Why Albarino could be your favourite summer wine

If you’re fed up with Chardonnay and want to try something different now the hot weather is finally here, why not go for an Albarino wine? It’s the ideal summer wine, thanks to its freshness and elegance.

 

While wines using the Albarino grape have been made for decades, mostly in Spain, it’s not hugely commercially known. Mainly grown in north western Spain in the Rias Baixas region, Albarino grapes are also cultivated in Portugal. A few decades ago tourists travelling to Portugal would probably have been offered Vinho Verde, which is a local favourite made from the Albarino grape.

 

Is Albarino the ideal summer wine grape?

 

Albarino remains of the most distinctive grapes used for white win in Spain. In Portugal it is called Alvarinho and Cainho Branco. It used to be generally mixed with local grapes, such as Arinto, Caino or Godello, which resulted in blended wines. Since approximately 1985, however, the full potential of the grape itself has been understood and there are plenty of single variety bottles to try.

 

The grape has a thick skin, perfect for surviving the damp climate where it is commonly grown. It results in a grape that is high in glycerol, small and very sweet. Good quality wines dominated by this grape taste of peaches, almonds and apricots and are very aromatic and perfumed.

 

As the wines age very well, lots of Albarino growers are experimenting with making wines using oak maturing techniques. The best Albarino still come from the Rias Baizas DOC of Galacia in central Spain, but it’s also made in certain wine regions in California.

 

Peachy, fresh and acidic flavours

 

Due to its peachy flavours and refreshing acidity, Albarino wines are particularly enjoyable when it’s hot. They go well with shellfish and other seafood, but can be served with anything/

 

Albarino is most enjoyable when it’s made as a dry white, due to the grape’s propensity to convert sugar to alcohol easily and quickly. Best served chilled, enjoy a bottle with a picnic or dinner al fresco this summer. Try something like La Marimorena Albarino, Casa Rojo, which is a Spanish wine with florally notes. There are distinctive hits of pears, peaches and apples with a clean and very refreshing finish. Perfect with a lobster salad or prawn dish.

 

Another good choice is also Spanish. From the Riax Baixas region, Exquisite Ablarino is full of zest and peachy flavours. Expect citrus fruit and a herby aroma with a lovely crisp finish on the palate.

English wine ramps up the innovation

Most wine-lovers include New Zealand somewhere in their favourite bottles. The popularity of New Zealand wines has always been impressive in the UK, which is surprising when you consider how little they actually make.

New Zealand makes less than 0.5% of the total wine production in the world, but its high quality and accessible flavours make it an enjoyable choice. The UK is one of New Zealand’s most important and valuable export markets in the world. Let’s take a look at why New Zealand wines are enjoyed by so many people, and exactly what they produce.

 

New Zealand wine soil is fertile and productive

Fertile soils abound in New Zealand, and these combined with its temperate climate make it an ideal location for wine making. It’s famous around the world for producing delicious whites and reds and have plenty of varieties to choose from.

Almost 60% of New Zealand’s wines are from the Sauvignon Blanc grape. The Marlborough region makes most Sauvignon blends and has done since the first grapes were planted in 1973. By 1990 New Zealand became well known for its Sauvignon Blancs both locally and internationally.

The 1990s also saw a boost for Chardonnay from New Zealand, although it’s never been as popular. Hawke’s Bay and Gisborne specialise in full and medium bodied Chardonnays due to their location in the warmer North Island. In the same decade Pinot Gris gained popularity. It’s produced throughout the country and makes up around 7% of New Zealand’s wine production.

 

Rich red wines from New Zealand

The colder regions in New Zealand make a lot of Pinot Noir, which makes up 8% of the country’s overall wine production. The South Island is known for many red wines, including the fuller bodied and freshly aromatic flavours of Marlborough’s Pinot Noir.

Red wines from Waipara Valley are enjoyed for their more savoury flavours, and the Central Otago region produces soft and fruity reds. Cabernet Sauvignon wines are also well renowned in New Zealand and go back to the early 1800s. Around 80% of the Pinot Noir production takes place in Auckland/Northland and Hawke’s Bay.

 

Other grape varieties popular in New Zealand

Mass production of Riesling began in the 1980s, despite the grape being introduced in the 19th century. Around 90% of the country’s Riesling is made in the South Island and is centred on the Waipara/Canterbury region.

Shiraz on the other hand has always struggled to gain a hold in New Zealand, despite its popularity in Australia. It makes up just 1% of the country’s winemaking production.

Due to New Zealand’s wine reputation, there are lots of wine trails, vineyards and wineries in New Zealand that have become extremely popular tourist attractions.

Is there such a thing as the perfect food and wine pairing?

Pairing food and wine has long been considered something to strive for by culinary experts. Restaurants, food experts, chefs and cookery writers have been recommending the best wine for certain dishes for decades, if not centuries. But is it an exact science, and does it really matter which wine you serve with your dinner?

 

Whether you believe there are perfect wine and food pairings or not, there is an entire industry built around the concept. Sommeliers taste hundreds, and possibly thousands, of different wines to match with a menu. There is a set of instructions in place regarding the balance of acid, fat, salt and alcohol to achieve the perfect match. But recently, the wine industry has been upset by experts suggesting it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.

 

Perfect wine pairing may not exist

 

Tim Hanni, a US chef, Master of Wine and certified wine educator announced at the 2019 Sauvignon Blanc Celebration that he doesn’t think the perfect food and wine pairing exists. He qualified this by saying that the industry is doing “a lot of damage the way we’re matching wine and categorising it.”

