Been hot, hasn’t it? How many times over the past week have you opened the fridge to reach for that ice-cold bottle, glistening with sudden condensation as you plonk it on the table?
There is little as refreshing during hot weather as that first sip, after work or before dinner, of a crisp, chilled white wine (or indeed a rose, but for those, see my recent columns). And if we are eating light, summery meals – a little grilled fish or chicken, for instance, or salads – we don’t want big, complex, oaky whites, do we?
What is best are un- or lightly-oaked whites with a reviving mineral freshness about them and the ability to be drunk quite cold – but, at the same time, it’s important to avoid wines that fail to perk up jaded palates on evenings when it’s too hot to lift a rocket leaf. So these wines below are about getting the balance right between blandness and ballsiness.
First, then, to riesling – and it’s important to find one here that is of the lighter, very dry variety, which is actually rare in its homeland of Germany and Alsace. However, the Peter & Ulrich Dry Riesling 2018 (£12.99 or £9.99 if bought as part of mixed six bottle purchase, majestic.co.uk) fits the bill perfectly, with ripe orchard-fruit flavours and a slightly rounded mineral finish, with just enough subtle weight to keep it interesting and match main course fish dishes or spicy Asian foods.
The New World is also home to very dry rieslings. Here, Jim Barry, one of the best-known names in Aussie winemaking, has combined with the Clare Valley, home to some of the best rieslings, to come up with the Barry & Sons Riesling Clare Valley 2017 (£13.40 tanners-wines.co.uk), a class act with appealing zesty citrus flavours. If you are a bit unsure about riesling, try this and be converted.
But Europe is really the home of lighter, crisper whites, and two of the best come from northern Spain. The Basque wine Txakoli is very lightly spritzy, with intriguing lemon and tropical fruit flavours and the Hiruzta Txakoli Hondarribia 2018 (£13.86 corkingwines.co.uk; £15.99 haywines.co.uk) is also low in alcohol, making it ideal for picnics or summer lunchtime salads, although it’s brilliant with oysters and seafood. Also made for seafood and from the Rias Baixas, further west in northern Spain, is the exceptionally good Seleccion Especial Numerada 41 Albarino 2018 (£13.99 laithwaites.co.uk), its grapes coming from vines cooled by ocean breezes. It has a lovely pale green colour with zingy citrus freshness, a distinct saline tang and a long aromatic finish. It’s the balance here that makes it work: complex and satisfying without being too demanding.
Moving south to Portugal, the wines of Vinho Verde can be a bit too light and thin for my tastes, even for hotter days, but the Portal de Calcada Vinho Verde Reserva 2018 (£11.95 cellardoorwines.co.uk) is one of the best I’ve had, packed full of tropical fruit flavours – pineapples and citrus – with hints of spice and a really long finish. I had it with grilled swordfish and so should you.
Vermentino is another grape that can be a bit on the bland side, but the Poderi Parpinello Ala Blanca Vermentino di Sardegna 2018 (£13.12 corkingwines.co.uk; £13.26 strictlywine.co.uk) – one of the sadly few Sardinian wines to reach our shores – defies these expectations with enticing notes of bitter almond and spices, overlaid with ripe fruit flavours. It’s substantial enough to cope with a big fish stew or soup. Viognier, on the other hand, is a grape that can often seem a little too honeyed and weighty for high-summer drinking. However, the Abbotts & Delaunay Viognier 2018 (£9.99 or £7.99 if bought as part of six bottle purchase, majestic.co.uk), from an excellent producer in the Languedoc (even if it does sound like a high street accountant) falls into the lighter, more ethereal style of viognier, with stone fruits and just a flick of spice. An excellent bottle to keep on standby in the fridge.
Finally, a fabulous English white for summer dinner parties where fish is the main event. Denbies Ranmore Hill 2017 (£14.95 denbies.co.uk) is made by the excellent Denbies winemaker John Worontschak from bacchus grapes, which deliver lovely English meadow floral notes; pinot gris, which deliver spice; and chardonnay, contributing structure with melon and stone fruit flavours. Complex but refreshing and enlivening: a lovely wine for a lovely summer’s day.