DOM PÉRIGNON is surely the most famous man who gave his name to a drink. Canon Félix Kir is up there too, the popular anti-Nazi Mayor of Dijon after whom the classic blend of crème de cassis and aligoté is named. But the flavour of this summer is a homage to the great Venetian painter Giovanni Bellini. According to The Classic 1000 Cocktails, the bellini was created by Giuseppe Cipriani in 1943 at Harry's Bar in Venice to celebrate an exhibition by the artist. Coincidentally, Bellini was born in the same year (1431) in which a thirsty doge of Venice wrote this to the ruler of Conegliano: "Send me a wagonload of great wine from the hills behind Conegliano."
Taking my cue from the old doge, I ordered in a wagonload of prosecco to see how it went with peach purée. You don't need to crack open your finest champagne, nor do you need one of the pricier proseccos to enjoy a good bellini. What you need is ripe white peaches, or Funkin White Peach purée, £3.95 (300g) from Harvey Nichols, Selfridges, Harrods and selected Waitrose stores and in bulk from www.funkin.co.uk, which also comes in passion fruit, raspberry and strawberry.
When I obediently followed the instructions by coating the champagne flute with the sticky liquid then pouring in the fizz, it gave the prosecco a suggestion of peach but little more. It was only when I went the whole hog and made it one-third peach purée, two-thirds prosecco that it became something of which its namesake would have been proud.
As part of a bellini, it becomes difficult to distinguish one prosecco from the next. I tried the purée with the flavoursome Bisol Jeio Prosecco, (£7.99, Bibendum 020-7449 4100), and the summery Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Ca' Rosa (£7.79, Oddbins), both of which were every bit as good in a bellini as the more expensive ones. The lesson was clear. Best stick to an affordable and refreshing brand. I repeated the prosecco exercise with the other purées and found both the raspberry and passion fruit (but not the strawberry) added an extra nip of tangy acidity that made both drinks really refreshing.
A good prosecco on its own makes a delightfully summery sparkler, reminiscent of fresh apples and pears. Three I tried were too good to splash fruit juice into and best enjoyed on their own: the creamy and richly flavoured 2004 Bisol Prosecco Valdobbiadene Brut (around £10.99, Cellar Door 01256 770397, Bibendum), the bright, fluffy-textured Adami Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Dry 'Giardino' (around £12.99, Astrum Wines 020-8870 5252) and crisp, appley Prosecco Quartese Brut NV, Ruggeri (£ 12.95, Carluccios).
Among useful alternatives to the classic bellini, Waitrose Elderflower cordial (£1.99), makes a refreshingly off-dry fizz. For the sweet of tooth, the unusual Monin Sirop de Rose, (£1.99), combined with Lindauer Fraise (£7.99, Costco), a blend of the New Zealand sparkling wine producer's Lindauer with strawberry essence, makes a very palatable summer alternative. If your taste is drier, and purer, go for one of the affordable sparkling rosés on the market: the excellent Marquis de Monistrol Reserva Seleccion Especial Rosé (£6.49, Oddbins, Waitrose, Sainsbury's), the tangy Bluff Hill Sparkling Rosé (£7.99, M&S), or the fruitier Jacob's Creek Sparkling Rosé (£7.99, £6.39 to 3 July, Waitrose). You'll also find me sipping a Liefmans Lembik Kriek, the rosé champagne of beers that brings succulent ripe cherries and tasty Belgian beer together in one bottle (www.beersofeurope.co.uk).Reuse content