A Red to Chill

It‘s the middle of June, temperatures are rising and I really can believe that summer is here at last.  We even enjoyed dinner outside on our terrace last night.  With this weather, we switch to lighter meals and the question always arises: what do we drink with them?  Something chilled, of course. 

Plenty of choice among the whites – almost any of them would benefit from half an hour in the fridge although I tend to avoid anything too oaky or rich, both of which are likely to overpower the food.  Then there’s rosé; we drink it year round, but it’s especially good with summer dishes.  The Hungarian example I blogged about last time would be ideal or we drank one from Camel Valley vineyard in Cornwall recently which was also delicious.  But how about a red to chill? 

The options here are much more limited but my no.1 pick would be Beaujolais.  Although all red Beaujolais is made with the same single grape variety, Gamay, the styles and qualities can vary enormously.  The bottles you see most frequently on the shelves are from Georges Duboeuf with their pretty flower-patterned labels – always reliable and very drinkable.

For a step up in quality, look for wines labelled ‘Beaujolais-Villages’ or from one of the 10 named villages (see below), which are from the best sites in the region and are generally more complex and characterful than plain Beaujolais. There are many excellent producers in the area.  One of my favourites is Jean-Marc Burgaud who has vineyards in the villages of Morgon, Régnié and Lantignié (the wines from the latter have to be labelled as Beaujolais Villages).  The Wine Society stock the Morgon at £13.95 and the Régnié is £1 cheaper.

The Morgon is lovely but richer and more intense and, perhaps, better suited to autumn or even winter drinking so the Régnié is the one to choose for chilling.  It boasts attractive black berry fruits and a slight smokiness, quite low tannin, as is typical for a Beaujolais and a really long, savoury finish.  Perfect with salads and lighter summer dishes and always worth trying if you want to pair a red with a fish dish.

And finally, for those who are interested, the 10 named villages – all slightly different in style – are: Brouilly, Côtes de Brouilly, Chenas, Chiroubles, Fleurie, Julienas, Morgon, Moulin-a-Vent, Régnié, Saint-Amour.


East or West?

It’s become popular in the media these days to talk about a ‘North/South divide’ in England, contrasting the poorer north with the richer south.  It’s an interesting idea with some truth in it, although it’s not really as simple as that.

But I have a contrast of my own to put forward: in wine terms, the east/west split in Europe – between the unfashionable east (Germany, Hungary, Greece and the Baltic countries) as opposed to the fashionable west (principally France and Spain) with Italy lying somewhere in the middle.

For those willing to explore, there are some real delights to be found among the unfashionable – and, because the wines are generally less well-known, a few bargains, too.

Take the delightful St Donat Tihany Rosé from Hungary, for example (Novel Wines, £11.49).  The pretty pale pink shade suggests a subtle, even neutral flavoured wine, but the colour is deceptive in that there is plenty of character in this delicious, dry rosé, a blend of Syrah, Merlot and the local speciality, Kekfrankos.

Grown in the Lake Balaton area in the west of Hungary, the vines benefit from 2 natural features: the influence of the lake moderating the climate and the low-fertility volcanic soil which limits the grape yield and so intensifies the flavours. The wine is completely unoaked to preserve its fruity character but then spends six months on its lees for extra texture and flavour.

The result is fresh and lively, full of red fruit flavours, particularly crushed strawberries, crisp, but with enough body to make it surprisingly food-friendly – a garlicky fish stew with tomatoes springs to mind.

Finally, a word about Novel Wines, from whom I bought this wine.  They are a relatively young (started in 2016) Bath-based company who specialise in wines from smaller producers mainly from across central and eastern Europe (especially Hungary), but also have an interesting selection of English wines. If you are interested in exploring the unusual, you can find them at www.novelwines.co.uk and they will deliver.