Only a GOOD BOOK and SUNSHINE would complete the summer scene, says wine editor MARY DOWEY …
I’ve never understood why there’s such a strong focus on entertaining in the depths of winter. Isn’t a summer lunch or dinner with friends ten times more appealing? In my mind’s eye I see a table in dappled sunlight with a bowl of vivid sweet pea in the centre. I imagine drinks in the garden – maybe even well-chilled rosé if that sunlight is reliable enough. The food is fresh and colourful without being fiddly; the wines are deliciously vibrant without being heavy; and freewheeling chat with plenty of laughter drifts on for hours until the light fades.
These fleeting midsummer months are so precious that we need to make the most of them – so I’m packing many more recommendations into this column than usual. With that dream lunch or dinner table as an aspiration, I’ve chosen eight wines that might be considered modest luxuries, all but one priced at €20-€35. (Don’t your best friends deserve something a bit special?). A few recently published books to savour on languid summer afternoons are suggested too. Indulge and enjoy.
Clivi Friulano San Pietro, Friuli Colli Orientali 2015. From a small organic estate in one of north-east Italy’s best areas for pristine whites, this one is racy and mouthwatering, with reviving notes of lemon, white peaches and herbs. The perfect summer aperitif or first-course appetite-whetter. Alcohol: 12.5 per cent. From Green Man Wines, Dublin 6; Sweeneys, Dublin 11; Blackrock Cellar, Blackrock; 64 Wine, Glasthule, about €21.
Bret Brothers Mâcon-Uchizy Cuvée La Martine 2014. In one mouthful this ripe, round, creamy, lively white encapsulates the seductive charm of southern Burgundy at its best. Organically produced from the fruit of 50-year-old vines, it combines wonderful purity of flavour with striking versatility. A winner with most fish or seafood, chicken, pork, egg, cheese or vegetable dishes. Alcohol: 12 per cent. Wines Direct, €24.75.
Loxarel LXV, Penedès 2015. If you’re curious about natural wines, this Spanish white makes a good starting point. Fermented on the skins and aged in amphorae, it packs terrific verve and pithy apple and orange peel richness into a svelte body. Alcohol: 12 per cent. From Hole in the Wall, Dublin 7; Michael’s, Mount Merrion; Grapevine, Dalkey; Garden House, Malahide; Wicklow Wine, Co Wicklow; Quintessential Wines, Drogheda & www.quintessentialwines.ie, €21.50.
Graham Beck The Rhona Brut Rosé, Western Cape NV. A lot of pink fizz is sickly sweet – but not this stylish South African. Made from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in the same way as champagne, it’s generously fruity but crisp and reviving at the same time. Pop a frozen raspberry into each glass: it’ll look pretty and highlights those summer berry flavours. Alcohol: 12 per cent. From Marks & Spencer, €22.
Mirabeau Rosé, Côtes de Provence 2016. Look at this – well below our summer treats average price, and it’s still one of the most deliciously elegant, flavoursome rosés I’ve come across this year. Made from Syrah with a dollop of Grenache refreshed by Cinsault, it has heady raspberry and strawberry overtones with underlying firmness. Delightful. Alcohol: 13 per cent. From O’Briens, €16.95; buy one, get one half price all summer.
Domaine des Roches Neuves Saumur-Champigny 2015. From one of the Loire’s most exciting biodynamic producers, this super-juicy, silky red bursts with fresh berry flavours while a gentle grip in the finish makes it meat-friendly. It’ll make you fall for Cabernet Franc. Alcohol: 12.5 per cent. From Fallon & Byrne and Corkscrew, Dublin 2; Green Man Wines, Dublin 6; MacGuinness, Dundalk; Bradleys, Cork; Le Caveau, Kilkenny and
www.lecaveau.ie, about €27.
Innocent Bystander Yarra Valley Syrah 2015. You might not consider Australian Shiraz a candidate for summer drinking, but this one, labelled Syrah, is deliberately made in a fresher, more European style and it’s a beauty. Superb with lamb (as revealed at THE GLOSS wine dinner) or other red meats. Alcohol: 13.8 per cent. From Corkscrew, Dublin 2; Clontarf Wines, Dublin 3; Redmonds, Dublin 6; Ice Box, Balbriggan; Wicklow Wine Co, about €27.
Fontodi Chianti Classico 2014. Chianti’s twist of sour cherries and herbs makes it more refreshing for summer drinking than many other reds. Fontodi is one of my absolute favourites – rich, velvety and enveloping with suede-like tannins. Treat it to a fillet steak. Alcohol: 13.5 per cent. From www.wineonline.ie; www.rednosewine.com; McHughs, Dublin 5; Drink Store, Dublin 7; Sweeneys, Dublin 11; Blackrock Cellar, Blackrock; Egans, Drogheda, about €33.
Cork Dork by Bianca Bosker is a breathless gallop of a book by a New York journalist who gives herself a year to learn to taste and assess wine like a pro. You’ll catch the flavour from the subtitle: “A wine-fuelled adventure among the obsessive sommeliers, big bottle hunters and rogue scientists who taught me to live for taste”. Bosker’s self-deprecating humour, plucky determination and erudition make this an engaging read. (Penguin US, $17usd; available on Amazon, £14.99stg).
Glass Half Full – The Ups and Downs of Vineyard Life in France by Caro Feely is the third volume of memoirs squeezed from challenging experiences at the wine estate for which the South-African-born Feelys swapped safe Dublin jobs. A passionate advocate for organic wine, Caro is entrepreneurial as ever as she struggles to salvage not just another harvest but an increasingly fractured marriage. Nobody should buy a rundown château without dipping in. (Summersdale, £9.99stg).
Rosé All Day: The Essential Guide to Your New Favorite Wine by Katherine Cole will make an attractive summer gift, especially when slipped into a bag alongside a well-chilled bottle of pink. Although American in origin, this entertaining, attractively produced hardback focuses much more strongly on European rosés than on those of the New World. Hundreds of styles are covered, interspersed with intriguing anecdotes and food suggestions. (Abrams, £14.99stg).
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