First published in The Irish Times, Saturday 4th May, 2019
The great outdoors is not the place to bring your finest wines unless you are having a very posh alfresco lunch or dinner. Otherwise, if the sun is out, you should be cracking open something light and fruity – white, rosé or red, and preferably cool or chilled.
For white wine the rule is simple: go for something lowish in alcohol, unoaked and fresh; New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, Austrian Grüner Veltliner, Spanish Albariño and French Muscadet are all ideal. For red wines, try Beaujolais, Loire Cabernet, Austrian Blaufränkisch, New Zealand Pinot Noir or one of the Chilean reds from Itata I wrote about a few weeks ago.
Beaujolais for me is the perfect all-purpose summer wine, with or without food. I tried it with my brined and barbecued shoulder of pork; it worked surprisingly well, the fresh acidity of the Beaujolais cutting through the fatty pork. You could try it with grilled pork chops, garlicky posh sausages, lamb, and vegetable brochettes, as well as cold meats and pates. Alongside, you could serve two other great French picnic wines, Muscadet and Provence rosé.
Like Beaujolais, Muscadet is one of the great summer wines, lively and refreshing, light enough to drink on its own but a great match for salads, white meats and fish. You can find inexpensive versions in most supermarkets. Aldi and SuperValu in particular offer good value. But as is invariably the case, if you spend a few euro more, the wine will so much better. These days Muscadet produces some very high-quality, nuanced, complex wines, and I adore them.
For many people, a chilled glass of rosé is the very essence of summer. Dry or off-dry, it is another great all-purpose wine, to be dunk solo, with salads and cold foods, and spicy barbecued white meats such as chicken. Just try to avoid the very sweet versions.
I have barbecued half a dozen times so far this year, each time a roast of some sort, although burgers grilled over charcoal with mesquite proved very popular too. Winewise, the St Hallett below worked really well with a whole roast chicken stuffed with garlic and herbs. This would also partner Jess Murphy’s lamb chops recipe in today’s Magazine very nicely, as would a Côtes du Rhône or Languedoc, or a Malbec from Argentina.
Château du Coing de St Fiacre 2016, Muscadet de Sèvre & Maine sur Lie
Lively pure ripe apple and pear fruits, subtle lemon zest and a fine mineral acidity. Drink it by itself, with shellfish, or summery salads.
From Bradleys Off-licence, Cork, bradleysofflicence.ie; Fallon & Byrne, Dublin 2, fallonandbyrne.com; the Corkscrew, Dublin 2, thecorkscrew.ie; Le Caveau, Kilkenny, lecaveau.ie; Green Man Wines, Dublin 6, greenmanwines.ie; Listons, Dublin 2, listonsfoodstore.ie; MacGuinness Wines, Dundalk, Co Louth, dundalkwines.com; Worldwide Wines, Waterford, worldwidewines.ie
Fleurs de Prairie Côtes de Provence Rosé 2018
It comes in a very bling bottle and has tangy ripe raspberry and strawberry fruits, finishing dry. Serve with summery grilled seafood and chicken dishes or with salads. This would be good with Jess’s sherry and sesame drumsticks.
From Aldi, aldi.ie
St Hallet Gamekeper’s Red 2015, Barossa, Australia
14%, €15.95 (down from €19.95 for May)
Medium-bodied, smooth and ripe, this would go down a treat with those spicy lamb chops and/or the chicken drumsticks. Perfect barbeque red.
From O’Briens, obrienswine.ie
Beaujolais Villages Le Vin des Roches 2016, Domaine Longère
Light, fresh, juicy red cherries and plums, with real length and style. The perfect summer wine to serve lightly chilled with all sorts of picnic foods, salads and barbecued white meats.
From Ely 64, Glasthule, Co Dublin, Ely64.com; Baggot Street Wines, Dublin 4, baggotstreetwines.com; First Draft Coffee & Wine, Dublin 8, firstdraftcoffeeandwine.com; Green Man Wines, Dublin 6, greenmanwines.ie