 

After the event, he told The Drinks Business that he is concerned with the genetic traits that cause people to taste, smell and experience sensations differently. It’s a scientific fact that some people lack certain taste receptors and can therefore tolerate much more bitterness than others, for example. In contrast, more than a third of people are very sensitive to bitter flavours and don’t enjoy any wine with an alcohol content of more than 13%.

 

Hanni says these differences make the notion of ideal food and wine pairings obsolete, as they depend so much on personal taste receptors.

 

Food and wine pairings should be adjusted for personal taste

 

Clement Robert is a wine buyer and Master Sommelier for Caprice Holdings, London. He agrees with Hanni that taste is subjective but does not agree that sommeliers are blocking people from enjoying food and wine.

 

He says that wine pairings are simple, and expert sommeliers will always adjust their suggestions to cater for personal taste.

 

Of course, if you’re visiting a fine dining restaurant, the wine list and sommelier are all part of the experience. But the popularity of House Reds and Whites shows that many customers don’t want to overthink their wine choice, and just want to enjoy their meal.

 

So, is there such thing as a perfect food and wine pairing? As the debate rages between wine experts, winemakers and Master Sommeliers, it’s probably best to assume that there is no single answer. Everyone has their own opinion, and most people have a favourite wine. It’s about finding the wine that’s perfect for you, and not worrying about whether it is the ‘right’ one.

Lucky diners served a £4,500 bottle of wine by mistake

For many of us, ordering a special bottle of wine is part of the experience of dining out. And it was extra special for a table of diners at Hawksmoor Manchester, an up-market restaurant in the north of England.

When a table of guests ordered a £260 bottle of Bordeaux, they already thought they were in line for a treat. What they got by error was a bottle of wine worth £4,500.

 

Which bottle of wine is worth so much?

The restaurant tweeted that they hoped the customers have enjoyed the expensive 2001 bottle of Chateu le Pin Pomerol, which was served by mistake. According to a spokesman from the restaurant, the error was only noticed after the customers had left.

The original order was for a bottle of Chateau Pichon Longueville Contesse de Lalande, 2001, for a still impressive price of £260. Unfortunately for the restaurant, a server picked up the wrong bottle. Fortunately for the guests, they were served something that the manager of the restaurant says is “something spectacular”.

Just 500 bottles of the 2001 Chateau de Pin Pomerol were made, and it is described in the restaurant’s tasting guide as having: “an extraordinary perfume of crème de cassis, cherry liqueur, plums, liquorice, caramel and sweet toast”.

 

How can a wine be so expensive – and is it worth it?

The incident begs the question as to whether most people would realise they were served something costing 17 times the bottle they actually ordered. And what makes certain wines so expensive anyway?

Expert opinions are divided as to whether the costliness is obvious from the taste, with some saying that it’s self-evident and others, like wine expert Jilly Goolden disagreeing. In an interview with the BBC Goolden says that “you wouldn’t know if you were tasting wine worth £4,500… It’s a very old wine. It would look different and would probably have lost quite a lot of fruit – those drinking it might even have been disappointed.”

 

Rare wines become more expensive over time

Le Pin is one of the most expensive wines available, with much of its value coming from its rarity and provenance. Only 500 cases were made on a very small vineyard (one-acre), which drives its scarcity value. This also means the cost of making it is obviously higher, which is passed on in its label price.

And while there is a very obvious difference between a £5 bottle of wine and a £25 bottle of wine, the experts say that it’s less easy to detect as prices climb. Either way, the diners at Hawksmoor Manchester had a much more special experience than they could have anticipated!

Delicious Greek wines ideal for summer time

While some wine lovers like to match their bottle with food, others like to match with the season. As we transition into summer, it’s time to seek out some wines to enjoy in the warmer weather. And one way is to turn to regions that are used to basking in the sun.

Greek wines might not be your first choice for a summer tipple, but there is something about the tastes of the Aegean that are ideal for hot weather.

 

Greek wines for summer

Early spring is when we can see summer just over the hill, and the warmer weather is an ideal match with Greek wines, particularly white. Wines like Avantis Estate White, Evia, Greece 2018, for example, are packed with flavours and hints of summer.

Most Greek whites share the same aromatic breeziness, with hints of thyme, orange blossom, lemon and honeysuckle that will transport you to a Greek taverna in the Mediterranean sunshine, This particular wine does all of this and more, thanks to its blend of Muscat, assyrtiko and viognier grapes from the Greek island of Evia, lending the wine a fragrant, lemony stone-fruit flavour. Serve it with an al fresco dinner of feta, olive and lemony dressed salad and you’ll feel the warmth of the Greek sun, even in England!

 

International wines using Greek grapes

Assyrtiko is a grape that has become popular with wine makers in other countries too. For example, there is a tensile version of the Greek grape in the Clare Valley in Australia. Back in Greece, Santorini is home to some delicious examples, inlcuding Domaine Sigalas Assyrtiko 2018, Atlantis Santorini 2017 and Gaia Estate Wild Ferment Assyrtiko 2017, which is very like Chablis.

While whites seem perfect for summer, Greek red wines are also worth including on your shopping list. Local Greek grape varieties make standout wines, with xinomavro being used to make Thymiopoulos Jeunes Vignes Xinomavro 2017 in Naoussa. This tastes of a mix of warm herbs and slightly tangy red berries. It calls to mind Languedoc and Burgundy but with its very own Greek feel.

You can also find some lovely wines that use Greek grapes in their mix. For example, Skouras Synoro mixes aghiorghitko, merlot and cabernet franc for a delicate and fine Greek claret. It’s very food friendly, so not only is it a good match for any time of the year, it’s perfect with a rich lamb dish flavoured with rosemary and garlic.