There are some drinks we utterly associate with summer. Provence rosé glinting in the glass, cool white-wine spritzers, Pimm’s laden with English strawberries just in time for real live Wimbledon…
But this summer, especially, feels like a time to seek out new pleasures. Some ideas here are borrowed from other countries, others are refreshments of old favourites. Here’s to summer!
1. Rosé from somewhere else
Rosé is huge in France – look at the rambling rosé section in any French supermarket. If you love the pale colour of Provence, don’t forget that it can be had from other places too, often more cheaply. And do consider darker rosés – sometimes they have more interesting flavours.
There are great rosés from the Loire (posh dry Ssancerre rosé made with pinot noir, rosés from Touraine and Anjou, maybe medium dry, maybe dry), pale dry Bordeaux rosés made from merlot or cabernet sauvignon, fuller rosés from the warm south (Languedoc-Roussillon or Côtes-du-Rhône).
Italy stars with chiaretto di bardolino from near Venice and creamier primitivo rosato from southern Puglia. Navarra rosado is Spain’s most famous pink, and Portugal has interesting rosés from every region.
See our pick of the best sparkling rosé.
Crisp, gently aromatic, and perfect partner for a mound of seafood, this is the great (and fashionable) white grape of Iberia.
It’s best grown either side of the Minho river, which forms the Spain/Portugal border in the north. Rias Baixas is the Spanish region, while vinho verde from Monção and Melgaço in Portugal is often single-variety alvarinho. The grape will undoubtedly be named on the label.
3. German riesling kabinett
An off-dry glass of pure pleasure. Yes, it’s not dry, but it makes a delicious pre-meal drink, and, for sunny drinking, has the advantage of being relatively low in alcohol at 7% to 10%.
The best often come from the Mosel or Rheingau regions. Riesling is the greatest German grape, and the kabinett style balances zingy acidity with this bewitching touch of sweetness.
The lightest of the dry sherry styles, from the glistening white seaside town of Sanlúcar de Barrameda in Andalucía. It’s very pale, light, crisp, tangy, almost salty, and should be served straight from the fridge.
Once opened, the wine will become less good within a week, so get friends round to the garden! Great with olives, Spanish jamón, or toasted, salted almonds.
5. White port and tonic
This is how they drink white port in the city of Porto, and much of Portugal – a gentler alternative to gin and tonic.
Take a round glass, fill with ice, pour in a measure of white port to two of tonic water (or half and half). Garnish with a slice of lemon.
Just for a change, venture beyond prosecco and champagne. Of course, we now have our own fabulous English (and Welsh) sparkling wines, improving (from a delicious base) and increasing in number every year.
Most are made from the same grapes as champagne, but with an extra twist of bright English acidity and whiffs of hedgerow flowers. Spanish cava has added a new top end, cava de parage. There are really great cavas to be had nowadays. And fizz from New Zealand, Australia and South Africa is worth exploring.
Find out how to buy the best English wine.
7. Elderflower cordial with sparkling wine
It’s the twinkle without the hangover (the vodka), a glorious summer drink. Champagne will be overpowered and wasted. A cheap and cheerful sparkling wine will do. And if you’re flagging under a baking sun, just use sparkling water.
Try the new generation of artisan ciders (and perries, made from pears), some sparkling, some still.
Most big commercial cider brands use sugar or concentrated juice to get much of their alcohol. Look for ciders and perries made from 100% fresh juice with no additions. They may come from the UK, Ireland, Sweden, Australia or the USA.
Cideriswine.co.uk has a British and international selection. The Bristol Cider Shop specialises in ciders and perries from within 50 miles of Bristol. Both sell only 100% juice ciders and perries.
9. Sparkling red
Fizzy red is surprising, and fun, and it likes to be served well chilled. The Aussies drink sparkling shiraz at Christmas, in the down-under summer. You can find some in the UK at £10, or then a leap to around £20.
Or go for good dry red lambrusco from the centre of Italy – beware, some are sweet. Three words to look for are secco (dry), Sorbara (a village near Modena) and grasparossa (literally ‘red stalk’, a variety of lambrusco grape). If you want it to be dry, avoid the sweeter amabile.
Head to our round-up of the best red wines.
10. Chilled red
Finally, don’t forget you can serve chilled reds in the summer. Half an hour in the fridge will be enough. Note: firm, tannic wines will taste yet more firm and tannic if you chill them – not a good idea.
Best reds to serve chilled are light and fruity, with low tannins. Beaujolais, valpolicella, light côtes-du-rhône all fit this bill.