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Wines of the week: 11 budget wines for a heatwave

It’s no time to be reaching for the top shelf. This weather needs zesty whites, cheery rosés and reds you can chill – all in all, nothing too demanding

Terry Kirby
Saturday 28 July 2018 13:16
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It’s too hot to lift a lettuce leaf. Or raise a glass of wine to our lips. Well maybe let’s not go that far. Some rain is forecast for this weekend – a welcome relief for our parched gardens and countryside – but essentially, the heat, it seems, goes on…

Wine is not, of course, a natural drink of the tropics, of high humidity and high temperatures which play havoc with its subtleties and where an iced beer is always, in my view, the best match for spicy foods.

But when the mercury rises in wine-drinking countries – it’s been 40C in Greece and Italy in recent days – they drink lighter wines, both whites and reds, chill the latter and, without shame, dilute the whites and the rosés with sparkling water (yes, I know. Sometimes it’s what you need). And what is needed here are simple, inexpensive, thirst quenching, refreshing wines, that do not demand too much of our energies or palates – after all we, in the UK, are not used to this – that we can drink from tumblers, in the garden or from plastic cups on the beach, nibbling on a salad, some lightly grilled fish or tapas dishes. Anything, to be honest, that doesn’t involve too much hot weather effort.

First off, a pair of light, bright, thirst quenching summery wines from the dependable Badet Clément concern in southern France; the zippy, grassy La Belle Angele Sauvignon Blanc 2017 (the 2016 vintage was recommended here last year) and the grenache/cinsault cherry-flavoured blend La Belle Angele Rosé 2017, (£8.99 each or £7.49 as part of mixed case of six; majestic.co.uk) – both well made, unpretentious, screw-topped crowd pleasers, with lovely retro labels paying tribute to a woman once painted by Paul Gaugin.

Staying with French whites, the Tino Pai Sauvignon Blanc (£7.00, Spar stores) made in the Loire from sauvignon grapes grown in Loire, Gascony and the Languedoc, is even zingier and zestier than the one above and great value; it’s also part of a good new range of budget wines curated for Spar by master of wine Phillipa Carr.

High alcohol wines are good to avoid in very hot weather and Portugal’s vinho verde wines are great choices – young, refreshing, vibrant, at around 9.5 ABV, with a light petillance and perfect for outdoor, hot weather drinking; try the Casal Garcia (£3.51 portugalvineyards.com; £8.32 portugaliaonline.co.uk) or the Escudo Real (£5.99 Co-op stores), both packed with citrus and tropical fruit flavours. As it says on the label of the latter, “drink very chilled”.

As should be rosé, the ultimate hot weather wine.

Marks and Spencer has a great selection of rosés this summer and, in recognition, was recently awarded the International Wine Challenge Rosé Supermarket of the Year; these include the excellent, highly drinkable Coteaux Varois En Provence 2017 (£9.00, marksandspencer.com) a typical Provencal, grenache-dominated blend, lightly spiced, citrus and orange inflected and also now available in 1.5l pouches (£16.00, marksandspencer.com), part of a new range that works out at slightly better value.

As I noted in my picnics column of a couple of weeks back, wine pouches (and boxes and bags) are now very much back in vogue and are perfect for those beach or festival days or for keeping in the fridge for when you just want an occasional glass.

Marks also has the Burra Brook Rosé 2017 (£7.00, marksandspencer.com) which may be from South Australia but is distinctly European in style, with cabernet sauvignon added to the typical grenache/cinsault/syrah mix, giving it a fuller, fruitier but still very dry style. For a real bargain quaffer, the Sud de France Rose (£5.99, aldi.co.uk) is also a typical grenache-dominated blend from the south, produced by the excellent Jean Claude Mas outfit for Aldi, and is just a perfect summer party wine.

In such weather, red wines simply have to be cooled to bring out their best and chilling a cheaper wine can often improve the flavours – just don’t leave it in the fridge too long. Look for wines made from juicy, aromatic, succulent grapes, such as gamay, pinot noir and cabernet franc, and put them in the fridge door for no more than an hour. Lighter versions of the Chilean staple, carmenere, can also work well, such as the Root: 1 Carmenere 2016 (£6.00, Morrisons, until September 16; normally £8.00).

I would not recommend putting your finest burgundies in the fridge but pinot noirs from elsewhere in France or the world can work very well chilled. I’ve recommended a couple of decent Romanian wines recently and now we have the Wildflower Pinot Noir (£6.50, Spar), part of the same new range mentioned above, and where a little chilling will bring out the fruit and nut chocolate flavours and heighten the fresh acidity. The latter two wines are great for lighter barbecue meats or tuna steaks – that’s assuming you can find the energy to go shopping.

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