The wine and the glass were properly chilled, the condensation on the outside just picking up the glimmer of the sun setting in the west behind us. The wine itself fragrant and aromatic, with floral aromas, fresh, citrus and grassy flavours, with notes of elderflower and a hint of lychees.
It was made with bacchus grapes, grown on a western facing slope at Coddington Vineyard in Herefordshire, one of England’s oldest vineyards and just a few miles from where we were eating in a restaurant garden last Saturday evening, the first time someone else has cooked a meal or poured a glass for us in four months. And boy did it all taste good.
The bacchus was perfectly complemented by the precisely cooked Cornish lemon sole and particularly the blackberry souffle and granny smith sorbet, a sense of time and place prevailing – seasonal local food and wine in an English country garden. Bliss. Particularly after the stresses and strains of the past few months. And it didn’t rain, despite my prediction last week. You can try the Coddington Vineyard Bacchus 2018 (£84.00 for six bottles minimum purchase, coddingtonvineyard.co.uk) yourself, a gorgeous white for summer.
English bacchus whites are at their best advantage in summer, with lighter dishes and salads. You can also seek out the very similar Adnams own label English Bacchus, (£79.99 for six, adnams.co.uk) made from grapes grown around the Crouch Valley in East Anglia and equally vibrant and perfect for the time of year. For a slightly lusher, fuller take on bacchus, the Balfour Liberty’s Bacchus 2018 (£20.00 hushheath.com) from Kent’s Hush Heath estate, which makes brilliant sparkling wines, has intense meadow aromas, with gooseberry and green herbal flavours. One for the John Dory or Turbot.
Bacchus has been touted as the English sauvignon blanc, which is also an ideal wine for summery drinking. But for something from the original home of the grape in central France, the Joseph Mellot Sancerre La Chatellenie 2018 (£15.50 vinvm.co.uk) is benchmark sancerre: with pristine crisp acidity reflecting the flinty soils on which the grapes are grown but also grassy and aromatic and would have also been perfect with my lemon sole, cutting through the buttery sauce. But sauvignon blanc is no longer the sole preserve of the Loire Valley – for a great everyday fridge door white for summer, the Paul Mas Sauvignon Blanc 2019 (£8.45 cheerswinemerchants.co.uk) from the ultra reliable Languedoc producer has all the grassy sauvignon freshness one could wish for, without being too mouth puckering.
The refreshing aromatic vibrancy of bacchus and sauvignon blanc can also be found in the organic vegan Athanasiou Assyrtiko 2018 (£16.00 forestwines.com) from the Peloponnese has it in abundance and is a great example of the revival in Greek whites: gorgeous, zesty, citrus flavours, with herbal and jasmine aromas and a long dry finish. A plate of grilled seafood, like mullet or sardines, strewn with herbs, garlic and lemon is basically a must with this wine.
For a slightly more budget Greek wine experience, their first own label Greek wine from the Wine Society is a great buy and also upliftingly aromatic. The Society’s Greek White 2019 (£7.95 thewinesociety.com) is made from the indigenous moschofilero and roditis grapes by the well regarded Semeli outfit, close to Corinth on the mainland; bracingly dry and packed with refreshing flavours of grapefruit, citrus and honeysuckle.
The Italian grape vermentino also delivers similarly fragrant wines, but can sometimes feel a bit insipid. However, the Siddura Spera Vermentino di Gallura DOCG (£17.00 independent.wine) from the best wine white wine-producing area of Sardinia and from a new company specialising in Italian wines, but not related to this publication, I should stress, has a fuller style, with lovely flavours of lemons, pears that really sing and dance on the palate; quite possibly the best vermentino I’ve tasted in a while. And again, it pairs nicely with richer seafood dishes and, ideally, a view of the twinkling Mediterranean.
We didn’t get that view with the fish in our English restaurant garden last weekend, but were more than happy to settle for the glorious skyline of the Malvern Hills instead. And the Med isn’t going anywhere…
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