads and perhaps fresh, milky cheeses.
I’ll come to picnics and outdoor eating next week, but generally, unless you have portable wine cooling facilities, getting cold white with the picnic spread can be a bit tricky – dangling them in a river or lake never seems to be quite cold enough.
It is a fine balance: whites can also suffer from the temptation to over chill at this time of year, so remember that, unlike rosé, all these wines below need to be well chilled, but not icy.
Firstly to France, and while we all appreciate the virtues of the big names of Chablis, Sancerre and the like, the south is sometimes the source of more individual and interesting wines, such as the first wine I’ve encountered that recognises the new name of the region that now includes Languedoc-Roussillon: the Chateau Rives-Blanques Cuvee Occitania Mauzac 2016 (£14.50 Tanners-wines.co.uk, £14.99 Cambridgewine.com) made in the Limoux area from 100 per cent mauzac, otherwise only found in the excellent local sparkling. This is fragrant, with light, tantalising flavours of apricots and peaches and well suited to simple grilled prime fish like sole or John Dory; there is a subtle touch of oak to give complexity.
Staying in the region and a grape with which it is not normally associated, the Abbotts & Delaunay Les Fruits Sauvages Sauvignon Blanc 2017 (£9.99 or £7.99 as part of mixed six bottle purchase, Majestic.co.uk) is something of a bargain bottle from a boutique winery – packed with tropical fruits, citrus flavours and quite full bodied although the typical SB acidity cuts through and suits it to goats cheese, asparagus, those green beans and peas as well as shellfish; particularly crab.
Another grape not normally found in the region is the Spanish albariño, although it is said to have originated in France and was taken to Spain by monks on the pilgrim’s route to Santiago De Compostela: the Laurent Miquel Albariño 2015 (£11.49 Waitrosecellar.com) is a remarkably good attempt to repatriate the grape and made from a vineyards above the lovely village of Lagrasse; fresh, crisp, clean and elegant and perfect with all kinds of salads and fish. A really lovely, summer’s day of a wine. Also brilliant with shellfish is the Picpoul de Pinet Domaine Morin Langaran (£9.95 Corneyandbarrow.com) made from grapes grown within sight of the oyster beds on the Étang de Thau, one of the saltwater lagoons that stretch along the Mediterranean coast of the Languedoc. The flavours here are a beguiling mix of floral, melons and hints of exotic fruits, with perhaps just a frisson of salinity.
Now we are at the coast, to continue our search for something different, we can hop across to Sardinia, an island that make some lovely wines, too few of which we see in the UK. The Unmaredivino Terra e Mare Vermentino di Gallura 2016 (£16.95 Davywine.co.uk) comes from the Sardinian hills and is ethereal and refreshing with grapefruit and apple flavours in the mix; excellent as an aperitif.
Over on the Italian mainland, the Sassi del Cardinale Gavi di Gavi 2017 (£12.00 Marksandspencer.com; in stock later in the summer) from the Piedmont is smoky and interesting, with hints of lemons, a whiff of spice and a wonderful wine for frittura mixta and seafood pasta. That other Italian staple, pinot grigio, is often seen as the typical Italian summer white – light and refreshing, but often somewhat undistinguished and lacking in character. However, the Redentore Pinot Grigio Delle Venezie (£10.80 Genesiswines.co.uk) is completely different beast – a natural wine from the Veneto, made without sulphur and using natural yeasts, it is tangy, full flavoured, with notes of almonds and pears; utterly distinctive and a real food wine, it needs to be matched with richer fish dishes or cheeses.
Finally, two more summer whites that will have people talking. On the other side of Europe, Romania is not usually seen as a source of quality wines, but things are improving. The Dealurile Munteniei Rhea Viognier 2016, (£7.99; normally £8.99 until July 10 Ocado.com) is a fine match for anything produced in southern France, full of luscious apricot, pear and honeysuckle flavours, but staying well on the right side of dry. A good match for chicken or even a veal escalope.
And back in the UK, our own whites are improving all the while, in the wake of the investment in winemaking generated by the success of English sparkling. The Westwell Ortega Classic Ferment (£11.50 Herculeswines.co.uk, £12.95 Westwellwines.com) is a great example: made from grapes grown on the North Downs in Kent; there is some complexity here and it is a little Viognier-like, laced with flavours of melon, lychee and with hints of elderflower and more honeysuckle. And what better way to enjoy a balmy English summer than while sipping an English white wine…