GRAPEVINE

KATHRYN McWHIRTER ON WINES WITH SUMMER FRUITS
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The Independent Culture
If you get the urge, as you dollop on the sugar and cream, to celebrate the first really ripe English strawberries with a bottle of fizz, stop. Or do it. But think about the taste while you eat and drink, and you may decide to stick to still wines for the rest of the season.

My favourite wine with naked (or sugared) strawberries is Clairette de Die Tradition, a grapey tasting, fine, sweet fizz from the Rhone Valley, which chimes in beautifully with the flavour and acidity of strawberries. (Waitrose sell a good one for pounds 6.45). But when you add cream, suddenly it doesn't work. There's something horrid about the way the bubbles and the cream froth up together in the mouth, more of a mouth-feel than a taste. The same thing happens with other fizzy wines, including champagne. An expensive fizz will taste like plonk.

Cream can take an edge of quality off unfizzy still wines, too, though without necessarily tasting unpleasant. But with one particular style of wine, cream makes a magical link between wine and strawberries: Sauternes, Barsac and other "nobly rotted" (botrytised) Semillons are pleasant to drink with sugared strawberries, but the match with sugared strawberries and cream can be sensational. Of the Bordeaux botrytised Semillons, good quality Sauternes and Barsac, such as the wonderful, unctuous 1990 Chateau de la Chartreuse Sauternes (pounds 9.95 for 37.5cl, top Sainsbury's stores), perform this trick far better than cheaper Sauternes, or similar, cheaper wines from surrounding Bordeaux areas such as Graves Superieures, Cerons or Premieres Cotes de Bordeaux. New World Botrytises Semillons (from California, Australia or New Zealand) taste nearly as good. 1989 Lindemans Botrytis Semillon (pounds 5.99 for 37.5 cl top Tesco stores) is an impressive, intensely flavoured example). It's the oak in these more expensive wines, as well as the botrytis flavour, that goes so well with the cream. These wines are also yummy with strawberry fools, mousses and bavaroise.

The Sauternes/Botrytised Semillon and cream trick also works well with raspberries, without being quite so wonderful. (Fizz clashes again, as with strawberries.) Without cream, sugared raspberries make a particularly delicious match with fortified California Orange Muscat. 1993 Essencia Orange Muscat, Quady (pounds 5.99 Majestic) is just right, and due to arrive in the warehouse this week. Sweet, botrytised Rieslings are nearly as good: German Riesling Auslese or Beerenauslese, for instance. Most sweet Rieslings are quite expensive, but there's a brilliant value one at Asda, 1993 Ruppertsberger Nussbein Riesling Auslese (pounds 3.99 for 50cl), with all the honeyed, apricotty, spicy flavours you could hope for in a far more expensive wine, and lovely, tangy acidity. If budget permits, 1989 Erdener Treppchen Riesling Auslese, Dr Loosen (pounds 12.99 Majestic) is really superlative, delicious and complex, and worth the extra.

Sweet Riesling is a good wine to lay in for summer fruits. It is a lovely match for many of them, and very pleasant with most others (including strawberries). That makes it a good choice to serve with fruit salad. You'll need to match the sweetness of the wine to that of the fruit plus any added sugar. Over-sweet wines will overpower low-sugar fruit; conversely, the sweet wine will taste flat and dry if the fruit or fruit dessert is sweeter than it is. Not-too-sweet botrytised Riesling (such as German Auslese) is yummy with peaches and nectarines, fresh figs and apricots, and fine with hard-to-match kiwi fruits and gooseberries - though creamy gooseberry or apricot fools fall for botrytised Semillon again. Sweeter fruit concoctions would need a sweeter (and more expensive) Riesling Beerenauslese.

Asti is another wine that goes particularly well with a whole array of summer fruits - another good choice for fruit salad. Asti Fontanafredda (pounds 6.99 Majestic, pounds 7.99 Enotria Winecellars of London) is one of my favourites. This is by far the best wine for stewed blackcurrants, pie or crumble. Many other wines clash with blackcurrants. Add cream, though, in a mousse or fool, and you can happily serve Australian botrytised Semillon or Riesling. Asti can even cope with kiwi and rhubarb.

There are just a few fruits that find no really good wine partners: it may be best to avoid cherries, bilberries, pineapples and pears if you want a sweet wine to taste its best.

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