First published in The Irish Times, Saturday 27th April, 2019
I am tempting fate, but as I type the sun is shining, the sky is a lovely clear blue and the garden is erupting into life – mainly with a lot of unwelcome weeds, or flowers in the wrong place, as my mother insists on calling them. On Wednesday most of northern Europe celebrates May Day, the start of summer – or is it spring? It is time to celebrate new growth and the promise of summer foods.
It’s also time to adjust our drinking habits. Now is the moment to bring out those lighter reds and crisp, cool, refreshing white wines that may have seemed a little anaemic just a few weeks ago. So, today, a quick run through some of my favourite early-summer wines, and the foods to accompany them.
How about a glass of Lambrusco, a fizzy red wine that you serve chilled? Try it. I am a big fan of real Lambrusco, one of the original pét nats – pétillants naturels, or naturally sparking wines. Bring out your inner hipster and share a glass of this low-alcohol, lightly sparkling wine with a few slices of salami, prosciutto and sourdough bread before dinner or lunch.
Sauvignon Blanc, with its aromas of herbs and greenery, is one of the great spring-summer wines, ideal with soft goat’s cheese salads, whether with beetroot, broad beans or lots of summery herbs, and also good with asparagus.
A glass of Grüner Veltliner from Austria or Riesling Trocken from Germany sings of early summer to me. Both are fairly versatile, Grüner in particular, with all sorts of food, but they come into their own with smoked food – either fish or baked smoked ham, or with lightly spiced herby southeast-Asian chicken or seafood salads. With prawns or scallops served with something citrusy, there is nothing better than a Godello or Albariño from Galicia, or an Alvarinho from Portugal.
Chablis Premier Cru, a step up in price and quality from mere Chablis, is a great wine to serve at smart summer lunches, whether with oysters (traditional), cold chicken salads or, best of all, poached salmon with a buttery sauce or herb mayonnaise. The one below is a stunner, guaranteed to impress your guests.
Is it a little early for rosé? If you are serving a mix of salads, and possibly even barbecued meats, this is one of the most versatile food-friendly wines of all. Red wines should be lighter and served cool or even chilled; with seared salmon or tuna, look to New World Pinot Noir or Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley. My go-to summer wine is Beaujolais of some sort, served with all kinds of cold meats and salads, but I list two interesting alternatives below.
Bardolino “Reboi” 2017, Monte dei Roari
Very inviting juicy, piquant black cherries and plums; fresh and very gluggable. With some salumi, mild cheeses and good bread.
From Sheridans Cheesemongers (South Anne Street, Dublin 2, Kells, Co Meath, and Galway branches); siyps.com; Green Man Wines, Terenure, Dublin 6
Altos Las Hormigas Tinto 2017, Mendoza
A blend of Bonarda, Malbec and Semillon (yes, the white grape), this is a very attractive, elegant wine with smooth red-cherry fruits and a rounded finish. Try it with dishes featuring herby tomatoes, red peppers or both.
From Cinnamon Cottage, Cork; Corkscrew, Chatham Street, Dublin 2; Donnybrook Fair, branches around Dublin; Green Man Wines, Terenure, Dublin 6; Red Island Wine, Skerries, Co Dublin; wineonline.ie
Albanta Albariño 2018, Rías Baixas
Fresh, succulent pear and green-apple fruits, with a clean, dry finish. With southeast-Asian seafood and chicken salads.
La Chablisienne 1er cru Vaulorent 2015
Alluring, sophisticated exotic fruits given shape by a backbone of a fine, cool minerality. It finishes dry, showing great persistence. Excellent, exciting wine.
From Jus de Vine, Portmarnock, Co Dublin; Redmonds, Ranelagh, Dublin 6; Vintry, Dublin 6; Clontarf Wines, Dublin 3; Cashel Wine Cellar; Sweeneys Wines, Glasnevin, Dublin 11; Ely 64, Glasthule, Co Dublin; Baggot Street Wines, Dublin 4