Wine is all about a sense of place. The most interesting and rewarding wines (not always the most expensive nor exclusive) have a personality, a certain something that cannot be replicated elsewhere. From Muscadet to Montrachet, the Mosel to the Mornington Peninsula, Madiran to Marlborough, the matching of grape variety to climate, soil, culture and cuisine is what makes the vastly differing styles of wine available such a pleasure to discover.
Here are a few suggestions of wines you might like to seek out over the summer months; all with personalities that inextricably link them to their origins. The next best thing to tasting them in situ is to invite them into your home and enjoy them with friends!
1) Sigalas - Kavalieros 2013, Santorini, Greece
100% Assyrtiko from 50+ year old vines on Santorini. Sunshine in a bottle! The Assyrtiko grape likes the heat of the Cyclades but manages to retain good acidity so the wines, while beautifully ripe, with stone fruit and citrus characters, are also wonderfully fresh and zippy. I left a little in the bottle and returning to it the next day it was reminiscent of a white Bordeaux with an oily texture, waxy, almost creamy but with that fine line of acidity remaining. Really lovely.
2) Txomin Etxaniz (Txakoli)2013, Getariako-Txakolina, Spain
Try saying that after three glasses! Lively, lemony, slightly spritzy wine from the Basque Country. Not dissimilar in style to the Vinos Verdes of Northern Portugal with low alcohol and oh so fresh. A glass (or two) of this transports me to a bustling pintxo bar in San Sebastián, warm sun on my back before a late night out in this wonderfully vibrant city. Brilliant as an aperitif or with whitebait, anchovies and pintxos.
3) Moulin-a-Vent 2011, Olivier Merlin, Beaujolais, France
Beaujolais gets a bad rap (due to the oceans of Nouveau that used to flood into the UK in the 1980s), but miss this at your peril. Made by carbonic maceration (where the grapes aren’t pressed, but allowed to ferment while whole, resulting in wines that are fruit driven, delicate and with very light, fine tannins). This, however, isn’t your typical, light Beaujolais (Moulin-a-Vent tend to produce the heaviest of the Crus) and has considerably more depth and weight to it. Nevertheless, it remains beautifully perfumed, elegant and is drinking wonderfully now. Worth serving just below room temperature with a plate full of charcuterie, although this will stand up to some pretty hefty dishes too.
4) Nyetimber, Classic Cuvée, 2010, English Sparkling Wine, Sussex
Nyetimber has always balanced power and complexity in equal measure but in recent years I’ve noticed the wine becoming more refined and elegant. I think this is due to a reduction in the time the wine spends on its lees (in the early 1990s it was known to be up to 7 years!). The higher percentage of red grapes (51% Pinot Noir, 13% Pinot Meunier and 36 % Chardonnay) add to the roundness and weight of this spectacular fizz. If you’re one of the few who hasn’t explored English Sparkling Wine, get a move on!
5) Viré-Clessé, Sélection EJ Thévenet, 2008 Domaine de la Bon Gran, Maconnais, France
Occasionally someone opens a bottle that completely sweeps me off my feet and this is the most recent example. The richness, concentration, minerality and all out quality of this stunning bottle are usually found in wines from further north in the Côte-de-Beaune. Tasted blind I argued this was a Premier Cru, possibly Grand Cru Burgundy (I was wrong!). I’m desperately trying to find more.
6) Woori Yallock Pinot Noir, 2010, Mac Forbes, Yarra Valley, Australia
As a Burgundy lover I struggle with over extracted, jammy, high alcohol Pinot Noir. However, over the last decade I have been following the wines of this very likeable and hugely talented Australian and consider him to be making the greatest Pinot outside Burgundy. He produces wines from across a variety of sites in the Yarra Valley, all with clearly defined personalities. My pick of the bunch is the Woori Yallock. Ripe, as one would expect from such a warm climate, but sensitively handled, a beautiful colour and perfume of cherries and spice. Supremely elegant, graceful with minerality too. Try alongside his Coldstream and Gruyere Pinots to get a sense of the importance of site. Cool climate, new world Pinot Noir at its best.