The odd torrential thunderstorm aside, the summer is in full swing. Hurrah! Of course, most of us are going to have to enjoy it here in Blighty rather than sur le continong or in the Maldives or Mauritius, so ridiculously complex and uncertain does travel abroad remain.
But, heck, if we can’t neck fine Provencal rosé by some sun-dappled French pool then we can darn well drink well here. France can come to us in vinous form and we can wallow with joy in our native vino too, with English sparklers and still wines better than ever.
Transport yourself with my following suggestions for a great British summer. As you enjoy a light drizzle on the front in Brighton, imagine that you’re strolling along Nice’s Promenade des Anglais and as you gaze through a sea fret at the vast sweep along the coast to Worthing, imagine the Bay of Naples. Drink long and drink deep. Cheers!
2019 Pierre Jaurant Pinot Blanc (£6.49; Aldi)
Aldi has gained a reputation for rather quirky wines over the years (I trust you grabbed one of their spiffing gallons of 10 Year Old Tawny Port last Christmas). I love Alsace and I love this. A beautifully judged, lightly floral, soft, creamy white, it’s perfect dejeuner sur l’herbe fare and hard to beat as a 6pm aperitif.
2017 Domaine Bisconte Roussillon (£10.00; Co-op)
The Co-op, too, has a brilliant wine selection, second only to Waitrose in my opinion. This is a great example of what they’re about: a big, bold and assertive Grenache/Syrah/Mourvèdre blend that’s rich, dark and juicy with a gloriously fruit-laden finish. A must for the summer barbecue, it brings a heady touch of French garrigue to your Surrey staycation.
2011 Journey’s End Blue Gum Merlot (£11.00; Sainsbury’s)
South African wine producers are on their knees, facing yet another ban on alcohol sales. We must support them by knocking back wines such as this, a little gem from a low yield, sustainable estate at the edge – the journey’s end – of Stellenbosch. Rich, plummy and succulent, it slips down all too easily.
2018 Birgit Eichinger ‘Strass’ Gruner Veltliner (£11.68; Justerini & Brooks)
Fine Gruner Veltliner such as this is a real joy, combining the lusciousness of Pinot Gris, the bouquet of Riesling and the acidity of Sauvignon Blanc. From Kamptal in the north east of Austria, this is a delightful example. Fresh, lively and ever so slightly spicy it matches meat dishes as well as fish.
Hidalgo Pastrana Manzanilla Pasado (£12.95; Wine Society)
As soon as summer arrives, a bottle of this goes straight in my fridge. An aged single vineyard Manzanilla sherry from one of the finest of all producers, it’s about as fine a mid-morning palate cleanser as you’ll find. Bone dry and full of dried olives, nuts and wild herbs followed by a long, salty finish, it’ll have you gasping for more.
2020 Simpsons Wine Estate Rosé (£14.99; Waitrose)
Charles and Ruth Simpson make extremely toothsome wines both in the Languedoc and in Kent and this little charmer comes from near Canterbury in God’s chosen county. Made entirely from Pinot Noir that spends time on the lees, it’s crisp and clean with delicate strawberry notes and a deeply refreshing finish.
2020 Domaine de la Noblaie Chinon ‘Les Temps de Cerises’, (£15.50; Private Cellar)
There is so much to love about this wine. A hand-harvested Cabernet Franc from a long-established family-owned estate in the heart of Touraine, it’s just so jammy, juicy and downright drinkable. Full of fresh, luscious cherries, damsons and blackcurrants, it can stand an hour in the fridge and is great with tuna steak.
2015 Ambriel Rosé (£32.50; www.ambrielsparkling.com)
A summer without Ambriel is no summer at all. With vineyards near Pulborough, West Sussex, Charles and Wendy Outhwaite make exceptional English sparklers and this brand new release is a corker. Made from 100 per cent Pinot Noir, it spent five years on the lees, is both fresh and weighty crammed with gloriously enticing red fruit.
Brimoncourt Régence Brut NV Champagne (£42.00; Wanderlust Wine)
Sometimes, of course, summer demands champagne and this is my new favourite, as encountered recently at Boisdale Belgravia. A blend of Chardonnay (mostly) and Pinot Noir (a bit), aged for four years, it’s creamy, fresh, honeyed and blessed with the finest of mousses. It’s a remarkably fine fizz.